Brussels, 05 Sep 2003
In an effort to strengthen its international relations, the EU has underscored the importance of increased scientific co-operation with other world regions. And Southeast Asia is a priority.
Scientific co-operation is a recognised formula for improving overall political relations between states and regions. Progress in science and technology (S&T) is also a driving force to sustainable development, as confirmed in the Millennium Development Goals agreed at the United Nations in 2000 and reaffirmed in Johannesburg during the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002.
Against this backdrop, the European Commission has set a strong course for strengthening S&T ties outside the Union, as acknowledged in its Communication on a new partnership with Southeast Asia, setting out a comprehensive strategy for future EU relations with the region, published on 9 July.
"In both regions, science and technology is an essential element in the pursuit of sustainable economic and social development, as well as the basis for competitiveness," the Communication points out. The objectives of the co-operative arrangements between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the EU would be to further develop ties via the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) process, while improving and promoting new shared R&D possibilities between the two regions.
S&T 'space' for ASEAN-EU co-operation
According to the EU's Externals Relations information, "The countries of Southeast Asia … have a total population of 512 million, and an average per capita income of $1,020 (ranging from $260 in Cambodia, through $3,400 in Malaysia, to $29,610 in Singapore). Three countries in the region (Burma/Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos) are classified as least-developed countries by the UN."
Both the EU and SE Asia stand to benefit from scientific co-operation targeted towards creating "performance instruments for the coordination of bi-regional S&T co-operation". Five specific areas were identified for greater collaboration: agriculture and forest biotechnology, food safety, cleaner production in the food industry, virtual learning, and remote sensing. Through this, according to the Research DG's international co-operation website, the "endeavour [will be] to create a specific space for ASEAN-EU S&T co-operation and [to raise] its visibility in the RTD community of both regions".
The Commission put the lessons it learned from its February 2002 ASEM gathering in Bangkok (Thailand) in preparing work programmes for implementing the Sixth Framework Programme for research, which was launched later that year.