Foreign minister Sok Chenda Sophea has expressed Cambodia’s commitment to enhancing the ASEAN-EU Strategic Partnership, noting that it is based on mutual respect, understanding and interests.

The commitment was made as the minister attended the 24th ASEAN-EU Ministerial Meeting and 3rd EU Indo-Pacific Ministerial Forum (EU-IPMF), both held in Brussels, Belgium, on February 1-2, said a February 4 press release from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.

Chenda Sophea reaffirmed Cambodia’s commitment to strengthening the ASEAN-EU Strategic Partnership, as well as to working with the member states of both blocs to ensure that regular engagement at the leadership level would drive relations to new highs.

Amid growing geopolitical rivalry and non-traditional security challenges, he stressed the need for the two regions to be vigilant, agile and resilient by exploring new sources of sustainable and intensifying efforts to develop the framework and parameters of future ASEAN-EU Free Trade agreements.

He also thanked the EU for its consistent support for ASEAN centrality and the ASEAN-led mechanisms, and called on the two regions to strengthen connectivity through the full and effective implementation of the ASEAN-EU Joint Ministerial Statement on Connectivity.

“The ASEAN and EU Foreign Ministers reaffirmed the shared values and common interests that underpin 47 years of ASEAN-EU Dialogue Relations and commended the progress of the implementation of the ASEAN-EU Plan of Action [2023-2027],” said the release.

ASEAN and EU leaders have said that the two regions offer numerous growth opportunities and described the great potential for cooperation between the two blocs.

The foreign ministers also exchanged views on regional and international issues of common concern and interest, as well as adopting the Joint Declaration of the ASEAN-EU Foreign Ministers.

During the 3rd EU-IPMF, three key agenda items were discussed: Common prosperity, economic resilience and green transitional investment.

The Cambodian foreign minister promoted the strengthening of partnerships and cooperation between the EU, ASEAN and the Pacific countries, in response to the unpredictable and complex challenges posed by Covid-19, the Russia-Ukraine war, the Israel-Hamas conflict, and the crisis in the Red Sea.

Seng Vanly, a lecturer of international relations and a regional political observer, noted that ASEAN and the EU are two of the fastest-growing regions in the world, and expected that the two regions will continue to develop positive relations.

He described ASEAN as having the potential to be more stable and secure than many other regions, and also highlighted its huge economic potential, which is important to the EU.

“ASEAN is a regional organisation that the EU attaches great importance to. Each ASEAN member state benefits from the relationship between the two regions, in terms of economic and social development. In particular, Cambodia benefits in the areas of education, security, cybersecurity and trade,” he said.

He added that strengthening relations between ASEAN and the EU will benefit the former by increasing its capacity in several priority areas, so he sees the relationship as a positive, especially through the ministerial cooperation in each sector of both regions.

Vanly added that the EU is an indispensable partner of ASEAN and serves as a model region for the latter as it learns to emulate their European counterparts’ economic, social and political integration.

During the two forums, Chenda Sophea held bilateral meetings with the foreign ministers of the Czech Republic, Latvia and Hungary, Belgium, France and Luxembourg, as well as the Japanese ambassador to Belgium.

He also met with EU foreign affairs and security officials, the vice-president of the European Commission and the European Commissioner for International Partnership.