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EU seeks firm words on Russia at first summit with ASEAN


The European Union and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) meet for their first summit on Wednesday to deepen economic ties, with European leaders pressing for firm, shared language critical of Russia.

The leaders of 27 EU countries and nine of 10 ASEAN leaders have been invited to a commemoration of 45 years of diplomatic relations. Military-ruled Myanmar has been excluded.

The leaders are set to discuss areas of future cooperation, including trade, the green and digital transitions and health. The two blocs have already signed a deal to allow their airlines to expand services more easily.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is set to commit 10 billion euros ($10.6 billion) of public funds to 2027 for investment in projects in ASEAN, such as in renewable energy and sustainable agriculture.

“We see a lot of demand in the region to diversify their sources of investment and work with reliable partners,” an EU official said of the region where links with China have grown.

The EU wants to expand its trade ties beyond its free trade agreements with Singapore and Vietnam and negotiations with Indonesia. The regional groupings are each other’s third largest trading partners.

They are also expected to demonstrate a commitment to a rules-based international order.

The European Union is keen for a statement to describe the war in Ukraine as an act of aggression by Russia. An EU official said the bloc was very positive on prospects for the wording, while admitting it was not an easy task.

Singapore is imposing sanctions on Russia, while Laos, Thailand and Vietnam abstained in a United Nations vote in October to condemn Russia’s annexation of Ukrainian regions.

Leaders of the Group of 20 (G20) nations agreed at a meeting chaired by ASEAN nation Indonesia last month that “most members” condemned the war.

The summit statement is likely also to call for calm in the South China Sea and address the February 2021 military coup in Myanmar and instability on the Korean peninsula.

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European Union flags flutter outside the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, September 28, 2022. REUTERS/Yves Herman/File Photo

A worker adjusts an ASEAN flag at a meeting hall in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, October 28, 2021. REUTERS/Lim Huey Teng/File Photo