The Asia-Pacific as a strategic region for Europe

The Asia-Pacific is a large and diverse region, encompassing industrialised countries, emerging economies and developing countries. Perhaps due to this diversity, and save a few specific cases, the European Union has lacked a strategic approach towards the region, despite strong economic interests and heightened security concerns in the area. Several EU Member States have adopted an active bilateral approach towards key partners, but the European Union has mostly failed to speak with one voice in relevant fora. Nowadays the multiple and complex challenges shared by the two regions, ranging from climate change and sustainable development to conventional and non-conventional security challenges, are opening up new opportunities for the EU to become more involved in the region beyond economic cooperation although differences remain in areas like human rights or democratic governance. In order to re-think its role and strategy for the Asia-Pacific, and to fully tap the potential for action at European level, the European Union needs to be supported by sound research showing the concrete implications of further engaging with and in the region in a number of sectorial and geographic areas.


The research to address this challenge should in particular focus on the following key dimensions. It is expected to either comprehensively address one of these dimensions or to combine them. The research may also cover other issues relevant for addressing the specific challenge.

1) Regional integration in South-East Asia and its consequences for Europe

South-East Asia has seen, since 1967, the most ambitious project of regional integration outside of Europe, pursued through the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). It has followed a different integration path to Europe, based on dialogue and non-interference rather than convergence and law. The region has an immense social, cultural and economic potential, but it still faces the challenge of developing a regional identity with both an internal dimension (how to nourish a sense of belonging) and an external dimension (how to engage with foreign powers, such as China, India, the United States, Japan and the EU). The process of nation-building in the ten ASEAN countries and other non-ASEAN countries is incomplete or nascent. It is also confronted with widespread poverty, disruptive migration flows, inter-ethnic conflicts and even territorial disputes. For the EU to engage effectively in South-East Asia and manage the variety of countries and cultures present in the region, it is necessary to understand what ‘region’ means to the peoples of these countries within and beyond the ASEAN context. Research is thus necessary on the mobility of people, knowledge, ideologies, cultures, goods and capital within the region and their influence on the emergence of a South-East Asian identity which would help the EU and its Member States to forge coherent, adapted and culturally relevant foreign policies with all countries in the region.

To that effect, research should also underpin the implementation of the Joint Communication on EU-ASEAN relations in the different sectors and in particular in the field of sectorial cooperation.

2) Governance in and of the Pacific as a challenge for Europe

One of the major strategic challenges in the Asia-Pacific region relates to the governance of the Pacific itself (including Overseas Countries and Territories). The Pacific Islands region represents a unique diversity of nation-state formations and regional and intergovernmental mechanisms, which is experiencing major challenges regarding the protection of its exceptional natural environment, threatened in particular by climate change. The small islands developing states (SIDS) of the Pacific therefore have a central role in the contestation over, competition for, and conservation of some of the world’s key resources, far surpassing their modest size in terms of land mass and population. As the second largest donor of development assistance to the region, the EU’s interests and activities in the Pacific are highly significant and hold important potential for the future. However, the region’s new geopolitical currency is a willingness to seriously engage with emerging definitions of an equal, two-way partnership relation in Pacific terms that expands beyond the monetary dimension of cooperation. The EU is thus at a cross-road in its engagement with the Pacific. Research should examine the emerging governance structures in the region, in terms of sovereignty, state-making, policy autonomy and aid dependency, by paying close attention to issues such as trade and transport, fisheries management, climate change, biodiversity, social inclusion, democracy, blue/green growth and and political CFSP aspects. Research should also comparatively analyse the role and impact of external actors in the region, prominently focussing on the European Union and its Member States but also take account of the influence of, and the interplay with global (China, USA) and regional (Australia, New Zealand) powers in the region. Building on existing research, lessons should be drawn from the Pacific experience for devising new approaches, as well as on how Europe can effectively respond to the strategic challenge posed by the Pacific.

The participation of partners from third countries and regions in the targeted geographic areas in proposals submitted to this topic is strongly encouraged.

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU in the order of EUR 2.5 million for each dimension would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. This does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

Expected Impact

Research under this topic is expected to provide a comprehensive overview of the strategic challenges that Europe faces in the various zones of the Asia-Pacific region, and on a range of relevant subjects. Based on this, it will inform different foreign policy actors, processes and initiatives at EU and Member State-level either with a sectorial or geographic focus, especially by providing essential insights on the legal, cultural and socio-economic aspects surrounding their implementation.

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