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Minister for Foreign Affairs Tobias Billström's opening speech at the EU Indo-Pacific Ministerial Forum


Opening speech by Minister for Foreign Affairs Tobias Billström at the EU Indo-Pacific Ministerial Forum on 13 May in Stockholm.

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Your Majesty,

Your Royal Highness, 

Excellencies and Colleagues, 

Good afternoon, and a very warm welcome to the EU Indo-Pacific Ministerial Forum in Stockholm! 

I am honoured that so many of you have taken the time in your busy schedules to come. I am especially thankful to those of you who have travelled very far: Fiji and Vanuatu in the Pacific, and Mozambique and the Comoros in the Indian Ocean. I am also delighted to see our partners for cooperation in the Indo-Pacific: the USA, Canada and UK here today.  

Ladies and gentlemen,

We meet at an important point in history. The future carries much promise. Connections and ties between our regions have never been greater. Breakthroughs in technology, such as the rise of artificial intelligence, promise unprecedented prosperity and poverty elimination. 

But it is also a time of great challenges. The foundation of peaceful relations between states is being shaken. Ukraine is fighting to protect its people, its sovereignty, and its territorial integrity from Russia’s aggression. Free trade is under geopolitical pressure. And climate change threatens our very existence - the situation is already acute for those who battle the rising seas.

These are common and parallel challenges for Europe and the Indo-Pacific. And we need to take them on jointly. It is my firm belief that together we are strong enough to make a real difference.  

Dear friends,

This year is a jubilee year for Sweden. We mark 500 years since the founding of our modern state. We celebrate His Majesty the King’s 50 years as head of state. Over these years, His Majesty has carried out more than 80 state visits. And I want to take inspiration from his strong international commitment as I look to the future. Just as Sweden built much of its wealth through peaceful trading with the Indo-Pacific, our future depends on our partnerships in the region.

In 50 years, the world population will be nearing its peak. We will have had to fulfil our obligations under the Paris Agreement. Technology will have taken further steps forward. Where do we want the relationship between Europe and the Indo-Pacific to be at that time? Let me outline my vision:

Firstly, we will be economic partners and deeply integrated. Raw materials, goods, services, talent, and information will flow freely. The benefits are shared and inclusive. And our interdependence is underpinned by strong trust in each other to maintain a level playing field on which fair trade practices and secure chains of supply are the rule, not the exception. We work together to fend off attempts to put political pressure on others by economic means.

Secondly, we will be sustainability champions. Combatting climate change requires a holistic approach and cooperation on a level never seen before. We need to innovate at scale and transition at speed. But it also includes energy security, climate adaptation, and access the critical raw materials. These are the building blocks of a low-carbon economy. And it requires us to work together. 

Thirdly, we are broad security promoters. We recognize that a breach of the UN Charter undermines the security of every state and is a crime against all of us. As a small country this is fundamental to Sweden and underlying our motivation to support the UN system. I also see that we have established cooperative means to counter threats that know no borders. Be it cyber espionage, disinformation, pandemics, natural disasters, or human security. 

Sovereignty and respect for one another as equals create the conditions for purposeful and long-term cooperation. In an Indo-Pacific century, we need security to ensure collaboration.

The key word in all of this: Together. 

As we embark on this journey, the world grapples with aggression, economic turbulence, and extreme weather. However, I believe that the European Union and the Indo-Pacific are large enough to promote sustainable and inclusive development; purposeful enough to address global challenges and the climate crisis; and strong enough to promote broad security, including human security. 

Now is the time to focus our political dialogue on how we can ensure prosperity, sustainability, and security for all. Like the Indo-Pacific itself, these issues are interconnected and require an inclusive approach. We have common interests, global relevance, and a great untapped potential for enhanced cooperation. 

Colleagues, I am happy to say that the European Union and the Indo-Pacific have not been passive observers to global events. And our discussions will cover what our future holds and the challenges that we face – which we will both meet together.