It has been 15 years since Viet Nam and the European Union established diplomatic links. European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso issued the following assessment of the relationship.
The EC established diplomatic relations with Viet Nam on October 1990.
Five years later, in July 1995, they signed a Co-operation Agreement providing the legal basis for the bilateral ties.
The agreement has created a mechanism for regular dialogue where viewpoints can be exchanged, programmes developed and new initiatives planned.
It also the basis for EC development assistance and the framework for bilateral trade on a most favoured nation basis.
This foundation has, with combined efforts of the European Commission and EU Member States, 15 of which have resident Ambassadors in Viet Nam, enabled relations to develop vigorously.
The EU has become the biggest donor of grant development aid to Viet Nam, and is actively assisting Viet Nam in priority economic and social reform and the facilitation of its integration into the world economy.
The EU is also a major driving force behind increased aid co-ordination and harmonisation in Viet Nam.
Economic and commercial ties have gone from strength to strength.
Viet Nam’s rapid economic development since the launch of doi moi (renewal) in 1986, coupled with progressive opening of markets by both Viet Nam and the EU has led to the quadrupling of bilateral trade in the last decade.
This has made the EU Viet Nam’s largest trading partner with two-way worth 7.5 billion euros (about US$9.5 billion) in 2004, as well as its major export market.
The EU also remains Viet Nam’s largest source of foreign direct investment, accounting for almost a fifth of total implemented capital.
The EU and Viet Nam are also progressively engaging in a large number of other areas.
These range from governance and human rights to regional and global security issues and the combating of such transnational challenges such as international terrorism, organised crime, trafficking in human beings and drugs, and threats to the global environment.
This engagement takes place in bilateral and regional settings.
Viet Nam is an increasingly active member of ASEAN and as such is a linchpin in the European Union’s 2003 strategy for a New Partnership with Southeast Asia.
Viet Nam also has an important role to play in furthering Asia-Europe co-operation in the framework of the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) process.
EU-Viet Nam relations reached a new high in the last year with the fifth ASEM Summit that was organised very successfully in Ha Noi last October.
Meetings between top European and Vietnamese representatives held in its margins helped to strengthen ties further.
At the same time, the EU became the first major trading partner to conclude a bilateral deal with Viet Nam for the country’s entry to the World Trade Organisation.
Speedy WTO entry will buttress and cement Viet Nam’s economic and social reform process and its place in the global economy.
Finally, the enforcement of a new bilateral market access agreement last April gave a further boost to bilateral trade.
This agreement notably brought forward the suspension of quotas for Viet Nam’s textile exports to the EU at a crucial time for this important economic sector.
I am confident that the next decade of our relationship will see a continuation of these very positive trends, and will enable us to make progress on an even broader front.
European traders and investors are already in Viet Nam in force, but the increased market access and legal certainty which Viet Nam’s WTO membership entails will attract many more.
The EU is committed to continue its economic and development co-operation while adapting it to Viet Nam’s changing reality.
In this context, the Master Plan adopted in June 2005 by the Vietnamese Government, with its strategic reflections on how to broaden and deepen the country’s relations with the EU over the next decade is a very welcome initiative.
The EU fully shares the document’s overall aims and stands ready to contribute to its implementation as best it can, with a view to bringing our relations to a new height as: "an equal partnership and a comprehensive and long-term co-operation between Viet Nam and the European Union for peace and development."
Vietnamnews - (21/10/2005)