In the course of fifty years, ASEAN has developed from an anti-communist bloc to a successful and inclusive political association driven by economic growth agendas. Even so, ASEAN remains a loose and weakly institutionalized intergovernmental alliance focussed on national sovereignty and non-interference. In spite of Southeast Asia’s extraordinary diversity and political history, ASEAN has made an undeniable contribution to intraregional peace and stability, as well as to multilateral diplomacy in the wider Asian region.
Internally, economic nationalism remains strong, however, and the community-building process is in its infancy. Furthermore, great power competition in Southeast Asia strongly affects ASEAN cohesion.
The EU has opportunities to revitalize its relations with ASEAN, in particular in view of the US’s relative decline in terms of leadership in the region. This can be achieved by striving for a region-to-region Free Trade Agreement in the long run and by cementing a strategic partnership to facilitate cooperation in non-traditional security.
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