Routine EU-Korea Summit – OpEd


On 15 September, President Park hosted President Tusk and Trade Commissioner, Cecilia Malmström for the annual EU-Korea summit in Seoul. This was largely a routine summit as relations between the two sides are very good and there are few major issues of disagreement. Korea is the only country in Asia with which the EU has three major agreements covering trade, political and security cooperation.

It was also an interesting summit from an institutional perspective as this was the first summit where the usual EU tandem of President of the Council and President of the Commission were not both present. Juncker had pressing issues at home, notably migration, and his role was divided between Tusk and Malmström.

The main issues on the agenda, apart from bilateral relations, were regional issues, climate change and counter-terrorism. On the trade front both sides were seeking minor changes to the FTA agreement and agreed on the need to boost two-way investment. The EU is the second biggest market for Korean exports and largest source of FDI. Korea is the EU’s fourth largest trading partner and it is also increasing its share of FDI in Europe.

On foreign policy there was broad agreement on issues ranging from Iran to human rights. On regional issues there was an exchange of views on the situation in Russia/Ukraine and NE Asia. Tusk welcomed Korean’s condemnation of Russian actions in Ukraine and expressed his support for the prospect of a new trilateral summit between Korea, China and Japan. He reiterated EU support for Korean unification and welcomed the prospect of Korea joining the EU’s anti-piracy operation in the Gulf of Aden.

There were some differences on climate change with the EU pressing Korea to take a more forthcoming position in advance of the Paris conference. There was also an agreement to cooperate more on counter-terrorism and on science and technology (5G) as well as cyber. The EU welcomed Korean moves in the fight against illegal fishing.

This routine summit demonstrated how close the EU and Korea are on most major international issues. The joint statement is available here.

EU-Asia Centre

The EU-Asia Centre aims to fill a void and establish itself as the leading, Brussels-based research policy think tank on EU-Asia relations, covering developments in Asia and relations between the EU and Asia.

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