Celebrating peace, EU-Phl friendship on Europe Day 2022

NOTES FROM THE EU DELEGATION - Luc Véron - The Philippine Star

While the 9th of May was Election Day in the Philippines, for Europeans every ninth of May marks a very special moment in our history. On that day, 72 years ago, then French foreign minister Robert Schuman proposed the creation of a European Coal and Steel Community, the members of which would put coal and steel production under a common, supranational authority. Determined to prevent another terrible war in Europe, six European governments concluded that pooling coal and steel production would – in the words of the Schuman Declaration – make war between historic rivals “not merely unthinkable, but materially impossible.” Thus, to ensure peace, Schuman and a handful of visionaries set about building the European Union – a strong political Union of 27 nations united in their diversity, nearly half of a billion citizens, a global and security actor and a reliable international partner.

It is thus for us particularly painful to see how war rages again in Europe. War from another century, a hegemonic war where one state, Russia, has invaded a neighboring sovereign state, Ukraine.

Against the backdrop of this cruel and senseless Russian aggression against Ukraine, our celebration of peace and unity this year is more pertinent than ever. As we mark the founding of the European Union as a peace project, we stand in solidarity with Ukraine. Our position is resoundingly clear: Russia must stop its military aggression and immediately and unconditionally withdraw all its forces and equipment from Ukraine.

The EU is very grateful that the Philippines has stood up with the international community to condemn Russia’s violation of international law and of the integrity and sovereignty of another State, as well as its gross humanitarian violations. Secretary Locsin aptly put it: “An attack on everything the UN was openly founded to prevent.”

The Philippines and the European Union have enjoyed diplomatic relations for almost six decades. Our partnership is based on shared interests and values, including democracy, respect for human rights and upholding international law.

The EU is eager to pursue the effective implementation of its Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with the Philippines in all areas. We had a very fruitful discussion in the Joint Committee held in Manila a few days ago. We agreed to further our cooperation in connectivity and maritime security. By developing closer political relations, we will strengthen multilateralism and cooperation on bilateral, regional and global issues and be true to our shared pledge to a rules-based international order.

The EU has a strategic interest in a stable, prosperous and secure Philippines, notably by furthering trade and investment, supporting a green and sustainable socio-economic recovery and maintaining open and safe shipping routes. These are also tenets of our broader strategy for the Indo-Pacific.

The EU and the Philippines have developed a solid economic and trade partnership. Our bilateral trade has recovered pre-pandemic levels with a surplus of 1 billion euros (or P58 billion) in favor of the Philippines. Since 2014, the EU has provided the Philippines with preferential trade access to the EU market based on sustainable development principles, good governance and human rights. The EU, with its business community, is also a robust foreign investor in the Philippines. Of course, there is ample margin to trade more and invest more. Our partnership with the Philippine government aims at creating the conditions and the opportunities for more mutually beneficial economic relations.

The EU is a strategic partner of ASEAN. The EU has been a partner of ASEAN for 45 years, probably its most comprehensive and supportive one. Therefore, we are pleased to engage with the Philippines during its current role as ASEAN coordinator for Dialogue Relations with the EU over the next couple of years.

The EU is at the forefront of international efforts to fight climate change and shares a strategic interest with the Philippines on the environment. The EU aims to be climate-neutral by 2050 – an economy with net-zero greenhouse gas emissions.

In the Philippines, over the last years, the EU has invested massively in strengthening sustainable energy delivery for vulnerable populations. For example, we have worked with our partners to install about 50,000 Solar Home Systems in rural, remote off-grid areas. We have also engaged for many years in supporting the justice reform and strengthening institutions such as the Commission on Human Rights.

The EU supports peace and development in Mindanao through a comprehensive and inclusive approach. We are currently rolling out programs to strengthen governance in the Bangsamoro region, promote the normalization process and support the socio-economic development of rural communities in the region. We will continue our unwavering support of the peace process that has been a cornerstone of the Duterte presidency as long as future administrations welcome our involvement.

The EU, at all times, through its humanitarian aid and civil protection, stands prepared to support the Philippines in cases of natural emergencies, most lately following Typhoon Odette, but is also engaged with the Philippine government to work on disaster preparedness.

For all these reasons, the EU is willing to have a productive relationship with the Philippine government, as demonstrated concretely in support of the Philippines’ efforts to overcome the COVID-19 crisis and our readiness to collaborate with the Philippines in its green recovery.

The Philippines and the Filipinos have a solid and reliable partner in the European Union. In the coming years, building on these strong foundations, we can take EU-Philippines relations forward together.

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Luc Véron is Ambassador of the European Union to the Philippines.

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