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Sunday March 25, 2007

Ideally, in order to achieve integration, regional partnerships such as ASEAN should not be overly ambitious to try and solve too many issues all at once, advised former EU Deputy Secretary General Europe Commission, Berdhard Zepter in Jakarta recently. Zepter was speaker at a discussion entitled: “Lessons and Reflections on Regionalization: Asian & European Perspectives”.  In integrating the European countries into the EU, Zepter continued, the European Union (EU) first chose one integrating sector, which at the time was the economic sector. Only after this sector was deemed sufficiently strong and successful, EU expanded its base for integration by solving political and other uniting issues, reported Kompas daily.

ASEAN is economically quite strong already, Zepter said, and when one sector is strong, then regional integration will become even stronger, attracting other nations to join the group.

If, however, ASEAN does not wish to start with the economic sector as its basis for integration, then ASEAN has other issues that are potential to solve regionally, these are, among others, issues on the environment, climate change, energy resources, or other issues that are to ASEAN interest.

The essence, however, must be, says Zepter that all nations must possess similar outlook on mutual respect, mutual learning, and peaceful co-existence, which will solve problems and differences in the region.

This is how EU nations have solved their issues. And, although this sounds very romantic, it is based on these principles that the EU has succeeded in solving the many ensuing issues, such as the problem of energy, the environment and the Euro currency. We discovered that we have common problems that can only be solved when we work together regionally, said Zepter.

On the other hand, former Indonesian Foreign Minister, Ali Alatas, reminded the audience that the process of integration in ASEAN is more complicated compared to that in the EU, the main reason being the different histories experienced by both regions. The greatest part of ASEAN were colonized by different countries, with the result that these nations have for long remained strangers to one another. This is unlike the European countries that have known each other and have interacted with one another for centuries, which certainly facilitates the process of integration.

Policy of Non-intervention needs modernizing 

ASEAN, on the other hand, does also not have a common enemy to fight, continued Alatas. This is the reason why, when ASEAN was formed, its spirit was that of non-intervention in each other’s domestic affairs, respecting each others sovereignty. This tradition of non-intervention is not particular to ASEAN, but is also that of the United Nations. Which is exactly the factor that distinguishes ASEAN from the EU, said Alatas.

On this point, Zepter remarked, that indeed ASEAN has become strong on the concept of non-intervention which was the diplomatic model in the 1990’s. Nonetheless, since today the world has entered the era of globalization, it has become more and more difficult to differentiate among nations. Zepter therefore, urges ASEAN not to be too rigid in applying the concept of non-intervention.

Perhaps, ASEAN could improve the concept of non-intervention to be applicable to present-day problems. Most importantly, however, is how ASEAN develops partnerships and integration among its members to solve today’s issues for the sake of the advance and progress of the ASEAN region as a whole.

Zepter also concluded that ASEAN and the EU have, in fact, a number of similarities, especially as regards natural resources that have the potential to become an integrating factor. Therefore, we should remain optimistic, Zepter opines. ASEAN should show the world that ASEAN member countries can work well together in close partnership. 
Separately, in the ASEAN context, discussing the ASEAN Charter, Research Director and Special Assistant to the ASEAN Secretary General, Termsak Chalermpalanupap, said that the Draft ASEAN Charter is expected to be completed by November this year in time for the 13th. ASEAN Summit to be held in Singapore.  The ASEAN Charter is expected to become the foundation for the formation of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) that has been accelerated to 2015 as decided jointly at the 12th. ASEAN Summit in Cebu in January 2007.

The ASEAN Charter will provide“legal personality” to ASEAN, which will enable this region to move faster economically, said Termsak. ASEAN countries have agreed to make ASEAN a larger and stronger organization in the arena of international trade. This is important since it is only large organizations whose voice will be heard today’s this global competition. Tarmsek further explained that through the ASEAN Charter, ASEAN will have more opportunities to build external partnerships, where ASEAN at this moment is negotiating trade and economic partnerships with China, Japan, India, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and EU.

Enhanced EU-ASEAN Partnership through Nuremberg Declaration

In the latest development, on 15 March Foreign Ministers of ASEAN and the European Union adopted the Nuremberg Declaration at the 16th ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting in Nuremberg. After 30 years of good relations, it is the political signal for closer cooperation in all spheres, stated a joint ASEAN-EU Press Release.  Core areas include intensive political and security policy cooperation, the expansion of trade and economic relations and close interaction on fundamental global issues, such as energy and the environment.

Germany’s Federal Foreign Minister Steinmeier set the tone right at the start, stating that "No trace of fatigue, our partnership is coming into its prime – and has a great future ahead of it. For we bear joint responsibility in resolving many international problems, and we need one another more than ever before." "We Europeans and the ASEAN states are ideal partners in this task, because hardly any other form of cooperation between states explicitly attaches so much importance to multilateral approaches in resolving international issues. Nowhere is this expressed more clearly than in the ground-breaking Nuremberg Declaration we have just jointly adopted."

From the EU's perspective, this cooperation has a strategic pivotal role. On the one hand, Europe no longer looks exclusively to Japan, China and India when it turns its eyes towards Asia. The 10 ASEAN states alone are home to 500 million people - more than in the EU. The ASEAN states are already an important hub in the Asia-Pacific region. Considerable potential remains untapped, with regard to both trade and political cooperation.

On the other hand, Europe is playing an increasingly prominent and significant role in this part of the world. The ASEAN states have basically taken the same direction as the EU and are themselves therefore looking to the Old Continent with growing interest.

In the Joint Co-Chairmen's Statement the ASEAN states welcome the European Union's planned accession to the ASEAN Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC). The EU and the ASEAN states also reiterated their intention to further intensify economic exchange and to engage in talks on free trade agreements in addition to the ongoing global trade talks.
Other topics covered during the in-depth consultations on current international issues included the situations in the Middle East, Iraq and Afghanistan and developments in Myanmar.
This more intensive cooperation will find concrete expression in a joint plan of action, which is to be drafted before the end of this year if at all possible.

EU deems Indonesia has high in credibility to solve world conflicts

Earlier, Indonesian Foreign Minister Hasan Wirajuda told Kompas daily that at the Nuremberg talks, the EU has praised Indonesia, saying that this country possesses credibility in solving world conflicts as proven by its success to end the conflict in Aceh. Resolving the conflict in Aceh with the support of the Aceh Monitoring Mission (AMM) is one form of EU-ASEAN cooperation that is considered most successful. Therefore, AMM will become a model in solving conflicts in ASEAN and elsewhere in the world.

The EU, therefore, hopes that through this credibility, Indonesia takes part in solving the Palestine-Israel conflict, and the tension between the Sunni and the Syiah in Iarq. In this context, Hasan said, Indonesia has reminded the EU not to disregard the existence of Hamas in Palestine, for Hamas is a political power that has received the largest of votes in the elections. Therefore, Indonesia has invited Hamas leaders to Jakarta at the end of March 2007. Hamas leaders have welcomed the meeting with Indonesia, said Hasan.

(Sources: Kompas, Bisnis Indonesia, EU Press Release)    (Tuti Sunario)