“Europe’s Naval Engagement in the South China Sea”, Giulio Pugliese (IAI, Italy)

The EU’s Strategy for Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific calls for a “meaningful European naval presence in the region”. What does it mean for vested parties in the South China Sea? On 19 April 2021, the Council of the European Union, which convenes the Foreign Affairs ministries from the EU’s 27 member states, reached a consensus in favour of an “EU Strategy for Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific”. Following Japan, Australia, India, the United States, ASEAN and three of its key member states, the EU has also endorsed the Indo-Pacific concept. It has done so in a rather comprehensive and inclusive fashion that highlights cooperation from its very title and geographic remit. According to the Council’s conclusions, the Indo-Pacific spans from the eastern coast of Africa to the Pacific Islands, a region that accounts for as much as 62 per cent of global GDP. In short, it’s a rather comprehensive “strategy” for half the world. In fact, since interests among the 27 member states vary considerably, the nine-page document reads more like lasagne – with layers of items piled up, in no particular order – rather than a strategic document.

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