60 years of EU-Thai engagement

60 years of EU-Thai engagement

On May 9, 1950, French Foreign Minister Schuman presented a proposal for the creation of the European Community of Coal and Steel, pooling together French and German coal and steel production -- resources needed to wage war -- under a common high authority, within an organisation open to other European countries. This was the founding stone of what would become the European Union, initially including six member states. Rising from the ashes of the Second World War, countries that had been bitter foes for centuries decided to pool their resources and unite their destinies, making conflict among themselves unthinkable and ensuring over 70 years of unprecedented peace and cooperation.

The European construction is a true miracle after centuries of bloodshed. It has also become an attractive model of what countries can achieve, if they renounce aggression and put their differences aside, striving to work together under a rules based approach and shared values, towards a common good. Over the decades, the number of countries willing to cede parts of their sovereignty to supranational European institutions and join hands towards common peace and prosperity steadily increased. Presently, the European Union counts 27 member states and an ever-growing number of candidate and potential candidate countries.

Today, security and stability in Europe and beyond are once again under threat, as the unprovoked and unjustified Russian aggression against Ukraine defies the core principles of the UN Charter. The latest UN Resolution, voted on Feb 23 by 141 countries including Thailand, deplores the aggression, reaffirms Ukraine's territorial integrity and calls for an unconditional withdrawal of Russian forces and for a just peace. In front of this major challenge, the EU stands more united than ever, strengthening its own commitment to a just peace in the framework of the rules based international order. Unity is our response to all major global threats, from conflict to climate change, from the pandemic to the economic woes that are not sparing our continent. United we stand for international law, fair and sustainable development and universal human rights. These are the main pillars of the EU building and the tenets of its external action, working together with international partners.

The EU, as a block of 27 industrialised states enjoying friendly relations around the world, is a main trade partner to many nations, the biggest donor of development assistance in the world and an enthusiastic promoter of people-to-people relations. We intend to strengthen strategic partnerships with our international friends towards a common benefit and prosperity, making use of tools such as the Global Gateway, a €300-billion-worth global initiative putting member states, EU and private sector funds together to promote cooperation in connectivities, climate and energy, health, education and other sectors.

Among all global partners, the EU is strengthening cooperation with the Indo-Pacific region, the world's most populous, prosperous and innovative region. The EU Indo-Pacific Strategy outlines seven areas of collaboration, from security in its different dimensions to trade and ocean management, from physical and digital connectivity to climate change. In this framework, we recognise the centrality of Asean -- our strategic partner -- and we support Asean integration. The December 2022 EU-Asean Commemorative Summit marked 45 years of diplomatic relations based on shared values and principles such as a rules-based international order, international law, effective multilateralism and free and fair trade.

Among Asean countries, the Kingdom of Thailand is a main partner of the EU. A rare rosewood tree I will plant today in Lumpini Park together with the Governor of Bangkok and the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs will symbolise our 60 years of blossoming diplomatic relations.

After six decades of partnership and cooperation, the EU has become Thailand's fourth trade partner, exchanging goods worth €42.1 billion in 2022. Each day, the EU and Thailand trade goods worth €115 million. The EU is the third-biggest foreign investor in the Kingdom, with an FDI stock worth over €32.5 billion and more than 18,000 companies registered, generating over 160,000 jobs.

Last year, over 1.4 million EU tourists visited Thailand, while figures for the first months of 2023 hint at a recovery towards the pre-pandemic flow of 3.5 million visitors. The signing of the EU-Thailand Partnership and Cooperation Agreement last December and the recent announcement of the resumption of negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement pave the way for a new phase in bilateral relations, contributing to further deepening and expanding our cooperation.

Thailand's path towards democracy over recent years has enabled this strengthening of EU-Thailand relations, and I hope that this week's election will represent another milestone further along this path. In all of our democracies, we face the challenges of ensuring a credible, inclusive and transparent electoral process underpinned by independent institutions.

The EU is ready to continue working together with any resulting government which reflects the will of the Thai people, according to the verdict of the ballot box.

We look forward to deepening our cooperation with the upcoming elected government, further strengthening our partnership for the security, stability and prosperity of our peoples, of the region and of the whole world.

David Daly is Ambassador of the European Union to Thailand. The article also marks Europe Day on May 9.

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