As the attention of the United States moves towards Asia , the outside world is taking an increased interest in China and its access to mineral ressources. In this, the inter-national community is supported by Burma’s need to break out if its isolation and the regime’s fear of encroachment on its sovereignty by China , which is perceived as two-timing the Burmese through use of tribal proxies as conditioned by the tribal militias, some of which are of southern Chinese stock. Few any longer doubt the sincerety of the Burmese government’s, yet the military junta is not quite convinced the international community understands the value it attaches to be in full control of its territory. This notably applies to areas where economic interests are at stake. India eyes in that a possibility for a rapprochement with the United States and alignment in its struggle against insurgencies, of which there are not few in Asia.

And so, Burma’s opening is also an occasion to review
the EU-Asean-relationship, one of the longest-standing of EU’s inter-regional
relationships. More often than not, conceived within a broader regional and
post-colonial context, the relationship has been charac-terised by a mix of
political and economic interests. Today, theese interests may have reversed. EU must take a more political approach. At
stake is as much EU’s relationship with India
and China, as the future of
institutionalised cooperation in Asia. If we
get Burma right, perhaps Asia will be a less centrifugal place, and by extension
or example , the world a more peaceful place tomorrow.

The elements are well-known, now that sanctions
are being lifted by EU Foreign Ministers:

1. Border Security 2. Disarmament of Tribal
Militia 3. National Reconciliation , Dialogue and Democratic elections 4.
Irrawady Delta Development Plan 5. In-put from Delhi (Energy, Higher Education) 6. Follow-up
ADB & Japan ( Mineral law & Anti-corruption) 7. EU-Asean’s rolle (
Trade, Politics & Economy).

EU’s approach , however, flows from the EU
Presidency’s strategic priorities ( EU’s strategic partnership with India ) and a strengthened
multilateralism, whilst the logic of the US tend to subsume EU under the formula: EU-Asean-Asem-Pacific
Asia-Asia-Pacific ( Bergsten). And so, the EU-ASEAN Bali Communiqué must be
fully exploited.And a sectoral terms of engagement is now invoked by EU
Foreign ministers in their 23.1.2012-conclusions.

This might be conceived in terms of ‘inkspots’: A. Court system>< Policy Equipment (UK?). B. DDR>< Border
Management-programme ( Review needed). C.
Irrawady Delta Investment Plan><ADB Programmes. D. Investment Law-cum Export and Investment Agency
><Infrastructure Plan ( >High-Road Yangoon-Pyitwa-Mandalay). E. Hydro-diplomacy: If Burma
and China enters the Mekong River Commission, EU COM could underpin Forestry policies in
terms of legislation & institution-building.

If the multilateral approach invoked by
EU Foreign Ministers is followed, this would also entail that EU COM, ECJ and ECB all engages Asean at some point. This still leave questions to be asked: Why do Thailand
need a buffer-zone in Burma in the first place ? Will the disarmament of the Shan militia follow that of the
Keren’s and what happen to the fighters
? Why do Thailand need a bufferzone in the first place ? What is the plateau to ensure continuity in democratic reform let
alone constitutional reform enshrining checks-and-balances and the highest
standards of minority protection in Asia
? Is there a case for a EU-Asean
Association Agreement ? Further legislative
approximation ? Relationship between EU COM and the Asean secretariat ? Is the
role of the €uro in intra-industry trade, in reserves and currency baskets in
ASEAN satisfactory ? Does EU-Asean have a role to play in

When these questions have been answered, EU has a political approach to South-East Asia, adapted to the political realities on the ground and its budding strategic partnership with India.