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08 May 07
Southeast Asian countries were urged Tuesday to look to the European Union’s “inspiring model” and integrate further in response to the growing strength of China and India.
Singapore’s Foreign Minister George Yeo told a Europe Day celebration that the Association of South-east Asian Nations (ASEAN) faces the danger of being left behind and a “source of instability in 21st century Asia.”
Europe Day this year marks the 50th anniversary of European integration into a block with 493 million people.
Although ASEAN is “unlikely ever to reach the same level of integration as Europe… there are many aspects of the European construction which are relevant to our own,” Yeo said.
Like the EU, ASEAN continues to be vigorous because of new challenges, Yeo said.
“In our case, the rise of China and India is the dominant challenge,” Yeo noted. “If we do not integrate further and respond comprehensively to the growing strength of China and India, we will be left behind,” Yeo told a gathering of officials from many of the European companies based in the city-state.
“We share a common interest in each other’s regional integration,” Yeo said.
“A strong EU presence in ASEAN expands the regional grouping’s manoeuvring space and offers more options, Yeo said, while a strong ASEAN friendly to the EU ‘gives you a major base in the fastest growing region in the world.”
A meeting of EU and ASEAN economic ministers last week in Brunei decided to begin negotiations for an ASEAN-EU free trade pact.
Yeo said it is a “strategic move, which will bind us together.”
ASEAN includes Singapore, Thailland, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Myanmar (Burma).
SDP: The hypocrisy of Mr George Yeo is astounding.
Only weeks ago, the Singapore Government banned seven Members of the European Parliament from speaking at a forum in Singapore. One of the basic tenets of the European Union is the respect of human rights and democracy, values in which the Singapore Government has absolutely no interest.
Earlier this year, Singapore supported “strongly” a motion put forth by Thailand to institute a regional ASEAN mechanism to address concerns about the lack of respect for human rights in the region.
This is the tactic of the PAP. It makes all the right noises for the consumption of the international community, especially the business sector, but continues its repressive ways locally.
This latest call for ASEAN to look to the EU model is but yet another example