From Patricia Flor, Ambassador, Head of the Delegation of the European Union to Japan.
The past year has been a difficult one as we grapple with an invisible, deadly virus that has utterly transformed what we understood to be normal. The novel coronavirus pandemic reminds us of how we are all interconnected.
Amid this and many other pressing global challenges, the European Union-Japan partnership — based on far-reaching shared values and common interests — has never been closer. It has a bright future.
On Feb. 1, the EU and Japan marked the second anniversary of their Strategic Partnership Agreement and Economic Partnership Agreement. A year ago, we observed that free and fair trade provisions had already brought tangible benefits with increased trade between us. While the second year passed under the pandemic’s shadow, we have nonetheless continued to deepen our ties as exemplified by meaningfully closer EU-Japan collaboration in science and innovation, and in maritime security cooperation off the Horn of Africa.
As we enter the third year under these historic EU-Japan agreements, let us look forward. The EU remains one of the largest markets in the world with 440 million consumers and the world’s third-largest economy, on a par with the U.S. and China.
Japan and the EU are like-minded partners that share interests and values such as democracy, respect for human rights and a rules-based multilateral order. Together, we are well placed to spearhead global efforts to shape a post-pandemic world, notably through economic recovery plans that focus on green and digital policies. And we can do this bilaterally, trilaterally together with our U.S. partner, in the Group of Seven and Group of 20, with the United Nations and the World Trade Organization, and under the COVAX structure for extending anti-COVID capacities worldwide.
The EU-Japan EPA and SPA, together with our Connectivity Partnership signed in September 2019, form a solid basis for joint action.
The year ahead will be pivotal for climate action. The EU welcomes Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s pledge for Japan to become climate neutral by 2050. Globally, we should work together toward increased ambitions ahead of the November COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland. Japan and the EU are natural partners for joint research and high-tech cooperation on innovative technologies such as hydrogen and we will push collaboration.
The EU and Japan are global partners and our foreign policies matter to the world. On Jan. 25, 2021, Toshimitsu Motegi became the first Japanese foreign minister to take part in the EU Foreign Affairs Council. The EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell as chair, foreign ministers of the 27 EU member states and Motegi had a promising exchange of views regarding the Indo-Pacific region, where we have common interests to ensure peace and stability and where the EU and Japan both can build on close relations with many other countries as well as regional organizations such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
The EU is committed to also pursue new avenues for security and defense cooperation with Japan, particularly in the maritime domain.
While our efforts to overcome the pandemic continue, the EU-Japan partnership has indeed never been stronger, and jointly we will take our key bilateral relationship to a new level in the coming year.
The 27 Ambassadors of the EU Member States to Japan align themselves with this message.