Norway supports ASEAN’s central role: Ambassador

Update: 19:00 | 03/04/2019
Norwegian Ambassador to ASEAN Morten Hoglund shared with The World and Vietnam Report on the occasion of his visit to Vietnam from April 1-2.      
TIN LIÊN QUAN
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Could you please share with us the purpose of this visit?

The main purpose of this visit is to discuss Vietnam’s upcoming ASEAN Chairmanship next year and how Norway, as an ASEAN partner country, can work with Vietnam on their priorities. We were very lucky to meet with high-ranking officials in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to get ideas and priorities. A nice coincidence is that not only Vietnam will chair the ASEAN in 2020 but Norway will also celebrate our five years of being ASEAN’s sectoral dialogue partner. Therefore, we discussed how we can jointly do activities next year, which, of course, will include a small celebration of Norway’s this important milestone in our relationship with ASEAN.

What, in your opinion, are the highlights of the ASEAN - Norway Dialogue Partnership over the past time? What would be the priorities for Norway-ASEAN cooperation in the years to time, particularly in the context that ASEAN has become a community with substantial economic and trade expectations?

Norway-ASEAN partnership was signed in 2015, which covers different areas including peace and reconciliation, maritime cooperation, energy, connectivity, trade, private sector development, climate change, education and culture…. We try to engage in as many sectors as we can. However, there are fields where Norway has a closer cooperation with ASEAN. The first I would name is peace and reconciliation. This is an ongoing commitment and shared cooperation between Norway and ASEAN. We particularly focus on strengthening the women participation in peace and security. Therefore, we supported ASEAN in the launch of ASEAN Women Peace Registry (AWPR) in December 2018. This is a platform for experience-sharing and knowledge exchange among women peace practitioners in ASEAN.

norway supports aseans central role ambassador
Norwegian Ambassador to ASEAN Morten Hoglund. (Photo: Pham Hang)

Another area is energy and climate change. In 2018, Norway also launched another project on energy and climate change looking into energy policies and addressing climate change in ASEAN region. Energy is a key area for Norwegian cooperation in many other ASEAN countries including Vietnam, and this has created a strong foundation for Norway-ASEAN cooperation in this sector on a regional setting.

A third noteworthy area of the Norway-ASEAN cooperation is ocean issues, particularly marine littering and environmental protection of the ocean. This is our long-term and on-going commitment as we are now building up very substantial projects in this area.

Although Norway has a long relationship with most of the ASEAN countries, including one with Vietnam which is around half century old, we are relatively a new partner to ASEAN. Our partnership is still evolving and will be strengthened in a long and ongoing process. We have an ambitious list of priorities for cooperation in the years to come ranging from political-security (like peace, environmental issues as I have just mentioned) to economic side on renewable energy, aquaculture, and maritime industry. I am very enthusiastic about this. In addition, Norway is a member of European Free Trade Association (EFTA), which recently expressed interest in starting the negotiation of an ASEAN-EFTA trade agreement. This is hopefully a way to strengthen our economic cooperation.

In order to develop ASEAN into a wealthy community while still preserving our identity, what could we learn from the Nordic model and from Norway in its relation with the EU?

There is not a one-size-fit-all model, but open borders and more integration is something that has really been very helpful for us both in our Nordic as well as European experience when we have a shared market and an open community for education, trade, and investment where we can operate quite freely across each other’s countries.

This might also be useful for ASEAN to reinforce the ASEAN Economic Community’s openness, building down barriers and borders, enabling young people in ASEAN to get education and work experience in other ASEAN countries, and facilitating businesses to sell their goods and services across the border in ASEAN. This, of course, has to be a gradual process because the ten ASEAN countries are very different in terms of standards of living, cultures, languages, political systems, and religions. Despite the sensitivities to this, I am happy to see that there are steps that have already been taken.

I really believe that ASEAN countries can benefit from more integration among each other and can integrate more in terms of economics, education, student mobility and opportunities for young people with higher degrees to work in each other countries. Moving forward in such direction will definitely benefit ASEAN as a whole.

What would you think about ASEAN’s central role in maintaining the strategic balance in the region?

ASEAN is taking a leading role in the region. It is obvious that ASEAN meetings are such an attractive meeting place for the whole global community. I think ASEAN is extremely well-placed and has to continue this role as the convener of strategic partners.

In the ASEAN region, there should be ASEAN-led processes. I am very happy to see that over the last years, ASEAN is really coming up, stepping up and sharing different processes, which is going on in the region. As a community, it is important for ASEAN to be in charge of its own destiny. That is the duty of ASEAN’s 10 countries. Although the countries have different backgrounds, but together they can achieve more and they can tackle any problems both regional or international. This is really vital.

We support ASEAN taking the lead. If Norway can, in any way to support, ASEAN promoting its centrality and taking the lead, we are very happy to do so.

As Vietnam is to assume the ASEAN chair in 2020, what would you expect from this?

Vietnam is such a dynamic ASEAN country and a highly open economy. Over the last decades, Vietnam has taken gigantic steps in opening up its economy, and modernising the country. I believe as the ASEAN Chairmanship, Vietnam can take with them some of the commendable successes both on the domestic and international arena, and be an example for other countries.

As Vietnam has succeeded in hosting many international events, particularly the most recent US-DPRK Summit, I believe Vietnam has a lot of experience to lead ASEAN. I look forward to a professional, dedicated and ambitious chairmanship of Vietnam.

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