asia network

AIES Research Trip to Hanoi and Singapore

Strengthening the AIES Network in Asia

Dec 03, 2022 / Indo-Pacific

At the end of October 2022, an AIES-delegation first visited Hanoi, Vietnam and then Singapore to consolidate existing think tank cooperation with local partner organisations and to create new synergies. The delegation consisted of AIES President Dr. Werner Fasslabend, AIES Director Velina Tchakarova, AIES Deputy Director Michael Zinkanell, as well as members of the AIES board of directors Prof. Dr. Alfred Gerstl, Amb. Dr. Martin Sajdik, and Dr. Nikolaus Scholik. The focus of the trip was on workshops with the leadership of the Diplomatic Academy Vietnam in Hanoi and the Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore.

Furthermore, the AIES team met in Hanoi with the Austrian Ambassador to Vietnam, Hans-Peter Glanzer, and had a discussion with the Department for Multilateral Economic Cooperation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Viet Nam. In Singapore, the AIES-delegation also conducted a closed-door panel discussion with the Diplomatic Academy Singapore and met with the Ambassador of Singapore to Austria, Heng Wing, as well as the Austrian Ambassador to Singapore, Peter Guschelbauer.

In discussions with selected representatives of the Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam and the AIES-delegation, the geopolitical and geo-economic shift from the West to the East was emphasised. The Indo-Pacific region is emerging as the new focus for global political and economic developments but is also in the international spotlight due to rising conflicts and tensions.

The quest for strategic autonomy unites ASEAN and the European Union and can serve as a basis for improved future cooperation. The EU and ASEAN should develop closer cooperation not only in the field of economics and trade but also in terms of principles and values, especially lasting peace, greater stability, and prosperity. However, it was also pointed out that the European Union needs to increase its efforts and raise awareness of the Indo-Pacific region, as well as seek closer cooperation with ASEAN countries, for example by realising the potential of the European Global Gateway Initiative. Vietnam can act as one of the EU's key partners for this project. ASEAN countries expect the initiative to strengthen investment opportunities and infrastructure projects in the region. In addition, enhanced cooperation with the European Union in the digital and green economy has been identified as a priority for the region. Promoting maritime cooperation beyond a limited European physical presence in the South China Sea was also emphasised.

The Indo-Pacific region will also have to deal with major interconnected challenges, such as the impact of climate change and the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as the consequences of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Regarding the challenges in the South China Sea, the Vietnamese government and other ASEAN member states are increasingly concerned about rising security tensions as China continues to solidify its presence in the area.

Another focus of the talks was China’s leadership under Xi Jinping, which has only been strengthened after the Party Conference. It is therefore highly probable that his way of thinking will continue to manifest itself strongly in China's future foreign and security policy. Regarding the conflict with Taiwan, China has clear ambitions, although in the past Southeast Asian countries tried to avoid the issue. That this strategy is now no longer possible has been illustrated by ASEAN’s recent statement on the Taiwanese crisis, highlighting that ASEAN stands ready to play a constructive role in facilitating peaceful dialogue between all parties including through utilizing ASEAN-led mechanisms to deescalate tension and safeguard peace in the region. However, the question of how to deal with a potential conflict remains unresolved. It will pose a significant challenge in the future but can also be an opportunity for the EU to enhance its relations with the ASEAN states.