BRUSSELS (AP) – European Union (EU) and Southeast Asian countries commemorated 45 years of diplomatic ties on Wednesday at a summit overshadowed by political distractions in Europe, ranging from the war in Ukraine to a bribery scandal.
EU leaders hosted counterparts from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), in a nod to Asia’s economic rise. But the meeting took place amid increasing challenges for the 27-nation European bloc and a day before its own final summit of the year.
“We have to make sure that we have a strong position in our relationship with ASEAN,” Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told reporters in Brussels. “We are talking about worldwide supply chains. We are talking about growth potential.”
The EU is seeking to expand trade and investment with much of the world, especially emerging economies, after being battered by the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, the situation in Ukraine has added to Europe’s economic headwinds and put the bloc at risk of a recession.
Disrupted Russian energy supplies have affected financial markets and fuelled inflation, driving up the consumer cost of everything from food to heating. Along with seeking out new energy sources abroad and at home, the EU is weighing devoting extra funds to help businesses in Europe cope with high fuel prices and to counter an American subsidy spree.
But the bloc’s struggle to impose a price cap on Russian natural gas and a European Parliament corruption case distracted attention away from Wednesday’s one-day EU-ASEAN summit.