By Wasamon Audjarint
Asean-European Union relations achieved another milestone when they adopted on Friday the Bangkok Declaration to promote a strategic partnership.
The declaration pledged closer cooperation on trade, connectivity, development, energy, education, disarmament of mass weapons, political and security issues.
The declaration welcomed Asean-China efforts to implement the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea. It also underlined respect for the rule of law, maritime security and freedom of navigation.
The paper paved the way for more intensified work towards forging free trade agreements between the two regions.
The Bangkok Declaration was endorsed during the 21st Asean-EU ministerial Meeting by high-level representatives from 28 EU countries, 10 Asean countries, the EU and the Asean Secretariat.
The meeting also endorsed the Matrix on Status of Implementation of the Bandar Seri Begawan Plan of Action to strengthen the Asean-EU Enhanced Partnership.
Beginning in 2013 till next year, the Matrix informs the achievements of Asean and the EU. Talks are on for an Asean-EU Comprehensive Air Transportation pact, which would be the first-ever region-to-region aviation agreement.
The meeting was co-chaired by Thai Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai, as Thailand is the Asean-EU coordinator, and his Slovak counterpart Miroslav Lajcak representing the EU.
Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the European Union, was initially scheduled to jointly chair the meeting but she had to pull out due to health reasons.
Speaking about EU concerns related to rights practices in several Asean countries, Lajcak said the freshly endorsed declaration promotes and protects rights in Asean countries and continuous bilateral talks with Asean countries.
The EU also appreciated Thailand’s road map to democracy and its commitment to restore democratic system, Lajcak said.
A copy of the declaration in English Braille version was also handed over to Monthien Boontan, United Nations’ Committee on the Rights of Persons and Disabilities, who said the paper serves as a model to promote accessibility for people with disability.
Asean and the EU will be celebrating the 40th anniversary of their relations next year.
Lajcak and Thai Vice Foreign Minister Veerasak Futrakul also paid their condolences on the passing of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej.