Recent years have seen an unprecedent concentration of European interest – and warships – in the Indo-Pacific. This development reflects the growing ambition of Brussels to contribute to the volatile regional maritime security environment, marked by an increasing naval build-up, China’s maritime expansionism and lasting sovereignty disputes. As a trading power, the European Union has a strategic interest in the safeguarding and promotion of a free, safe and stable maritime environment. However, in the absence of an EU navy, engagement is carried out by member states, notably France, Germany and the Netherlands.
This paper by Eva Pejsova (The Brussels School of Governance) asks what has been the scope and focus of the European (EU) naval presence in the Indo-Pacific and what has been its effect? This paper looks at the rationales and specificities of the naval deployments of France, Germany and the Netherlands in the Indo-Pacific in the context of Brussels’ recent official tilt towards the region in 2021. It analyzes the responses of partners, including China and the US, before assessing their overall contribution to the regional strategic dynamic. Pejsova concludes that as limited as the EU’s contribution may be from an operational viewpoint, the European naval presence remains an important tool of diplomatic signaling both externally and internally.
Author: Dr Eva Pejsova is the Japan Chair at the Centre for Security, Diplomacy and Strategy (CSDS) of the Brussels School of Governance (BSoG-VUB) and an Associate Fellow at the French “Fondation pour la Recherche Strategique” (FRS). Previously, Dr Pejsova was in charge of the Asia portfolio at the European Union Institute for Security Studies (EUISS). She holds a PhD in Strategic Studies from the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) in Singapore and has previously worked with the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the French Prime Minister’s Office, the OECD and the Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF).
This paper is part of a HCSS Europe in the Indo-Pacific Hub (EIPH) paper series. The Europe in the Indo-Pacific Hub paper series is edited by Paul van Hooft.