The European Union is following the US and looking to increase influence in the Indo-Pacific region to counter China. The 27-member bloc released a strategy paper on Monday that calls for the EU to focus more on the region.
EU foreign ministers released a statement on the strategy. Borrowing language from the US, the ministers said the EU should “reinforce its strategic focus, presence and actions in the Indo-Pacific … based on the promotion of democracy, rule of law, human rights and international law.”
In a 10-page document that outlines the strategy, the EU claims that the “universality of human rights” is “being challenged” in the Indo-Pacific region. The document says the EU will bolster cooperation with “like-minded” countries in the Indo-Pacific.
The document also calls for an EU military presence in the region. “Member states acknowledge the importance of a meaningful European naval presence in the region.”
The EU plans to expand Operation Atalanta, a naval operation that was established to counter piracy off the coast of Somalia. “The EU will organize more joint exercises and port calls between Indo-Pacific naval units and the EU counter-piracy Naval Force Operation Atalanta,” a fact sheet on the strategy says.
The EU is not only following the US in its shift to Asia but also NATO. The North Atlantic military alliance released a paper last year that outlined a strategy for NATO to focus more on countering China by working with “like-minded” countries in the region, like Japan, South Korea, and Australia.
According to Reuters, EU diplomats insisted that the new strategy was not meant to be “anti-China,” and the document did call for the bloc to sign an investment deal with Beijing. But the EU has been clear with recent actions that it is keen to join the US in at least some anti-China actions.
Last month, the EU, US, Canada, and the UK coordinated sanctions against Chinese officials over alleged human rights abuses in Xinjiang. The Western blitz sent a clear message and resulted in retaliatory sanctions from Beijing.