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The New European Strategy for Indo-Pacific: What are its Objectives and Challenges?

The center of gravity of the global economy and political system has been shifting to the Indo-Pacific region for some time. China is playing a more dominant role in trade, technology and military power, which is eroding the status of American supremacy. The growing significance of Asia in terms of Europe's economic and geopolitical future poses a new challenge.

The EU was putting together a new strategy to deal with future challenges. Europe Union eventually revealed its Indo-Pacific policy on 16 September.

The EU is increasing its strategic involvement in the crucial Indo-Pacific area. The region's expanding economic, demographic, and political clout makes it a crucial factor in creating the international rules-based system and tackling global concerns. In accordance with the principles of democracy, rule of law, human rights and international law, the EU hopes to contribute to the region's stability, security, prosperity, and sustainable development.

This landmark document ought to define Brussels' efforts to extend its influence in this increasingly important area of the world, the Indo-Pacific Strategy paper, published after months of waiting by the European Union.

By expanding its naval presence in the region and conducting exercises related to freedom of navigation, the EU is seeking to promote an open regional security architecture.

However a new US-led alliance in the region was announced the day before the report was published, and it completely overshadowed Europe's new landmark strategy.

EU top diplomat Josep Borrell faced a barrage of questions at a press conference in Brussels regarding the "Aukus" security pact announced Wednesday by the US, Britain and Australia, which sent shockwaves through European capitals.

Canberra's decision to abandon a US$90 billion deal with France to develop a new submarine force enraged Paris. Borrell claimed he was unaware of the plan's existence, but moved quickly to quell concerns that it might exacerbate an already fragile relationship with Washington.

Only now have we become aware of it, and we weren't even consulted, Borrell. I certainly wasn't aware of the matter as the highly placed representative for European security policy at the EU. He stated that an agreement of such nature doesn't happen overnight, it takes a lot of effort to come to such a conclusion. Borrell also established that the Aukus deal proves the necessity of the European Union's Indo-Pacific policy.

With 40 per cent of EU trade passing through the South China Sea, the EU's strategy is designed not only to protect its interests but to promote values like democracy and human rights.

The increasing tensions in the Taiwan Strait and the South and East China Sea may threaten European security and prosperity, according to the policy statement.

It is part of a comprehensive engagement with China in which the EU will engage on matters such as climate change and biodiversity. While pushing back on areas where the EU and China have fundamental disagreements, such as on human rights, according to the document.

Taiwan, for example, is among the countries with which the EU does not currently have trade and investment agreements.

All our partners in the region are included in our strategy. East Africa and the Pacific are on our list of areas to cooperate, including China. China's cooperation is essential in many areas, including climate change and biodiversity. Cooperation is our strategy, not confrontation, said Borrell.

Challenges for Europe and its new Indo-pacific Strategy

According to analysts, the EU's role in the Indo-Pacific was thwarted by both external events and internal disagreements about how much involvement the union should have. Various countries favor a more forceful role, while others adopt a more soft approach.

The truth is that Europe lacks a true Indo-Pacific nation. Even the United Kingdom's involvement is precarious since Boris Johnson's initiatives in the region are rife with self-delusion. Day by day, the EU is also losing importance in terms of its strategic autonomy also Aukus raised severe concerns about the EU's Indo-Pacific policy.

Thus far, Europeans have not shown much more than rhetorical solidarity with countries faced with Chinese coercion. Submarine deals aren't the only thing at stake here. What is in question is whether a US-led offensive against China on the security front is in Europe's strategic interest or not.

If this is the case, then Aukus may be a crucial aspect of this strategy, which could be complemented by Europe's Indo-Pacific push. It will be necessary for Europe to quickly develop a credible support system for regional members if this is not the case.

Outraged France

Following the announcement of the Aukus contract, France summoned its ambassadors from the United States and Australia in a show of defiance. Jean-Yves Le Drian, the French Foreign Minister, said earlier in the day that the Aukus alliance is a betrayal of Paris', which had to compromise the French-Australian relationship.

What are the most important components of the EU's Indo-Pacific Strategy?

Increased engagement by the EU in the Indo-Pacific aims to maintain a free and open Indo-Pacific while fostering strong and lasting partnerships. In a nutshell, the EU will intensify its engagement with Indo-Pacific partners so as to react to emerging dynamics that affect regional stability. In order to foster an open, fair, and rules-based international order, as well as a climate-change-responsible trade environment and enhanced connectivity with the EU, the EU's approach seeks to encourage rule-based international commerce.

Good news for South-East Asia 

EU's launch of the Indo-Pacific Strategy is welcome news for Southeast Asia, which lies at the heart of this vast region. The new policy will help build confidence among ASEAN countries to sign new trade agreements with Europe.

The EU's security and defense policies

Among the measures advancing by the EU in the Indo-Pacific are securing communications lines by sea, enhancing naval capabilities, and enhancing the maritime presence of EU Member States. To fight piracy and protect freedom of navigation in the Indo-Pacific region, the EU will conduct more joint exercises and port visits with Indo-Pacific partners, including multilateral exercises.

Security and defense, including counter-terrorism and cybersecurity, will be an area where the EU continues to engage with partners. EU partners will also receive support for maintaining maritime security in the Indo-Pacific. Cybercrime will also be addressed more effectively by the EU by strengthening its capacity-building efforts for partners.

Collaboration with partners. 

EU policy towards the Indo-Pacific is centered on cooperation, as its title suggests. Europe must enhance cooperation not only with long-standing allies and friends who share its values but also with "third countries for mutual benefit" and with regional multilateral organizations, such as the ASEAN-centered mechanisms and those within the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) process.

  • Regional Stability

"Geopolitical competition," "tensions on supply chains, technology, political and security areas," along with threats to universal human rights are cited as threats to regional stability in the document. Consistency is created by emphasizing principles over actors, strengthening the strategy's resilience to change.

  • Climate Change and Equality 

The new strategy addresses global issues such as climate change. Partnerships with Indo-Pacific partners that are committed to fighting climate change and the effects of environmental degradation. Enhancing ocean governance in the region, and combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. Socioeconomics and gender equality are also part of Europe’s new plan.

  • Health Sector

As part of the Horizon Europe program, boost collaboration on research on communicable diseases among LDCs in the Indo-Pacific region and support their healthcare systems.

  • Maritime security

The world's largest trading bloc has a vital interest in secure, open, and free maritime supply routes. Serving the interests of all EU member states and increasing their maritime awareness. Also the protection of the Maritime routes that are critical to shipping. Good, sustainable connectivity. It describes the EU's approach to a sustainable, transparent, and rules-based connectivity plan.

  • Trade assertiveness. 

Building global value chains through international trade and economic relationships, and collaborating with Indo-Pacific partners to develop standards and regulations that are in line with our values and principles.

  • Cyber Security

Europe has decided to take necessary measures in lead in promoting digital governance, data protection, and cooperation in cyberspace, which will continue under the new strategy. Through a comprehensive approach, the strategy is designed to build on existing partnerships in the Indo-Pacific region, partnering with African partners as well as Pacific Island countries on transnational issues such as ocean governance, disaster prevention and recovery, piracy, and cybercrime.

Final Thoughts

The EU will not become a decisive player in the Indo-Pacific as a result of this new strategy, but it will become a player. However, how this new method will be implemented remains to be seen, as both France and China are dissatisfied with the new AUKUS alliance.

In response to the AUKUS announcement, China expressed its concerns, describing the alliance as extremely irresponsible and narrow-minded.

FRANCE, on the other hand, has also opposed the alliance since it signifies the end of President Emmanuel Macron's plans to build a strategic alliance with Australia and India.

There have also been questions raised about why EU members and the EU itself were left out of this new alliance, and whether this signals a growing gap between EU and US interests in the Indo-Pacific, especially coming just one day before the EU laid out its own plans for the region.

Despite this, the new AUKUS alliance does indicate that if the EU doesn't get more involved in Indo-Pacific affairs, it risks marginalization.

Written By: Olivium's Editor


Reference:

  • Pejsova, E. (2021, April 20). The EU’s Indo-Pacific Strategy in 10 Points. The Diplomat. https://thediplomat.com/2021/04/the-eus-indo-pacific-strategy-in-10-points/
  • EU Strategy for Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific. (2021, September 16). EEAS - European External Action Service - European Commission. https://eeas.europa.eu/headquarters/headquarters-homepage_en/96740/EU%20Strategy%20for%20Cooperation%20in%20the%20Indo-Pacific

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