Why EU Day matters for Thailand
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Why EU Day matters for Thailand

The European Union was born out of war to prevent war in the future between historic enemies. After World War II many European leaders wanted to try a new form of international cooperation to break out of the cycle of war which had dogged Europe every 50 years or so, going back through the centuries. Following the declaration by French foreign minister, Robert Schuman, on May 9, 1950, six countries agreed henceforth to manage jointly between them the industries needed to wage war -- coal, iron, steel -- instead of continuing to manage them purely nationally.

The European Coal and Steel Community, launched by Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands in 1952, eventually evolved into the European Union of 27 countries today; instead of pooling their sovereignty just over the industries needed for war, today the EU has a single integrated market, a common external trade policy and a common currency (the Euro); it allows for free movement of people across the EU, and covers issues such as climate change, foreign and security policy and much more.

By any measure, the EU constitutes a successful reconciliation process whereby war between its member states has become unthinkable. While the unjustifiable Russian invasion of Ukraine tragically shows that Europe is not immune from war, the EU has enjoyed over 70 years of peace and prosperity.

The Schuman Declaration of May 9, 1950 was so transformative within Europe that we celebrate May 9 each year as the "birthday" of the European Union. Despite the many challenges we face, our citizens can celebrate the results which the EU delivers.

On the international stage, the EU is a unique democratic club with many moving parts. The 27 countries are themselves democracies, deciding EU laws around the council table in Brussels. The voters of the 27 countries also get to elect directly their representatives in the European Parliament, which also decides on EU laws. Next month millions of Europeans will vote for the 705 Members of the European Parliament. After that, a new President of the European Council, President of the European Commission and the individual Commissioners, and the High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy will be appointed.

Why does any of this matter to Thailand?

The EU is a major economic partner of Thailand, the third ranked foreign investor, accounting for over 160,00 jobs, and 4th ranked trade partner with trade worth €1 billion (about 39.7 billion baht) a week; EU tourists (1.3 million) now rank second to Chinese tourists (1.8 million) over the first quarter this year; Many Thai and European students and academics study in each other's universities under programmes such as ERASMUS+. Nonetheless, we want to do more, which is why we are negotiating a free trade agreement.

More than this, the EU and Thailand share important values and interests of global importance. We both want international relations between countries to be conducted on the basis of agreed rules through the multilateral system, in accordance with the UN Charter. It is tragic and dangerous that these principles are under attack in places such as Ukraine and the Middle East.

The EU is a force for good in the world. Together with its member states, the EU pays almost a third of all funding of the UN system and we are the largest donor of development and humanitarian assistance globally.

Global challenges such as climate change, biodiversity loss and the creation of a more sustainable planet are issues where the EU and Thailand can work together more because we share much common ground. Indeed, we have worked successfully on many such issues in the past, for example, on tackling illegal unregulated and unreported fishing where over recent years Thailand has become a regional success story because of the measures it has taken.

Thailand has put itself forward for election to the UN Human Rights Council. Being on the council brings both prestige and responsibilities. Respecting human rights is a challenge for every country, everywhere, every day -- in Europe, Thailand and elsewhere. We look forward to working together with our Thai interlocutors on the challenges of good governance and human rights under the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA).

Thailand is an important country in an important region. The EU's Indo-Pacific Strategy shows the political importance of the region for the EU, as does the EU-Asean Strategic Partnership. The EU supports Asean centrality and its efforts to resolve the tragic Myanmar situation, in which Thailand has a key role to play.

Important milestones in the recent past, such as the signing of the PCA and the relaunch of the FTA negotiations, bear witness to the growing strength of EU-Thailand relations. We look forward to working together with our Thai friends to achieve new milestones in the near future.

David Daly is the Ambassador of the European Union to Thailand.

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