European scholars painted a positive outlook for Seoul’s initiative to promote peace and cooperation in Northeast Asia during an international conference Thursday, underscoring the EU’s role to facilitate the initiative.
“(With the initiative), the South Korean leadership is renewing the spirits of Europe’s founding fathers like Jean Monnet, who built unity on a continent ravaged by two world wars,” said Nicola Casarini, an associate analyst of the Paris-based European Union Institute for Security Studies.
“From a European perspective, the initiative has the potential to be a game changer in the region, also providing the basis for enhancing Korea-EU cooperation for peace and development in Northeast Asia.”
His remarks were made during the annual forum hosted by the HUFS-HRI EU Center, a research institute run by Hankuk University of Foreign Studies and Hyundai Research Institute.
Noting that Northeast Asia could learn from Europe’s cooperative institutions for conflict prevention, crisis management and post-conflict rehabilitation, Casarini also touched on the EU’s mediating role to help address this region’s territorial conflicts.
“An eventual mediator role for the EU would be helped by the fact that the EU does not have binding military alliances in Northeast Asia, and is a neutral actor vis--vis the region’s outstanding territorial and maritime disputes,” he said.
Wednesday’s forum focused primarily on ways to bolster cooperation in furthering Seoul’s drive for regional peace.
Seoul has been promoting the initiative to build multilateral trust first on relatively soft issues such as climate change, antiterrorism and nuclear energy, and then forge a greater confidence for cooperation on security and political issues.
It expects the initiative to help address what it calls the “Asia Paradox,” which refers to a deepening economic interdependence in the region, while offset by an escalation in territorial rows and historical animosities.
During his opening speech, Lee Kyung-soo, deputy minister for political affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, called for closer cooperation with the EU to implement the confidence-building initiative.
“Now, it is for the countries of Northeast Asia to show creativity in exerting efforts to transform conflict and hostility into peace and cooperation,” he said.
“We hope to closely cooperate with the EU, a natural and strategic partner for the past 50 years and the future, in order to successfully pursue the initiative, the first step in such creative efforts.”
Lee also pointed out that if Europe’s efforts for multilateral cooperation help spur Seoul’s initiative, this would have a positive impact on Europe’s integration efforts hampered by economic challenges.
“Recently, skeptical views with regard to European integration, so-called Euro-pessimism, have been evident due to the continuing economic difficulties,” he said. “If the European experience is applied to Northeast Asia, and as a result, promotes multilateral cooperation in this region, Euro-optimism will gain momentum.”
The forum was attended by high-ranking officials and prominent scholars including Ana Beatriz Martins, the head of the political division of the EU delegation to Korea.
By Song Sang-ho (firstname.lastname@example.org)