ASEAN and the EU: Time to Develop the Parliamentary Dimension of the Relationship

30-06-2015

The EU is committed by Treaty to consolidate and support democracy worldwide. Parliamentary democracy is fundamental to achieve legitimacy and accountability. Moreover exchanges between parliaments enhance their role within each country and contribute to the spread of democratic values. The EU is also a staunch supporter of regional integration as a means of fostering regional stability, supporting economic growth and addressing global challenges. However, despite Asia being the world’s most dynamic region and a growing interdependence between Asia and Europe, the parliamentary dimension of the Asia-Europe relationship remains weak: Asia remains the only continent where the EP has yet to establish a region-to-region joint parliamentary assembly. The scale, complexity and diversity of Asia – which accounts for more than half of the world’s population – may explain this situation. This study first reviews the steps taken by the European Parliament to develop and strengthen relations and takes stock of the rare initiatives that were launched at the different regional levels. It then suggests that parliamentary diplomacy has not taken root yet in most Asian countries and explores the reasons for that situation, among which the respective roles of the executive and legislative branches of government. The current shortcomings in democratic governance in Asia and the lack of political support and commitment on the European side are also identified. In conclusion it argues that despite obvious difficulties there is room to advance representative democracy in Asia. As first step deeper engagement with ASEAN should be pursued and an EP-AIPA structured partnership that would support parliament’s democratic objectives established.

The EU is committed by Treaty to consolidate and support democracy worldwide. Parliamentary democracy is fundamental to achieve legitimacy and accountability. Moreover exchanges between parliaments enhance their role within each country and contribute to the spread of democratic values. The EU is also a staunch supporter of regional integration as a means of fostering regional stability, supporting economic growth and addressing global challenges. However, despite Asia being the world’s most dynamic region and a growing interdependence between Asia and Europe, the parliamentary dimension of the Asia-Europe relationship remains weak: Asia remains the only continent where the EP has yet to establish a region-to-region joint parliamentary assembly. The scale, complexity and diversity of Asia – which accounts for more than half of the world’s population – may explain this situation. This study first reviews the steps taken by the European Parliament to develop and strengthen relations and takes stock of the rare initiatives that were launched at the different regional levels. It then suggests that parliamentary diplomacy has not taken root yet in most Asian countries and explores the reasons for that situation, among which the respective roles of the executive and legislative branches of government. The current shortcomings in democratic governance in Asia and the lack of political support and commitment on the European side are also identified. In conclusion it argues that despite obvious difficulties there is room to advance representative democracy in Asia. As first step deeper engagement with ASEAN should be pursued and an EP-AIPA structured partnership that would support parliament’s democratic objectives established.