On April 19, the Council of the EU released its 10-page conclusion on the “EU Strategy for cooperation in the Indo-Pacific.” The Council tasked the Commission and the High Representative to propose a complete strategy by September. In the meantime, the EU27-India summit, scheduled for May in Porto, was moved online over the deteriorating Covid-19 situation in India.
What you need to know
Key goals outlined in the document that are relevant in the context of China:
- Security – Increase maritime presence in the region through cooperation with like-minded partners to support freedom of navigation and related resilience of trade routes. EU member states are to contribute on a voluntary basis.
- Supply chains – Diversify sensitive industry supply chains and limit strategic dependencies on specific providers of critical raw materials. CAI was mentioned as one of the examples of the EU’s trade and investment agreements in the region.
- Digital – Promote digital governance standards in emerging technologies in line with the EU’s values and standards. Cooperate with like-minded countries on the security of supply chains for 5G networks and “global, open, free, stable and secure cyberspace.”
- Inclusivity – Developing EU’s position in the region as a “cooperative partner” engaging with “all partners in the region” while forwarding the bloc’s values and interests.
While this is not an agenda targeting China, it certainly is one which supports a rules-based multilateralism that Beijing is seeking to reshape. EU’s plans to diversify supply chains away from China, to ensure freedom of navigation in the South China Sea and to promote an open and free cyberspace are unlikely to be met with enthusiasm in Beijing despite the EU’s claims of for inclusivity.