Europe and Asia as Global Security Actors

by Shada Islam

Asia-Europe relations used to be about business, not politics.  The emergence of the Southeast Asian "tiger" economies in the 1980s and Europe's quest for a share of the region's booming market helped spur the drive for closer Asia-Europe relations and the launch in Bangkok in 1996 of ASEM (Asia-Europe Meeting), an informal platform for discussion between the two sides.

Business between the two regions is still booming.  EU trade with
Asia
amounted to over 750 billion euros in 2009 and total European investments in the region are estimated at 350 billion euros.  These strong ties provide the basis for a solid ASEM partnership. 

However, in a globalised and interdependent world, Asia and
Europe are under pressure to take on a more forceful political and diplomatic role both in their neighbourhood and in the wider world. They also need to engage more strongly with each other to deal with shared security challenges.

Both regions are taking important security-related initiatives which illustrate a similar commitment to tackling both traditional, military threats as well as non-traditional security challenges including terrorism, poverty and disease, access to and security of sea lanes and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.       

Neither Asia nor Europe can - or have any ambition to - take over
America's primordial global security role.  In Europe, NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) remains the pivotal defence alliance despite Europe's determination to boost its clout on the world stage through a common defence and security policy.

Europe has deployed over 20 civilian and military missions in 3 continents so far as part of its emerging security and defense policy.  The entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty in January this year, the nomination of Catherine Ashton as the European Union's first-ever "foreign minister" and agreement on the establishment of a Europe-wide diplomatic corps known as the "external action service" have raised further hopes that the 27-nation bloc will finally starting punching its weight on the global stage.

Meanwhile, Pax Americana continues to reign supreme in
Asia, a region fraught with historical grievances and ongoing tensions.  However, Japan, China, India and members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are seeking to tackle regional and global security challenges through an array of pan-regional organisations and alliances, including the Asean Regional Forum (ARF), the East Asia Summit and the informal "Shangri-La Dialogue" that meets every year in Singapore to discuss security questions.

Japan and Australia have further intensified the debate on regional architecture by making new proposals for different forms of a wider Asian community.  Former Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama proposed the creation of an East Asia Community last year while Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has called for the setting up of an Asia Pacific Community.  Japan's new prime minister, NaotoKan, has said he will continue to push ahead along the same lines.

The plethora of regional cooperation initiatives are an encouraging sign that Asians are overcoming longstanding rivalries.  At a recent "Shangri La Dialogue" meeting in
Singapore, organised by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies and attended by the US and several European states, there was agreement that Asia-Pacific states must forge a coherent and collaborative response to the region's complex security risks.  

Food and energy security, ethnic conflicts, insurgencies and rising tensions on the
KoreanPeninsula were Asia-Europe relations used to be about business, not politics.  The emergence of the Southeast Asian "tiger" economies in the 1980s and Europe's quest for a share of the region's booming market helped spur the drive for closer Asia-Europe relations and the launch in Bangkok in 1996 of ASEM (Asia-Europe Meeting), an informal platform for discussion between the two sides.
 
Business between the two regions is still booming.  EU trade with
Asia
amounted to over 750 billion euros in 2009 and total European investments in the region are estimated at 350 billion euros.  These strong ties provide the basis for a solid ASEM partnership. 
 
However, in a globalised and interdependent world, Asia and
Europe are under pressure to take on a more forceful political and diplomatic role both in their neighbourhood and in the wider world. They also need to engage more strongly with each other to deal with shared security challenges.
 
Both regions are taking important security-related initiatives which illustrate a similar commitment to tackling both traditional, military threats as well as non-traditional security challenges including terrorism, poverty and disease, access to and security of sea lanes and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.       
 
Neither Asia nor Europe can - or have any ambition to - take over
America's primordial global security role.  In Europe, NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) remains the pivotal defence alliance despite Europe's determination to boost its clout on the world stage through a common defence and security policy.
 
Europe has deployed over 20 civilian and military missions in 3 continents so far as part of its emerging security and defense policy.  The entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty in January this year, the nomination of Catherine Ashton as the European Union's first-ever "foreign minister" and agreement on the establishment of a Europe-wide diplomatic corps known as the "external action service" have raised further hopes that the 27-nation bloc will finally starting punching its weight on the global stage.
 
Meanwhile, Pax Americana continues to reign supreme in
Asia, a region fraught with historical grievances and ongoing tensions.  However, Japan, China, India and members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are seeking to tackle regional and global security challenges through an array of pan-regional organisations and alliances, including the Asean Regional Forum (ARF), the East Asia Summit and the informal "Shangri-La Dialogue" that meets every year in Singapore to discuss security questions.
 
Japan and Australia have further intensified the debate on regional architecture by making new proposals for different forms of a wider Asian community.  Former Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama proposed the creation of an East Asia Community last year while Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has called for the setting up of an Asia Pacific Community.  Japan's new prime minister, NaotoKan, has said he will continue to push ahead along the same lines.
 
The plethora of regional cooperation initiatives are an encouraging sign that Asians are overcoming longstanding rivalries.  At a recent "Shangri La Dialogue" meeting in
Singapore, organised by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies and attended by the US and several European states, there was agreement that Asia-Pacific states must forge a coherent and collaborative response to the region's complex security risks.