The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the European Union (EU) agreed to elevate their relationship to “Strategic Partnership” during the 23rd ASEAN-EU Ministerial Meeting (AEMM) held on December 1 via videoconference.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the European Union (EU) hold the 23rd ASEAN-EU Ministerial Meeting (AEMM) held on December 1 via videoconference. (Photo: asean.org)
The meeting was co-chaired by Singapore’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan, as Country Coordinator for ASEAN-EU Dialogue Relations, and EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell. It was attended by the foreign ministers or representatives from all ASEAN member states and 27 EU member states, as well as the ASEAN Secretariat and European Commission (EC).
ASEAN and the EU reaffirmed the shared values and common interests that underpin 43 years of ASEAN-EU Dialogue Relations and noted with satisfaction the comprehensive and multifaceted nature of their dynamic partnership today. The two sides commended the good progress on the implementation of the ASEAN-EU Plan of Action (2018-2022).
Recognising the unprecedented impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, they encouraged greater cooperation in strengthening both regions’ preparedness for and capacity to respond to current and future public health crises in line with Sustainable Development Goal 3 on health and well-being.
The two sides recognised the EU’s early engagement with ASEAN at the outset of the pandemic through the successful convening of the ASEAN-EU Ministerial Video Conference on COVID-19 in March 2020.
They discussed ways to take forward cooperation to combat the novel coronavirus, facilitate robust recovery, and enhance their long-term resilience and sustainability, including through bilateral cooperation to support the implementation of the ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework.
The EU and ASEAN agreed on the importance of collaboration at the WHO, including towards an impartial review of the pandemic response. The EU and ASEAN looked forward to continue working together on pandemic response and sustainable recovery efforts, in line with the ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework.
They were heartened by their robust economic cooperation, with the EU being ASEAN’s third largest foreign investor and trading partner in 2019. They acknowledged the serious economic impact of the pandemic and resolved to strengthen the economic linkages binding the two regions to bolster the comprehensive post-pandemic economic recovery.
The two sides engaged in frank and fruitful discussions on regional and international issues of mutual interest and concern. Their ministers underlined the importance of the respect for the rule of law, sovereignty and territorial integrity of States, maritime security and safety, freedom of navigation and overflight, peaceful resolution of disputes, in accordance with the universally recognised principles of international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the relevant standards and recommended practices of the International Civil Aviation Organisation and the International Maritime Organisation.
They also reaffirmed their support for the open, inclusive and rules-based multilateral system and reiterated their shared interest in promoting international law and internationally agreed norms and standards.
They reiterated the importance of maintaining and promoting peace, security, stability, safety, and freedom of navigation in and overflight above the East Sea (internationally known as South China Sea) and the importance of non-militarisation and self-restraint in the conduct of all activities by claimants and all other states, including those mentioned in the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC) that could further complicate the situation and escalate tensions in the sea.
The ministers from both sides later congratulated Vietnam on its successful ASEAN Chairmanship 2020. The two blocs set to commemorate the 45th anniversary of their relations in 2022 and to continue their discussions at the 24th AEMM, scheduled to be hosted by the EU in the same year.
Speaking after the AEMM 23, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said that together ASEAN and the EU represent more than a billion people and one fourth of global economic power. “Together, we have a strong voice in this world,” Maas told the Germany-based newspaper FAZ.
Upgrading the ASEAN-EU relationship to a strategic partnership is a key goal of the Germany’s Presidency of the Council of the EU in the second half of this year, according to the German diplomat. EU countries look to diversify relations both in and with the Indo-Pacific, with ASEAN at its core./.VNA
Striving towards a Government serving the people: Minister
In the interview with Vietnam News Agency, Minister and Chairman of the Government Office Mai Tien Dung reflects on the work and challenges the Government has faced in the past five years ahead the National Party Conference
as his current Government term comes to an end.
|Minister and Chairman of the Government Office Mai Tien Dung. — VNA/VNS Photo|
Could you share with us the challenging times Government, and the Government Office, have had to deal with in the term?
This Government term faced a lot of major issues.
On April 23, 2016, very early in the term, during a flight to Dien Bien Province in northern Vietnam, the Prime Minister first heard the report about the mass fish deaths in Ha Tinh in the Formosa marine environment incident.
In recent years, natural inclement conditions have also occurred – repeated salt intrusion in the Mekong Delta, biting cold spells in the northern region, droughts in Central Highlands and floods in central region – at levels unseen before. And in 2020, the big thing is the COVID-19 pandemic, which first emerged in Wuhan, China. World Health Organisation (WHO)’s recommendation before the Tet (Lunar New Year) holiday that year was still that the disease is not transmissible between humans, but we, the Government Office, didn’t think the same and immediately reported to the leadership for responses.
We thought that if the disease was not dangerous then why did the Chinese Politburo have an emergency meeting at the first day of the Lunar New Year, why was Wuhan was put under a strict lockdown and five million residents – likely well-informed and economically well-off – had to flee the lockdown order knowing what was coming, and why did the number of infections reach such a large number in such short time?
We urged the Prime Minister to defy the WHO recommendations, evidence in the Directive 05 on prevention and control of acute pneumonia disease caused by novel strain of coronavirus issued on January 28.
The Government had subsequently issued unprecedented instructions like ‘fighting the pandemic like fighting the enemy,’ and the whole armed forces and the people must engage in the fight against the disease, and then a whole range of measures including closing off the air border, shutting down land border routes, grounding flights to and from China, Japan, South Korea, the US, and Europe. The most drastic measure, of course, was the hard nationwide lockdown provided in the Directive 15 in April, 2020. These were all difficult measures that had never been done before.
If we had purely followed WHO recommendations in the early days of 2020, it’s hard to imagine what the situation in Vietnam would be like right now.
Without the armed forces and the health staff working tirelessly day and night, we couldn’t have possibly succeeded in the fight against COVID-19. Without a political system like what we have in Vietnam, without the public buy-in, it would not have been possible.
You used to say that in building e-Government, the most important thing is to dare to forego ‘interests.’ So by now, have our civil workers given up the ‘interests’ to be fully committed to this public cause?
Moves like cutting back administrative procedures and business condition requirements, or moving towards electronic documents instead of paper-based administration, faced huge barriers because they rattle the ossified ‘vested interests’ of many individuals and organisations. Pursuing transparency means we have to strip off these sorts of ‘vested interests’ towards serving the common good.
For example, we need to process about 12 million import-export documents each year, and only 0.06 per cent of them have errors that need to be rectified, but all the papers and procedures still have to be done and many fees still have to be paid to complete these documents. Such a huge waste for the people and businesses.
When public administrative procedures are ‘digitised,’ every citizen would only need a single account that they can log in to various ministries’ portals to carry out the ‘paper work’ instead of having to directly go to a public administrative centre, which help to cut down time, effort, and fees – both formal and informal ones. And most importantly, the procedures done online are all transparent and minimise the risks for petty corruption.
I can say for certain that a very large number of vested interests have been abolished. The Government is held accountable by the public, the businesses and the media.
One of the missions of the Government Office is to assess proposed projects – a task that has a lot to do with ‘interests’ of ministries and sectors. Are you, and others at the Government, under a lot of pressure?
Pressure is a matter-of-fact thing. The Government’s leader has on many occasions called for transparency and elimination of petty corruption at all levels – so that’s the order and it has to be observed, meaning that not just the Government Office but all ministries and local authorities will have to be part of the efforts to reform. I’d say that the pressure has been reduced quite a lot compared to the beginning of the term, now that the efforts to reform have been more widespread.
There’s no room for individualistic opportunism or vested interests in the common efforts towards a strong, prosperous Vietnam. And that’s not to mention the supervision role of the press and the public, the old mindset of maintaining vested interests would gradually wither.
Those who issued documents, regulations and policies that people and businesses consider to be creating barriers for them or just to benefit the ministries and agencies in charge, then the leaders of those ministries and agencies will have to answer in front of the Government.
It must not be easy to balance the interests of the State, the ministries and agencies, the people, and businesses?
All policies need to balance the interests of all parties involved.
The Government Office is not under the influence of any other ministry, we only take instructions from the Government and the Prime Minister. We have to always be loyal and honest. If we encounter barriers or issues, we report them at Cabinet meetings, with independent critical reviews or reports. If we fail to do that, then our mission is not fulfilled. So in every issue or case, we have to deliberate very carefully, listening to the press or feedback from concerning associations, among others.
Maybe there were points when we have to compromise, but this is not to benefit a certain ministry because they got a hold over it anything. We only do things that are allowed by the law.
As the Minister, Chairman of the Government, and spokesperson for the Government, what do you wish to the public to remember you for, a minister of the people, a minister of action or reforms, or something else?
We at the Government Office are merely helpers who would do the tasks and missions we are entrusted with. I don’t think I have image. We are loyal to the country, and work towards a Government that serves the people and businesses. If people and businesses are satisfied, then we can also be satisfied that we have done meaningful contributions to the country.
With your term coming an end soon, what are your lingering concerns? Are you satisfied with what you have done?
Since the beginning of the term, we were determined to build Government Office into a professional, modern agency that would make use of smart governance. This idea has been propagated to all officials, civil servants and employees in all tasks.
Thanks to everyone’s efforts, the agency has seen drastic improvements, every process from performance evaluation to training, recruitment, personnel planning and appointment are all done in a transparent manner.
The work we do at the Government Office only contributed a small part to the successes of the Government. We still need to try harder, in professional capacity, as well as moral and ideological aspects.
In this fast-changing world, without innovation and reforms, we cannot fulfil our duty to advise the Government.
At the Government Office, one must complete work before leaving the workplace, a working day is not defined by a strict eight-hour schedule.
In the new year, we expect the media to continue accompanying the Government and the Government Office to create two-way information channels. We are the helpers, but what the Government and the Prime Minister have done, we have to communicate them to the public via the reach of the mass media. VNS
Party Central Committee approves lists of candidates for 13th tenure
HÀ NỘI — The Party Central Committee on Sunday approved lists of candidates for key leading positions in the upcoming 13th tenure as its plenum wrapped up in Hà Nội.
The 15th plenum was the last of the Party’s 12th tenure, serving as an important preparation for the 13th National Party Congress which will take place from January 25 to February 2.
The lists, which include first-time nominees and re-elected candidates, were carefully discussed among the committee’s members.
The re-elected candidates include some special cases that have served as members of the Politburo and the Party Central Commitee in the 12th tenure.
Speaking at the closing ceremony, Party General Secretary and State President Nguyễn Phú Trọng said it was a “serious, truly democratic” plenum which ended one and half-days earlier than planned.
“Our plenum was a success; all preparations for the 13th National Party Congress have been completed as we planned,” he said.
“We can now say with joy and pride that throughout the 12th tenure – despite a lot of changes, difficulties and challenges in the region and around the world – the Party Central Committee, Politburo and Secretariat have worked together with high determination and great efforts to complete its agenda.
“The work has helped the Party and the people to achieve great things, leaving legacies, and creating new trust and driving forces to bring the country into a new development period.”
He stressed the importance of the upcoming congress that will start in a week’s time.
“The Party’s officials, members and the people care so much about this event and put a lot of hopes and expectations in it. I urge you all to continue to work together with high determination and responsibility to make it happen and do it well,” he said.
The committee also adopted reports by the Politburo on the nominees to the presidium, the secretariat and the eligibility verification board on the delegates of the congress.
Party Central Committee plenum completes preparation for 13th Congress
The 15th plenum of the Party Central Committee wrapped up on January 17 after completing all the contents of its agenda.
At the plenum, the last of the 12th tenure, the Committee discussed and passed the lists of first-time nominees and the special cases to the Committee of the coming 13th tenure, as well as that of the nominees to the key leading positions of the Party and the State, among others.
The Committee also adopted reports by the Political Bureau on the nominees to the presidium, the secretariat and the eligibility verification board on the delegates of the coming 13th Congress, scheduled to start on January 25.
Speaking at the closing ceremony, Party General Secretary and State President Nguyen Phu Trong stressed that the current Committee has weathered all the difficulties and completed the working agenda, leading the whole Party, people and army to very important achievements, leaving deep imprints and creating new trust and driving forces to bring the country into a new development period.
The leader asked the Committee members to continue bringing into play their sense of solidarity and responsibility in finishing the remaining work, and working as nucleuses so as to ensure the coming Congress a fine success that meets the expectation and hope of the whole Party and people.
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