A European Strategy for the Indo-Pacific
While addressing a group of German diplomats in May 2020, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell remarked, “we need a more robust strategy for China, which also requires better relations with the rest of democratic Asia.”1 In September 2020, the German government unexpectedly launched a comprehensive set of guidelines for engaging with the Indo-Pacific and announced that, together with France and the Netherlands, it will push for the EU to adopt a similar strategy. The debate around the IndoPacific has been gaining traction across the world, but Europe’s turn toward the region has surprised many—until almost a year ago, most European countries (except for France) were reluctant to even use the term “Indo-Pacific.” It is no coincidence that this recent embrace of the Indo-Pacific has come at a time when Europe-China relations have hit an all-time low.
Ironically, it is China’s expanding global reach that has ensured that challenges faced by the Indo-Pacific are now at Europe’s shores. European concerns today are not very different from those faced by Australia, Japan, and India. With rifts in transatlantic relations, Washington continuing to take a hard line on many China-related issues, and the growing economic importance of the region, many in Europe are also beginning to realize that these partners in the Indo-Pacific might be the allies Europe needs.