This page was archived on October 2020.



64 - Conventional security and relations with Asia

Grade: C
Unity 2/5
Resources 2/5
Strategy 2/5
Impact 2/5
Total 8/20

EU statements on a security partnership with Asia did not translate into changes to its traditional policies towards the region

The EU remained committed to not taking sides on Asia’s territorial and maritime disputes, calling for compliance with the rules-based international system. Despite this, neither the EU nor any of its member states explicitly commented on the decision by an international court in The Hague to hear the Philippines’ claim against China. In 2015, the EU’s practical involvement on this issue was limited to organising training and capacity-building exercises with ASEAN countries on maritime cooperation and security.

However, EU officials did make statements on Asia’s maritime disputes in 2015. EU representatives raised the issue at an April G7 meeting, despite Chinese efforts to avoid this, and Mogherini twice publicly expressed concern on the subject. Member states are near-unanimous in refraining from expressing opinions on sovereignty on these maritime disputes, but there is a divide between those who view this as neutrality and those who think that supporting legal arbitration is paramount.

At their June summit, the EU and China announced their willingness to develop defence and security cooperation. The coming year could see enhanced collaboration in new areas of common interest, including support for peace and security in Africa. Europeans will have to decide whether they want China as a stakeholder in UN peacekeeping operations, and whether they see a role for the Chinese military, which has signed a basing agreement in Djibouti.

Some member states collaborated directly with Asian counterparts on traditional security matters. France and the UK signed defence cooperation agreements with Japan that, interestingly, give Tokyo a say in dual technology transfers to third nations – such as China. The UK and China started exploring the potential for cooperation in the protection of nationals overseas. In the absence of an EU policy on arms sales to the region – beyond the embargo on China – France, Germany, the UK, and the Netherlands increased sales to Asia, making the EU its second-biggest weapons supplier after the US.