Celebrating unity and EU-Phl relations

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

Europe Day, celebrated on May 9th, is an annual tradition where we commemorate the founding of the European Union. When a global pandemic or some other imponderable does not get in the way, we hold a diplomatic reception, bringing together Filipino senators, members of Congress, government officials, foreign diplomats, development partners, journalists, business representatives and civil society to mark the occasion. We did so this year.

The Sunday night before the event, I also had the privilege to be once again at Luneta among Manileño families and colleagues enjoying a breeze during these sweltering days and to witness the Rizal Monument and the dancing fountains illuminated in blue and yellow, representing the colors of the European flag.

José Rizal, the national hero, had strong ties to Europe through his studies in Spain and his travels to various European countries, including France, Germany, Italy and Belgium, during which he became proficient in a number European languages, such as Spanish, French, German and English. His exposure to European culture and ideas greatly influenced his perspective on the Philippines’ struggle for independence.

As EU Ambassador to the Philippines, Europe Day holds special significance for me as it allows us to reflect on the origins of the economic and political Union that I represent alongside my colleagues representing EU countries here in Manila and to consider the impact of European integration on our host country.

On May 9th, 1950, the French foreign minister, Robert Schuman, proposed the creation of a European Coal and Steel Community, aiming to pool together the production of these two commodities to make war impossible and to foster cooperation among European nations. This proposal, known as “the Schuman Declaration,” laid the foundation for what is now the European Union and put Europe on the path to peace and prosperity.

These were dire times then, when Schuman spoke up, in the immediate aftermath of World War II, which left Europe in ruins. The Philippines, having experienced immense suffering during the war, can relate to the desire for stability and peace. As one of the founding members of ASEAN, the Philippines also played a key role in establishing a regional organization aimed at fostering stability amidst the tensions of the Cold War.

These are dire times now with the unprovoked Russian aggression against Ukraine, our neighbor. Despite President Putin’s attempt to divide Europe, our resolve to preserve our unity and our determination to defend our shared values of human rights, democracy and the rule of law have been strengthened.

We find comfort in the fact that the Philippines has consistently supported Europe and the international community in upholding international law and urging Russia to end this senseless war. Likewise, amidst its own geopolitical challenges, the Philippines can find solace in the EU’s unwavering commitment to a robust and peaceful defense of the rules-based international order, including in the West Philippine Sea.

Bilateral relations between the EU and the Philippines have flourished since President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. was elected one year ago, coincidentally also on May 9th, and his visit to Brussels in December 2022. We deeply appreciate President Marcos Jr.’s commitment to our joint efforts in trade and investment, climate change, international security and more. Our partnership in peace-building, justice, circular economy, energy, earth observation, disaster preparedness, connectivity and maritime security has stood the test of time and remains crucial.

In 2024, we will celebrate 60 years of EU-Philippines diplomatic relations, a testament to the enduring nature of our relationship. Since 1964, when the Republic of the Philippines and the then European Communities exchanged their first ambassadors, ties between the EU and the Philippines have been forged through various avenues, such as our leaders, our parliamentarians’ interactions, through our visitors’ programs, academic and cultural exchanges, migration, tourists and seafaring and diplomatic engagements. People-to-people links have never been stronger.

While we are already preparing this landmark anniversary, we are committed to continuing our work without delay. In the coming month, a delegation of the European Parliament will visit the Philippines, signaling the high-level engagements between our nations. Brussels acknowledges that the European Union and the Philippines are experiencing historic times, and we will seize every opportunity to collaborate on our shared goals and values.

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

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