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ASEAN Resilience and European Strategic Autonomy: Converging Operational Concepts?
28 Dec 2021

Building on several successful engagements with the European diplomatic community and European think tanks, on 28 October, RSIS and the Center for Analysis, Planning and Strategy (CAPS), the in-house think tank of France’s Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs, held a workshop titled “ASEAN Resilience and European Strategic Autonomy: Converging Operational Concepts?”

The speakers came from a wide range of backgrounds and each provided either a French or an ASEAN view on the two distinct but related concepts of European strategic autonomy and ASEAN resilience, their meanings and policy implications. European strategic autonomy is defined as the regional capacity to act autonomously and is of growing importance in EU strategic thought. ASEAN for its part has long emphasised the notions of resilience and centrality, driven by the members’ interest to avoid choosing sides and being caught up in the midst of great power competition.

At various junctures, the workshop discussions suggested that both regional organisations define their respective resilience and autonomy differently. However, most of the speakers agreed that  the increasing global polarisation amid great power contestation has led to growing awareness in both regions of the need for greater regional capacities to define challenges and implement corresponding strategies to manage them. Especially for small and middle powers, such strategic planning and implementation capacity ought to be a regional rather than national process, undertaken jointly but independently from the centrifugal forces of great power competition.

Far from confining the discussion to the conceptual level, the workshop applied this premise to three distinct policy areas: maritime security and safety; governance of cyberspace; and economics and trade. This effort at application brought to the fore some convergence and possible synergies between European and ASEAN strategic concepts. Most importantly, strategic autonomy and regional resilience converge on the premise that regional cooperation should result in a degree of policy sovereignty that allows for local definitions of national interests and governance standards across various policy areas. To that end, greater inter-regional cooperation to build capacity and standards as well as a diversification of partnerships to reduce over-dependencies were common themes shared across panels and experts.

The virtual workshop was co-hosted by Ambassador Marc Abensour, ambassador of France to Singapore, and Ambassador Ong Keng Yong, Executive Deputy Chairman of RSIS. It demonstrated both the value of and urgent need for greater inter-regional dialogue and a broader strategic reorientation in the age of great power contestation.

Catch it here on the RSISVideoCast YouTube channel:

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