The European role in the Indo-Pacific has grown over the past years, as part of Europe’s slow geopolitical reawakening, evidenced by increased European naval visits to the region and national and EU policy statements focusing on the Indo-Pacific. What the implications are of this growing role is not yet clear. The upcoming report “Guarding the Maritime Commons: What role for Europe in the Indo-Pacific” by Paul van Hooft (HCSS), Benedetta Girardi (HCSS), and Tim Sweijs (HCSS), examines what that European role should and could feasibly be.
The executive summary of the report highlights several key lessons. The first is that a free and open Indo-Pacific is a core strategic interest to Europe, given the importance of seaborne trade between Europe and Asia, and the consequences of a potential escalation of the Sino-American rivalry. The second is that European naval capacity is extremely limited. The third is that Europeans should accept that their increasing role in the region is likely to further unsettle relations with China. The fourth is that Europeans, however, have opportunities based on their institutional and diplomatic strengths to reinforce the multilateral frameworks that focus on maritime security and would bind the regions closer together. The fifth and final lesson is that Europeans will not be taken seriously without a naval presence. To achieve this with their limited capacity, they need to be smarter about sharing and pooling resources, as well as rotating forces into specified zones on a multinational basis.
Download the Executive Summary (PDF) above; the full report will be released next week.
The report is also the first core research publication of the HCSS Europe and the Indo-Pacific Hub.