Remarks by Herman VAN ROMPUY President of the European Council following the EU-Japan Summit
We have just concluded a very constructive and successful summit, the Kizuna summit — the summit of bonds of friendship — in the beautiful setting of Val Duchesse.
We had three main goals for this year’s summit:
First to reaffirm our solidarity with the Japanese government and people in the aftermath of the disasters of 11 March.
Second, to develop and confirm EU support and bilateral cooperation in the field of nuclear safety, disaster relief and humanitarian aid — in light of the terrible events in March. And third, to build on last year’s aim to re-energize our relations by working towards closer political and economic ties between the EU and Japan.
I am glad that today, we reached all three goals.
In Tokyo last year we decided to review all aspects of the EU-Japan relations — both political and economic. The High-Level Group in charge made a lot of progress over the last few months. On that basis we have achieved the following:
We have taken an important step in our trade relationship. By launching a “scoping exercise” we have set the course towards a Free Trade Agreement between the Union and Japan. We still have a long way to go , but the objective is now clear.
Some might say that we have not gone far enough. I say, we should not underestimate the political meaning of our decision. When two of the world’s largest trading partners jointly confirm their intention to work towards a Free Trade Agreement, that is a big step forward: It carries symbolic and political significance, but also a lot more. The potential economic and political results are huge, in terms of jobs, growth, and a shared destiny.
But our relationship cannot be just about trade. That’s why we confirmed that both political and sectoral aspects should be covered, further developing them in a balanced and comprehensive way. We both have a high level of ambition, and committed ourselves to parallel negotiations of a linked Framework Agreement.
We do not start from zero, of course, the EU and Japan already have a co-operation on the political side. But there is still major potential waiting to be exploited. We are not yet where we should be, we are not yet where we both wish to be. But at our today’s summit we intended to give new momentum to the existing cooperation.
As I mentioned above, the European Union and Japan already work together: on peace and security, including in Afghanistan; on non-proliferation regarding North Korea. We should also develop our cooperation on crisis management.
In addition, we should continue to build on our close multilateral cooperation, not least in the framework of United Nations. The UN Resolution enhancing the EU’s participation in the work of the General Assembly will make this easier — and I thanked the Prime Minister for his support in its adoption.
The triple disaster which hit Japan in March has influenced the context of EU-Japan relations as well. After the earthquake and the tsunami disaster relief and humanitarian relief are now even stronger in focus as areas of bilateral cooperation.
After the events in Fukushima, Nuclear safety is now also at the forefront of the political agendas worldwide. Implementing the highest level of nuclear safety and continuously improving safety is a priority for both the EU and Japan.
Our political cooperation is built on the strong conviction that the Member States of the European Union and Japan defend the same values and the same type of societies. We are both adapting to a rapidly changing world.
That is why it has been a privilege to discuss with you, PM Kan, the changes of the global strategic landscape — from the developments in East Asia (close to you) to those in the Arab world (close to us). We also exchanged views on developments in the Eurozone and the economic recovery in Japan, knowing that in today’s global economy we all depend on each other’s strength. Finally, Mr. Prime Minister, let me just recall the tragic days of 11 March and its aftermath. The European Council adopted a declaration of solidarity on that very day, and both President Barroso and myself contacted you as soon as possible to offer help.
But more importantly, the triple disaster that hit Japan led to an immediate and massive display of solidarity from the European public opinion in general. This solidarity reflected that the strong commitment to the strategic partnership of our countries does exist not only amongst politicians, but primarily amongst our publics. It is this foundation that we will build on in the future. I am convinced that Japan will come out strong out of these disasters. It will show the vitality of the Japanese people and democracy.
Mr Prime Minister, I will finish with a Haiku:
The three disasters
Storms turn into a soft wind.
A new, humane wind.
Council of the European Union