2015 年 2015 巻 182 号 p. 182_85-182_97
Today, it seems that the relationship between the European Union (EU) and Asia is at a turning point. During the Cold War era, the status gap between the European Community (EC) and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was quite large. In fact, the EC was considered to be highly institutionalised and the most developed region, while ASEAN was considered as an association of developing countries. However, in the post-Cold War era, the status of Asia as compared to that of Europe has significantly risen. The establishment of Asia–Europe Meeting (ASEM) in 1996 among heads of states as ‘equal partners’ is a striking example. In addition, ASEAN will have a community in place by the end of 2015, while Europe has struggled from its sovereign debt crisis to such an extent that it showed its eagerness to learn even from Asian countries. Finally, the EU is now expected to play a role as a ‘soft power’ally with ASEAN.
Based on multiple archives (French, German, and EC archives), this article retraces the course of EC/EU–ASEAN relations, from the origins of ASEAN until the establishment of the Joint Study Group (JSG) of 1975, considered as a formal institutionalisation of EC–ASEAN relations. It aims to clarify why and how this formal institutionalisation occurred. Actually, in 1972, an informal dialogue between the EC and ASEAN began. Thereafter, in June 1975 the regional organisations established JSG between the European Commission and the ASEAN member states. It can be interpreted as a precursor to the EEC-ASEAN cooperation agreement signed in 1980, in that this event is in certain times considered as a ‘turning point’.
EC/EU–ASEAN relations have been widely discussed. The existing research derives mainly from political scientists. Most early research has stressed ASEAN as a ‘stepping stone’ to the ‘Asia-Pacific’ region, in other words, an economic valuation of ASEAN as the reason why the EC deepened its relationship with ASEAN. Other studies have underlined ASEAN’s value as a reliable partner to break an impasse in the North-South negotiations. However, existing literature ignores a strategic aspect. This article establishes the decisive strategic reason for the EC to have chosen a formal relation with ASEAN: to have a substantial presence in a region where US presence declined after the Vietnam War. This viewpoint is especially supported by Sir Christopher Soames, British Vice-President of the European Commission and Commissioner for External Relations. Focusing on this strategic aspect, based on the method of diplomatic history, this article also tries to analyse the impact of international contexts such as the Asian Cold War and North–South affairs on the EC’s decision-making process.