“It is good that the Indo-Pacific is getting greater attention in the European public debate. We certainly need this. I welcome the contribution that the Centre for Security, Diplomacy and Strategy (CSDS) is making to develop European thinking on the region. In many ways, the Indo-Pacific region is where the future of our planet and of history will be decided.”
Josep Borrell Fontelles, High Representative for the Union’s Foreign and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission, 29 November 2022.
On 29 November 2022, the Centre for Security, Diplomacy and Strategy (CSDS) at the Brussels School of Governance, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, organised the first-ever “Brussels Indo-Pacific Forum”.
The Forum welcomed a number of senior policy-makers from Europe and the Indo-Pacific region and over 160 audience members attended the in-person gathering. Welcomed and introduced by CSDS Director Luis Simón, the Forum started with a keynote speech by Josep Borrell Fontelles, the European Union’s High Representative for the Union’s Foreign and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission (HR/VP). In his speech HR/VP Borrell not only outlined his vision for the EU’s approach to the Indo-Pacific, but he welcomed CSDS’ efforts in developing European thinking on the region. He also thanked CSDS for organising the first of hopefully many annual fora of this kind.
The Forum welcomed a host of senior decision-makers and analysts from and on the Indo-Pacific region. Former European Commissioner and President of the Brussels School of Governance, Karel De Gucht, opened the event alongside H.E. Makita Shimokawa, Ambassador of Japan to Belgium and NATO. The Forum also welcomed H.E. Caroline Millar, Ambassador for Australia to the EU, NATO, Belgium and Luxembourg, and H.E. Yoon Soongu, Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to Belgium and the EU and Head of Mission to NATO, as panel speakers. Roberto Viola, Director General of DG Connect at the European Commission, closed the event with a keynote speech.
During the panel sessions, audience participants learned about official positions from senior policy-makers. The EU’s Special Envoy for the Indo-Pacific, Richard Tibbels, explained how the Union was implementing its Strategy for Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific. Maria Martin-Prat de Abreu, Deputy Director-General of DG Trade at the European Commission, detailed how the Commission views the development of free trade and digitalisation in the Indo-Pacific. Emmanuel Puig, from the European External Action Service, described the importance of the EU Strategic Compass for security and defence and its objectives with regard to the Indo-Pacific. Finally, the Forum welcomed David Helvey, Deputy Defence Advisor at the US Mission to NATO, to provide an overview of the United States’ approach to the region.
In addition to the panel chairs Stuart Lau, Politico Europe, Ramon Pacheco Pardo, CSDS, and Daniel Fiott, CSDS, the organisers were honoured to welcome several academic and think tank representatives. Saori N. Katada, University of Southern California, Yuichi Hosoya, Keio University, Céline Pajon, CSDS, Jagannath Panda, Institute for Security and Development Policy, Choi Yoon Jung, Sejong Institute, Raluca Csernatoni, Carnegie Europe, and Karthik Nachiappan, National University of Singapore, shared their extensive expertise on digitalisation and security and defence trends in the Indo-Pacific.
Finally, the Forum was brought to an end by a special announcement launching the new Japan Chair at CSDS. The Chair, the first of its kind in the EU, will be taken up by Eva Pejsova who is based at CSDS. Introduced by CSDS Director Luis Simón, the audience learned about the objectives and planned activities of the Japan Chair.
The first Brussels Indo-Pacific Forum gained extensive attention in the public space. Not only were the major themes and issues discussed at the Forum picked up by Politico Europe, the South China Morning Post and Euractiv but it was widely viewed on social media with over 115,000 individual impressions for tweets on the Forum from CSDS’s Twitter account. The event was also promoted by the embassy of the Republic of Korea to Belgium, the EU and NATO on its website.
The Forum would not have been possible without the generous support of the Japanese Mission to the EUand the European Union. In particular, the Forum benefitted from the generous support provided through the Indo-Pacific Futures Platform (INFORM), which is sponsored by European Union.
Following the success of this first iteration of the Forum, we expect to build on the positive experience with another meeting in 2023.