By Roy Lie Atjam
ASEAN, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations – Addressing Challenges Together !
With a population of more than 650 million and a GDP of about 4 trillion USD in 2021, ASEAN is the most promising and dynamic market in the world.
On 8 August 1967, five leaders, the Foreign Ministers of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand, sat together in the Department of Foreign Affairs in Bangkok, Thailand and signed a document.
This memorable day, has been celebrated in all member states and at diplomatic missions as far as Havana, Suva, Buenos Aires, Prague, Vancouver, Rabat and many other places in the world. Celebrations in Jakarta were broadcasted live through ASEAN’s social media channels.
The Embassy of the Philipinnes currently holds the chairmanship of the ASEAN Committee in the Netherlands. Hence the premises of their mission served as a backdrop for the 2022 ASEAN Day festivities on 5th August 2022. All ASEAN Ambassadors stationed in the BENELUX attended.
ASEAN DAY 2022 was made more special with the Netherlands’s accession to the Treaty of Amity and cooperation in Southeast Asia one week ago.
In his welcome remarks the Ambassador of the Philippines H.E. Dr Eduardo Malaya noted, “I am happy to see all of you here. This is the largest gathering of the ASEAN community in the Hague since restrictions were lifted a few months ago. Your presence today reflects the rejuvenation of our community and the whole ASEAN region and our collective resolve to move forward.”
Ambassador Eduardo Malaya went on stating, this what he said in part: “it is an honour for the Philippine Embassy to host this year’s ASEAN Day on behalf of the ASEAN Committee in The Hague. I wish to specially welcome the ASEAN Ambassador accredited to the Netherlands but based in Brussels who are with us today – Nong Sakal of Cambodia, Phoukhong Sisoulath of Laos, Soe Lynn Han of Myanmar and Lim Hong Huai of Singapore.
2022 is a milestone year for ASEAN for a number of reasons: it is ASEAN’s 55th year founding anniversary; ASEAN and the European Union mark 45 years of dialogue relations, of which the Philippines is the Coordinator for ASEAN, and two days ago, at the sidelines of the ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting in Phnom Penh, the Netherlands completed its accession to the ASEAN Treaty of Amity and Cooperation. With this significant step, the Netherlands has expressed its strong desire to work more closely and deepen cooperation with the ASEAN and its 10 Member States towards a more prosperous, environmentally sustainable, stable Southeast Asia region, which step the ASEAN has warmly welcomed.
The steady recovery of the ASEAN region is a cause for optimism, owing to the effective pandemic response and cooperation that the ASEAN and its Member States have shown during these unprecedented times. As guided by the ASEAN comprehensive recovery framework and with the support of the European Union and other partners, we now have a safer, stronger, and responsive ASEAN community.
With this recovery, the ASEAN as a region is forecasted to have an economic growth of 4.9% GDP this year and 5.2% next year. With the entry into force of the ASEAN-led Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, we look forward to a more economically dynamic ASEAN where there are growth, prosperity and better opportunities to improve the lives of our peoples.
ASEAN remains to be one of the world’s economic success stories that holds even more enormous potentials. If it were a single country, it would be the 5th largest economy in the world, accounting for 3.5% of the global economy and is projected to rank as the fourth largest economy by 2030. This year, the estimated total GDP of all ASEAN states amounted to around USD 9.7 trillion, a significant increase from previous years. In fact, the economies of the ASEAN region have been remarkably increasing for years now, reflecting the region’s strong fundamentals and economic resiliency.
These and the vitality of each and every ASEAN country augur well for our bilateral and multilateral partnerships, including with the EU.
The Strategic Partnership with the EU is one of the most important for ASEAN. Our shared values, principles, and interests, such as belief in strengthening the rules-based international order and effective multilateralism to address common challenges, including economic, security, health, environment and climate change, are the bedrock of our relations. Ours is a dynamic and multifaceted partnership, covering political-security, economic, environmental, climate and socio-cultural issues as well as connectivity.
We welcome the EU’s enhanced engagement in the Indo-Pacific region, including ASEAN, to maintain a free and open Indo-Pacific for all while building strong and lasting partnerships. We appreciate EU’s unwavering support to the principle of ASEAN centrality and its contribution to ASEAN’s community building and regional integration efforts.
ASEAN, as a whole and each member country, look forward to EU’s initiatives envisioned in the EU Strategy for Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific for enhanced cooperation, notably in the priority areas of sustainable and inclusive prosperity, green transition, ocean governance, digital governance and partnership, digital connectivity, security and defense, and human security. There are parallel initiatives in ASEAN itself on these areas, which complement both regions’ strategies and goals. We all fervently hope that our partnership will continue to grow in the years and decades to come.
ASEAN has its own set of challenges and issues, as the discussions in the recent Foreign Ministers meeting have shown, but so do other regions. For the past 55 years, we have faced challenges, and through our commitment to listen to each other, share ideas and experiences and work together, we have realized many of our peoples’ aspirations.
We need to continue embracing our commitment to the spirit of togetherness in a caring and sharing community where everyone matters.
Let me conclude by recalling the wise words of Rodolfo Severino, a senior colleague who served as ASEAN Secretary General:
“ASEAN is more than an association of states. It is also a process, a spirit, a state of mind. Nor is ASEAN a closed, exclusive club. It is open to cooperation with others. Its dialogue system relating to other countries and groups is unique in the world… so are its ability and willingness to act with other countries as the situation calls for it.”
With sunny smiles, sumptuous food and exquisite cultural performances, the ASEAN Ambassadors and the community in The Hague celebrated the 55th year of ASEAN and 45th year of ASEAN-EU dialogue relations. This was on Friday, August 5, 2022. Further in the program, hoisting of the ASEAN flag and singing of the ASEAN Anthem led by Mr. Jasper Revilla, and accompanied on piano by Mr. Marco Giovanni Guibone. Furthermore, the guest of honour Karin Mossenlechner, Director Asia & Oceania at Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, delivered her keynote address.
The day concluded with an ASEAN treat, a savoury buffet.
ASEAN Stronger Together!