The EU, Japan and ASEAN: Re-assessing multilateralism in the Indo-Pacific

Monday 11 October 2021, 09:00 to 12:00

ASEAN centrality has been a defining feature of the regional security architecture. The importance of upholding multilateral structures is underscored both in the EU strategy for cooperation in the Indo-Pacific and in Japan’s Free and Open Indo-Pacific vision. Yet, the escalating great power rivalry between the US and China has led to an unprecedented polarization and fragmentation of the regional strategic landscape, putting existing cooperative mechanisms under ever-increasing pressure.

How effective has the ASEAN been so far to deal with the mounting security challenges inside and outside Southeast Asia? How exactly does the rapidly changing security environment affect the relevance, the capacity and the future of regional integration? And how can extra-regional parties, such as the EU and Japan, boost the resilience and promote ASEAN-led multilateral cooperation in the region?

Please find the recording of the session below the programme.

Session 1: The EU, Japan and ASEAN – “Outside in”: views of the region

Date: 11 October 2021, 09:00-10:15 CET

The signature of the EU- ASEAN Strategic Partnership in 2020 and the EU HR/VP Josep Borrel’s first physical visit to Indonesia and the ASEAN Headquarters in June 2021 underscored European commitment to promoting regional multilateralism and bi-regional political security cooperation as a key feature of its Indo-Pacific agenda. Similarly, Japan has repeatedly reaffirmed its attachment to multilateral cooperation and ASEAN centrality in its FOIP vision and in its bilateral relations with Southeast Asian countries.

  • What has been the EU and Japan’s views, interests and expectations of ASEAN in the context of the redefined Indo-Pacific strategic space?
  • What concrete policies have been put in place and foreseen so far?
  • How can both partners cooperate in boosting the resilience and capacity of ASEAN-led security structures?


  • Celine PAJON, Senior Fellow, Japan Program, Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB)


  • Bruno HELLENDORFF, Attaché, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Belgium, Lecturer at Université Catholique de Louvain
  • Tsutomu KIKUCHI, Professor, Aoyama Gakuin University, Senior Adjunct Fellow, JIIA
  • Huong LE THU, Senior Analyst, ASPI, Canberra


Session 2: The EU, Japan and ASEAN – “Inside out”: views from the region

Date: 11 October 2021, 10:30 – 12:00 CET

ASEAN and its related multilateral structures have been often criticized by extra-regional players for not being fit to address some of the most burning, traditional security challenges in the region. Yet, while tensions continue to mount, regional organizations face an increasing pressure with the same or less resources. In a recent opinion survey conducted by the Singapore-based Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS), Japan and the EU are viewed as ASEAN’s most trusted partners to hedge against the uncertainties of the US – China strategic rivalry.

  • How does ASEAN view the role of extra-regional powers – and especially the EU and Japan – in regional security?
  • What concrete policies and measures would be most needed and welcome to improve resilience and effective multilateralism in the region?

10:30-10:45 Keynote remarks

Keynote speaker:

  • Rizal SUKMA, Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, Jakarta. Former Executive Director of the CSIS Indonesia, Former Ambassador of Indonesia to the UK (until 2020) and the International Maritime Organization (IMO)

10.45-12.00 Discussion


  • Eva PEJSOVA, Senior Japan Fellow, Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB)


  • Ralf EMMERS, Dean, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Singapore
  • Lay-Hwee YEO, Director, EU Centre, Singapore
  • Tomotaka SHOJI, Head, Asia and Africa Division, Regional Studies Department, The National Institute for Defense Studies (NIDS)

The recording of the event: