6 March 2013
Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen,
Let me start by welcoming Prime Minister Shinawatra to the European Commission. Thailand is a long-standing friend of the European Union and your visit is an evidence of our increasingly close and mature relations.
I had the pleasure of meeting the Prime Minister in Bangkok last November and I am glad she accepted my invitation to visit Brussels.
At that time, we stated our engagement in accelerating the negotiations of the Partnership Cooperation Agreement and of working towards launching a Free Trade Agreement between the EU and Thailand.
In the four months between our two meetings there has been very important progress in these two fields. This work shows the sense of commitment and the high importance we both attach to our bilateral relations. I am therefore very pleased to announce two very concrete achievements:
Firstly, as you have just witnessed, we have finalised the negotiations on the Partnership Cooperation Agreement between the European Union and Thailand – a significant result after no less than 9 years of negotiations. Subject to endorsement by the European Union Member States, this new Agreement will lift our cooperation to a higher level, better adapted to the current global challenges and our political ambitions.
Respect for human rights and countering the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction are essential elements of this Partnership Cooperation Agreement, which will also reaffirm internationally agreed standards, such as countering terrorism, fighting against corruption and organised crime. The Agreement will furthermore upgrade bilateral relations in a number of areas such as environment, energy and transport.
Secondly, I am delighted to announce, together with Prime Minister Shinawatra, the launch of negotiations on a free trade agreement between the European Union and Thailand. Our bilateral trade amounted in 2011 to almost €30 billion, and the EU is also a very important investor in Thailand; I am deeply convinced that this Free Trade Agreement can bring substantial benefits to our already strong trade and investment relations.
So, my message today is very clear: we are entering a new era in our relations.
Today we also discussed, in very open and friendly exchanges, the situation in Europe and in Thailand and I had the opportunity to congratulate and commend Prime-Minister Shinawatra for the historic step of launching peace talks with representatives of Muslim rebel groups in the South of Thailand. This is a courageous decision that we fully support.
At our meeting we also discussed regional matters. Thailand is an important partner for the European Union and a central player in ASEAN. The EU wants Southeast Asia regional integration to succeed: a strong ASEAN will be good for prosperity of South-East Asia and good for the stability of the wider region. Open regionalism is a central pillar for reinforcing multilateralism at a global level. And I’m also very happy to tell you that we are making progress in the relations between the European Union and ASEAN. Thailand, as a good friend, has been very supportive of this.
Madam Prime Minister,
Our cooperation, apart from these very important principles that were reiterated in our Partnership Cooperation Agreement, is very effective and pragmatic; it delivers tangible benefits to our citizens’ lives. Thai famous rice has just obtained a ‘Geographical Indication’ status. It is my pleasure to present you with this certificate of Khao Hom Mali Thung Kula Ronghai. This is the first Thai Geographical Indication that the European Union recognises and also the first ever for a product from Southeast Asia. And we are also discussing other Geographical Indications between Thailand and the European Union.
Prime Minister Shinawatra,
In recent months we have given a decisive push in our bilateral relations. We have been determinedly working to take our relations to a higher and truly promising level. Your visit here today, Prime Minister, marks this progress in the best possible manner. I am pleased that we are walking this walk together.
So, once again, thank you for accepting this invitation and I wish you all the best.