Event Reports

„ASEAN is a process“ - Panel discussion on the occasion of ASEAN´s golden jubilee

by Katharina Naumann
The year 2017 marks ASEAN´s 50th anniversary. What started out as a project of five foreign ministers from Southeast Asia in 1967 has become an anchor of political and economic stability – against challenges and criticism. How will ASEAN develop in the years to come?

In search of an answer, the Regional Programme Political Dialogue Asia hosted the panel discussion “50 Years of the ASEAN Journey – Achievements, Challenges, and Prospects” on 30 May 2017 in Singapore. The experts Dr. Yeo Lay Hwee, Director of the EU Centre in Singapore, Dr. Tang Siew Mun, Head of the ASEAN Studies Center at ISEAS Yusof-Ishak Institute, and Danny Lee, Chairman of The Association for Regional Connectivity discussed ASEAN's achievements, its future, and how the Association can navigate the US-China relationship.

“ASEAN is a process”, the panelists agreed. But this process requires constant effort and goodwill from all stakeholders. And, as Dr. Tang Siew Mun pointed out, this process also needs a game plan as to where it wants to go. Even though people do acknowledge the importance of ASEAN, it is also crucial that the benefits of ASEAN integration are tangible to all of its more than 620 Million people, Danny Lee stressed. All panelists emphasised that ASEAN was unlikely to become an EU-like political union, since its member states are too diverse. Yet, there are a lot of areas in which ASEAN could learn from the EU. For example in creating a single market, should ASEAN be indeed serious about creating the ASEAN Economic Community. As to the relationship between the US and China, Dr. Tang Siew Mun advised ASEAN to maintain its autonomy and to not choose sides. ASEAN ought to have an independent position and principles. With regards to concrete measures for the coming years, Dr. Yeo Lay Hwee advocated inviting the EU to the East Asia Summit. The panelists also discussed possible transportation or infrastructure projects akin to the European Airbus that could create a sense of identity as well as creating jobs.

As this event was also Dr. Beatrice Gorawantschy’s last activity as director of the Regional Programme Political Dialogue Asia of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung in Singapore after she took over her new position as director of the foundation’s new Regional Programme Australia and Pacific, the incoming director, Mr. Christian Echle, was introduced on this occasion.