It’s the second consecutive commemoration in times of crisis – Covid-19 last year and now the attack on Ukraine.
LIKE every year, yesterday we celebrated Europe Day and commemorated Robert Schuman’s founding declaration, which launched the European project.
The visual highlight was a show of colours displayed at Pintasan Saloma, representing the deep bond shared by Malaysia and the European Union (EU).
The strong bilateral relations have made Malaysia the EU’s second largest trade partner in South-East Asia, whilst the EU is Malaysia’s fifth largest trading partner.
Beyond the celebration of the strength of our friendship and partnership with Malaysia, it is the second consecutive Europe Day in times of crisis.
Last year, in times of strict Covid-19 lockdown in Malaysia, Europe Day reminded us of the necessity of humankind to come together in solidarity to jointly resist and address the effects of the pandemic.
One year later, as the consequences of the pandemic are still widely felt, this commemoration again takes on a very particular meaning.
Since Feb 24, Europe as a whole has seen the return of war on a large scale on its territory, with an aggressor on one side, Russia, and an aggressed on the other, Ukraine.
Even if Ukraine is not a member state of the EU, it is a very close partner, with whom we have the most comprehensive association agreement and whose European vocation is undeniable.
The war in Ukraine brings us back to the origins of European integration, as a project born out of the devastation of World War II.
This reminds us now in a dramatic and striking way of the enduring value of the EU as a peace project among Europeans and as a strong actor to uphold and promote security on our continent and in the wider world.
EU member states have demonstrated the strongest political unity in the face of aggression.
Some would have thought this unthinkable, and for sure the Russian aggressor doubted that we would muster such determination, despite clear warnings.
Hence, the speed at which the Union adopted financial and economic sanctions against Russia, in coordination with G7 partners.
Another key element was the decision to use – for the first time ever – the financial resources of the European Peace Facility to help a state under attack, defend itself.
Three tranches have already been disbursed for a total of €1.5bil. This European support is coupled with the direct military support from the member states.
By collectively working towards the end of Europe’s energy dependence on Russia, the EU shows it is stronger than the sum of its parts.
Not only is it a stronger player in the international energy market, it also limits the exposure of its individual member states to energy blackmail. This will enhance the EU’s strategic resilience.
Lastly, the strength and determination of the EU’s response in support of Ukraine is not only of benefit and of interest to Europeans.
This is not a question of the “West” against Russia.
Upholding core international principles enshrined in the UN Charter equally concerns the North, the East, the South and the West.
No less than 141 states of the international community including Malaysia have explicitly rejected the Russian aggression against Ukraine at the UN General Assembly.
They are defending their own territorial integrity and sovereignty against future potential aggression and saying “no” to the return of the law of the jungle in international relations.
Furthermore, the EU is engaged in addressing the overall international impact, including economic, of Russia’s war against Ukraine. Here also, the EU unity in exercising international solidarity will make the difference.
From a European perspective, Malaysia plays a vital part in our global network as roughly 40% of European trade passes through the Straits of Malacca.
In this regard, I applaud Malaysia’s efforts in maintaining international maritime law, thus supporting peace, security and stability in the region.
As demonstrated in the 2021 global supply chain crisis, our increasingly interdependent economies rely on partnerships to safeguard our common interests, be it in trade or security.
We all face the existential crisis of climate change. In this regard, the EU stands ready to support Malaysia’s COP26 commitments to halt deforestation and reduce economy-wide carbon intensity by a total of 45% by 2030.
With these steps, I am confident of Malaysia’s contribution to decrease climate hazards by limiting global warming to 1.5°C, as recommended by the IPCC.
The recently launched Strategy for Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific further deepens our engagement and assists us in the early conclusion of our Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with Malaysia.
In this sense, drawing on the historical experience that every crisis is also an opportunity, I invite our Malaysian friends to step up further, our efforts in strengthening the strong bonds that unite us.
The writer is Ambassador and Head of the European Union Delegation to Malaysia.