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Europe’s Latest Strategic Letdown

The European Union needs a clear and credible strategy for the Indo-Pacific. Unfortunately, the one it has put forward is a tissue of bureaucratic jargon that leaves one wondering not only about Europe's specific priorities, but also whether it is truly committed to establishing a presence in the region.

MADRID – Last week, the European Union’s foreign ministers approved – with little fanfare or consultation – the EU Strategy for Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific. It is a timely step, which reflects an awareness of the Indo-Pacific region’s growing strategic importance. But, as is so often the case with EU frameworks, it offers a lot of vague plans, broad principles, and bureaucratic jargon – and not much strategic clarity.

The world’s geostrategic focus on the Indo-Pacific region is a recent phenomenon. Just a few years ago, it was Asia – or perhaps the Asia-Pacific – that consumed the world’s attention, with former US President Barack Obama’s “pivot to Asia” a case in point.

But the focus on Asia was fundamentally about China. And that country is hardly operating exclusively within Asia. Its Belt and Road Initiative, for example, has far-reaching – almost world-spanning – ambitions. And its aggressive efforts to assert its maritime claims have terrified countries from Australia to the Philippines.

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