The next forty years

27 February 2018 - 09:30 - 14:00
Reinhard Bütikofer, Clarita Carlos, Bart Gaens, Yeo Lay Hwee, Shada Islam, Lê Lương Minh, Peter Potman, Suthad Setboonsarng, Annika Siirak, Jose Tavares

ASEAN and the EU have a strong partnership, which celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2017. Held alongside the EU-ASEAN Strategic Thinkers Forum, this debate will be an opportunity for participants to reflect on the status of official relations over the years and to identify ways in which those relations can be bolstered going forward.

The debate will take place in two sessions. The first session will draw on the two blocs’ experiences in responding to unexpected geopolitical transformations and uncertainties, allowing for an exchange of lessons learned, while the second session will dive into the future of EU-ASEAN relations.

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Europe’s relationship with Asia and Africa has expanded beyond the traditional focus on development, trade, and security. Reflecting the changed geopolitical landscape and the increased global role of emerging economies, the focus of the EU and Friends of Europe is now also on Europe’s interaction with its global partners on climate change, connectivity and implementation of Agenda 2030 as well as terrorism and radicalisation. Our programmes and activities track these conversations – and foresee new ones - through publications and events that aim to make sense of our changing world.

08.30 - 09.30

Welcome and registration of participants

09.30 - 10.45


ASEAN and the European Union are adjusting and adapting to unexpected geopolitical transformations and uncertainties. Having just celebrated its golden jubilee, ASEAN is entering a critical new chapter in its quest for greater regional cooperation and integration amid expectations it will play a bigger and more relevant role in global affairs. The EU has reaffirmed its unity, ambition and resolve in the face of Brexit as well as rising pressure from populists and difficult neighbours. ASEAN’s main challenge in the coming years will be to move towards a truly integrated economic community while also navigating the difficult US-China relationship and maintaining “ASEAN centrality” in the face of external pressures. Europe is charting a new course for its relations with its neighbourhood including Russia, Turkey and Africa as well as with China and has taken important steps in building a defence and security identity. Both ASEAN and the EU are dealing with immigration and refugees and have a shared interest in the preservation of the rules-based international order and developing new norms for cyberspace and tackling hybrid security threats.

  • What are ASEAN and Europe’s key economic and security interests and concerns in a changing regional and global environment?
  • Can ASEAN and the EU join ranks more forcefully on tackling global challenges including climate change, sustainable development and terrorism? 
  • Are there key lessons that ASEAN and the EU share with each other on how to live and thrive in a changing world?
  • How are young people in ASEAN and the EU reacting to the rapid global transformations and how is this impacting on regional politics?

Keynote speaker
Le Luong Minh, Secretary General of ASEAN (2013-2017)

Speakers include
Clarita Carlos, Professor of Political Science at the University of the Philippines
Bart Gaens, Senior Research Fellow at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs’ Global Security Research Programme
Le Luong Minh, Secretary General of ASEAN (2013-2017)
Peter Potman, Director of the Asia and Oceania Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The Netherlands
Jose Tavares, Director General for ASEAN at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Indonesia

Moderated by
Shada Islam, Director for Europe & Geopolitics at Friends of Europe

10.45 - 11.15

Coffee break

11.15 - 12.30


ASEAN-EU relations have grown and evolved steadily over the years, with both sides inter-acting on a range of economic, political and social issues. Meeting in Manila last August, ASEAN and EU ministers crafted an extensive and multi-faceted plan of action for a further upgrade of cooperation with a focus on bilateral ties, including security issues and connectivity, as well as on the wider global agenda including climate change, counter-terrorism and sustainable development. Ministers and the European Parliament have come out in favour of a resumption of negotiation on an EU-ASEAN free trade agreement. Contacts between ministers, policymakers, business leaders and civil society representatives are increasing.  It hasn’t always been plain-sailing, however. Differences over human rights and the application of EU standards in sectors such as palm oil and fisheries as well as the EU’s long-standing quest to become a permanent member of the East Asia Summit continue to cast a shadow over relations.

  • ASEAN-EU relations have shown a remarkable degree of resilience so far but will the relationship survive – and if it does will it still matter in forty years? 
  • In a volatile world, what can the ASEAN and EU do better and/or differently to reinforce relations in the coming years?
  • Given their differences on key issues like human rights, can the EU and ASEAN forge a true strategic partnership and negotiate a free trade agreement? 
  • What can be done to promote greater people-to-people contacts – especially among young people – in ASEAN and Europe?

Speakers include
Reinhard Bütikofer, Member of European Parliament and Rapporteur on EU-ASEAN relations
Yeo Lay Hwee, Director of the European Union Centre in Singapore
Suthad Setboonsarng,  Member of the Board of the Bank of Thailand
Annika Siirak, PhD Candidate at the University of Tartu and EU-ASEAN Young Leader

Moderated by
Shada Islam, Director for Europe & Geopolitics at Friends of Europe

12.30 - 14.00

End of debate and networking lunch

Reinhard Bütikofer
Member of the European Parliament and Rapporteur on EU-ASEAN relations
As rapporteur of the latest European Parliament report on EU political relations with ASEAN, as well as a part of the European Parliament delegation for relations with the countries of Southeast Asia and ASEAN, Reinhard Bütikofer has a deep understanding and expertise of the region. Bütikofer travels frequently to Southeast Asia, not only to promote stronger ties with the European Union but also to support and bolster trade and investment. Bütikofer is a strong advocate for peace within the region, including for the resolution of disputes in the South China Sea.
Clarita Carlos
Professor of Political Science at the University of the Philippines
Clarita Carlos was the first female, civilian President of the National Defense College of the Philippines and has written prolifically on a wide range of themes including political parties, elections, bureaucratic reform and democratic deficits. Today she heads the Center for Political and Democratic Reform and is a recognised pioneer in Political Psychology in the Philippines. Carlos continues to teach and to offer her expertise as a consultant to Congress and other government agencies, as well as academic institutions.
Bart Gaens
Senior Research Fellow at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs (FIIA)
Bart Gaens is an experienced academic whose research has as a main focus the relations between Europe and Asia. Prior to his current position, Gaens led a research project on the EU’s relations with Asia at the University of Helsinki Network for European Studies and worked as an advisor at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland during the preparation of the ASEM6 Summit. He has published extensively on Europe-Asia interregional relations, with special focus on the ASEM process.
Yeo Lay Hwee
Director of the European Union Centre in Singapore
An international relations expert, Yeo Lay Hwee’s research interests revolve around comparative regionalism, including Asia-Europe relations. In addition to leading the European Union Centre in Singapore, she also acts as Council Secretary and Senior Research Fellow at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs and teaches at the National University of Singapore.  For her exemplary record in research and policy work, she was awarded the Nakasone Yasuhiro Award. Yeo has authored and contributed to numerous publications, including recently “50 years of Singapore-Europe relations: celebrating Singapore's connections with Europe”.
Shada Islam
Director Europe & Geopolitics
Shada Islam is responsible for policy oversight of Friends of Europe’s initiatives, activities and publications. She has special responsibility for issues related to the Future of Europe, Migration, the Asia Programme and the Development Policy Forum. Shada is Visiting Professor at the College of Europe (Natolin) where she teaches Asia-Europe relations and has been selected as a fellow by the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB). She has been named as one of twenty most influential women in Brussels by Politico. Shada is the former Europe correspondent for the Far Eastern Economic Review and has previously worked on Asian and Migration issues at the European Policy Centre. She is one of the authors of Friends of Europe’s much-read “Frankly Speaking” commentary and is sought after as a speaker, commentator, columnist and moderator at high-level European and global events. Shada also continues to write on EU foreign and security policy, EU-Asia relations and trade and development issues for leading Asian, European and international publications and academic journals.
Lê Lương Minh
Secretary-General of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (2013-2017)
Before assuming his post as ASEAN Secretary-General, Lê Lương Minh was Vietnam’s Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs. In addition to that he was also Vietnam’s Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary and Permanent Representative to the United Nations. A number of ASEAN scholars believe he has been instrumental in fomenting a more forceful Secretariat and strengthening the regional bloc’s institutions. He also led the drive for the EU to open a permanent mission in ASEAN and recently agreed the ASEAN-US Plan of Action 2016–2020.
Peter Potman
Director of the Asia and Oceania Department at the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs
During his time at the Asia and Oceania Department Peter Potman has focussed on enhancing interaction with stakeholders in the foreign policy of the Netherlands. During his tenure, the Department developed the “Asia Carrousel” as a domestic outreach programme, which aims to enhance knowledge and contacts between the Netherlands and the region. The Carrousel brings staff from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs together with various partners, including from academia, civil society, the private sector, the media and other government agencies. Embassies of Asian countries in The Hague and Dutch embassies in Asia and Oceania also participate in Carrousel events.
Suthad Setboonsarng
Member of the Board of the Bank of Thailand
Suthad Setboonsarng is one of Southeast Asia’s top experts in international trade and investment, and has led Thai, ASEAN and private sector initiatives. As Thailand Trade Representative in the Office of the Prime Minister, a ministerial rank appointment, he coordinated and executed international trade, investment and other related assignments. Formerly a partner at PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Setboonsarng assisted Fortune 500 companies in their business operations in ASEAN and advised the Thai and ASEAN governments and the United Nations in developing their regional trade and investment policies.
Annika Siirak
PhD Candidate at the University of Tartu and EU-ASEAN Young Leader
Annika Siirak is currently a PhD Candidate at the University of Tartu and a visiting lecturer on the European Union at the Tallinn University of Technology, Estonia, focusing her research on the EU's democracy promotion and regime transition. She previously was a Junior Professional at the Mission of the European Union to ASEAN in Jakarta, coordinating EU-ASEAN political relations, development cooperation and public diplomacy activities, in relation to celebrating the 40th anniversary of their dialogue relations in 2017.
Jose Tavares
Director General of ASEAN Cooperation at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Indonesia
With more than 30 years’ experience in the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Jose Tavares was appointed Director General of ASEAN Cooperation in May 2016. He has previously held several high-level positions in the ministry promoting closer ASEAN cooperation, serving as Director for Dialogue Partners and Inter-Regional Affairs of ASEAN and Director for ASEAN Political and Security Cooperation. His diplomatic career also includes postings in New Zealand, Samoa and Tonga – serving as Ambassador-, Belgium, France and Switzerland.




This event is funded by the European Union’s Partnership Instrument.

Amanda Rohde, Programme Executive
Tel.: +32 2 893 98 11

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