EU-ASEAN Relations: Potential for Enhanced Cooperation

von Benedikt Zanzinger
Politics on Point - A Podcast by AIES Wien and Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung Wien


The war in Ukraine showed the EU’s ability to act as a key global player through its resilience, its ability to react quickly from the very start of the war, with military support, aid to refugees, and the ability to reduce its energy dependence on Russia. Due to the disruption of supply chains that already indicated serious dependence during the pandemic, the sometimes alternativeless dependency on energy supplies, and the need for a coherent approach in the face of security challenges, the EU should try to achieve strategic autonomy and create an independent geopolitical policy in order to become a “third power” in the changing world order, instead of getting lost between the rivalry between China and the US. The growing U.S.-China tensions will have a profound effect on the future of the multilateral system, current trends are pointing toward a further increase in geopolitical competition, economic protectionism and fragmentation. The goal of this podcast series is to assess the European Union's autonomy as an independent actor, with regard to its relations with the US, China, ASEAN, and the African Union. The changing nature of the multilateral system and the growing tensions between global actors no longer allows a postponement of the assessment from the perspective of liberal democracies, hence the European Union and its member states must not lose sight of systemic competition.


Southeast Asia and Africa are key regions in the broader contest for global primacy between China and the United States. Heightened competition in these regions is a key feature of a new era of great-power rivalry, making these regions vital for the EU’s interests as well. In Southeast Asia, the EU needs to establish a central role in providing alternatives to China in the economic, technology, connectivity, and governance spheres. Southeast Asia is a highly dynamic region with significant potential for deeper collaboration - on trade and investment as well as on security and global challenges. The EU needs to engage more with this region turning into a “strategic theatre” where the future of the planet will be written. ASEAN has experienced decades of strong growth and is now on its way to become, as a group, the fourth largest economy in the world by 2030. The EU is already ASEAN’s first development partner, its second investment partner and its third largest trading partner.


In this episode, Choi Shing Kwok, Director and Chief Executive Officer of the ISEAS - Yusof Ishak Institute, discusses the current state of EU-ASEAN relations against the background of dramatic changes in the international system - above all the Russian invasion of Ukraine. This episode is the third in a 4-part special series on the EU as a global actor. Other episodes of this series focus on the EU's relations with China, the US, as well as the African Union.


Find the podcast here: Podcast



Benedikt Zanzinger

Portrait Benedikt Zanzinger

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