EU Ambassador to Asean Igor Driesmans says all nations are united in beating COVID-19.
Mariecar Jara-Puyod, Senior Reporter
European Union (EU) Ambassador to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Igor Driesmans said the world would certainly defeat the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) in two ways. One is the determination to come up with well-tested and safe vaccines made available and affordable for all, whether rich or poor. The other is governments and regional blocs dead set on well-meaning collaborations and partnerships.
“The key is cooperation,” said Driesmans on Thursday, adding that despite all sorts of COVID19-instigated socio-economic pressures and diminishing resources, the way to ensure the win is to forge unity among nations.
Early on, he said: “We need a vaccine. The EU is committed to 300 million doses. We have to make sure that the vaccines are safe and effective. That to maximize it, these should be for all.”
The EU diplomat was addressing a group of journalists invited to cover the Aug.13 to 14 “3rd ASEAN-EU Cooperation and Scholarships Day,” hosted by the ASEAN Secretariat headquartered in Jakarta, Indonesia, held for the first time since 2018, in virtual settings, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
From the press conference (10:30 a.m./Sharjah and 1:30 p.m./Jakarta), Gulf Today asked Driesmans why EU is hell bent on supporting the ASEAN with over €250 million (Dhs1,086,850,000.00) allocation. He pointed out the volatility of the region brought about by the heightening of the US-China squabble; but, which could be overcome if the member-states were provided with ways and means to become more cohesive.
“A strong, cohesive ASEAN would definitely also help the EU,” said Driesmans, reiterating the Thursday launch of the ASEAN-EU projects on Smart ASEAN Green Cities, Forest Governance and Sustainability, and Supreme Audit Institutions which are all aligned with the ASEAN long-term vision and mission. He mentioned the significance of upcoming talks on free trade and “hopefully” the conclusion on the ongoing negotiations on the first-ever bloc-to-bloc air travel/aviation agreement.
A strong and cohesive ASEAN is also why the “Team Europe” of the 27-member EU
had allotted from its coffers €800 million (Dhs3,481,767,508.80) from its total €36 billion global warfare against COVID-19. A portion of it is already in research tie-ups with Vietnam. The €800 million is to assist the ASEAN in immediately addressing the health crisis; strengthen health, water and sanitation systems; and helping set up and boost socio-economic activities such as women-led enterprises.
The “ASEAN-EU Cooperation and Scholarships Day” is an annual event wherein the youth and students from the 10-member ASEAN — The Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam, Lao PDR, Cambodia, Myanmar and Brunei Darussalam — have chances of gaining EU-sponsored fully-funded Masters/Doctorate Level full-time/fellowship scholarships from universities within the region or in Europe.
There were 2,027 registrants, mostly ASEAN youth to the 2020 exhibition fair, participated in by 22 higher education institutions.
In his virtual Opening Remarks, ASEAN Secretary General Dato Lim Jock Hoi encouraged the ASEAN youth “to explore the available opportunities to further their studies. He stated that since 2015, the EU has offered 500 scholarships to the ASEAN that include, among others, “13 capacity-building workshops and training for education personnel.” He expressed gratitude to the EU and also said: “COVID-19 and its impacts on education have been considerable. It has been estimated that the widespread closure of educational institutions across the region has impacted 150 million children and youth in the ASEAN. The annual convening of this event since 2018, even amidst the still ongoing COVID-19 pandemic demonstrates the strong commitment of both ASEAN and the European Union to strengthen our cooperation on education.”
From the press conference, Driesmans said over 700 EU and ASEAN students have so far benefitted from various education exchange programmes. He announced the entry of 205 ASEANS to European universities starting this academic year 2020 as EU-backed Erasmus Mundos Scholars with 66 Filipinos, 61 Indonesians, 41 Vietnamese, 16 Thais, 11 Malaysians, five Myanmaris, three Singaporeans, one Cambodian and one Lao. They are among the 2,452 Erasmus Mundos scholars from 142 nations.
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