Diplomatic Bluebook 2017

Chapter 2

Japan's Foreign Policy that Takes a Panoramic Perspective of the World Map

Section 4 Europe


(Withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union and the Importance of Europe)

In Europe, the 28 member states of the European Union (EU) tend to adopt common policies in a variety of areas including foreign policy and security, the economy, and finances, and Europe has considerable influence on international public opinion, underpinned by such factors as language, history, culture and art, and the presence of major media and think tanks. In addition, Europe has a large economic presence, with the combined GDP of the 28 member states of the EU accounting for about 22% of the world. Furthermore, Europe includes permanent members of the UN Security Council and countries which are members of key international frameworks, such as the G7, so it plays an important role in establishing norms in the international community. The result of the referendum in June 2016 on the withdrawal of the UK from the EU caused a major shock and tough withdrawal negotiations are expected, while the importance of Europe described above will not significantly change even after the withdrawal of the UK from the EU.

Japan and Europe share fundamental values and principles such as freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. They will continue to deepen their cooperative relations based on their deep commitment to a free and open international order.

Furthermore, in addition to maintaining bilateral relations with each European country, it is important that Japan further broadens Japan-Europe relations as a whole by strengthening cooperation with European regional institutions such as the EU, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), by further strengthening relations between democratic states in Asia and Europe through the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), and by promoting collaboration with European regional frameworks, such as the Visegrad Group plus Japan (V4 Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia +Japan), the Nordic- Baltic Eight plus Japan (NB8+Japan) and GUAM countries plus Japan (GUAM Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Moldova+Japan).

(Issues Faced by Europe)

Although the economy is gradually recovering, Europe continues to face challenges including the debt problem and high unemployment rate in the southern European countries. It is also facing various challenges including the influx of large numbers of migrants and refugees mainly from the Middle East and African region, a large number of terrorist attacks, and the growth of hybrid threats combining multiple techniques including cyber-attacks. Against the backdrop of dissatisfaction over these challenges, there is a trend of increasing support for political groups which repudiate the existing politics in countries throughout Europe.

In response to the aforementioned various challenges, the European countries, the EU, and NATO are strengthening cooperation in the areas of immigration, counterterrorism, and security, and endeavoring to maintain and promote the alliance with the United States and European integration. Furthermore, the EU has formulated a global strategy for foreign and security policy for the first time in approximately ten years. As such, Europe endeavors to actively respond to threats outside Europe, particularly in the surrounding region. 2017 is an important year for forecasting the future direction of Europe because national elections including the general election in the Netherlands, the presidential election in France, the federal elections in Germany, etc., are being held in European countries.

(Handling the Large-Scale Influx of Refugees)

The large-scale influx of refugees in Europe is one of the major difficulties currently faced by the EU. Following on from 2015 when approximately 1,256,000 refugees (the number of refugees who sought asylum to EU member states) came into Europe, the influx of refugees continued in 2016. However, in March the EU and Turkey reached an agreement which includes a provision: Migrants crossing from Turkey into Greece will be returned to Turkey. As a result the influx of refugees into Europe dramatically decreased in 2016 to approximately 364,000. However, challenges still remain such as the continued influx of refugees from African countries, via the Central Mediterranean route, strengthened border control by the EU, fair share of the refugee burden within the EU, and the maintenance of the agreement between the EU and Turkey.

(The Threat of Terrorism)

In conjunction with measures for handling refugees, counterterrorism is also an urgent issue in Europe. Following the coordinated terrorist attacks in Paris in November 2015, a series of terrorist incidents occurred throughout Europe in 2016, with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) claiming responsibility. These included the terrorist attacks in Brussels and Charleroi (Belgium), Nice and Rouen (France), and in southern Germany and Berlin. Strengthening more effective counterterrorism at the European level is an urgent issue.

(Withdrawal of the UK from the European Union)

In the referendum held in the UK in June, 52% of the voters supported UK's withdrawal from the EU. Notification of withdrawal is expected to be given by the UK by the end of March 2017. European integration which had continued expanding and deepening since the end of the second world war faced the situation of a member state withdrawing from the EU for the first time. Now, attention is focused on the withdrawal negotiations that will take place between the UK and the EU after the UK has given notification of withdrawal to the EU, as well as on the new relations between the UK and the EU after withdrawal. It is expected that even after the withdrawal of the UK from the EU, Europe, including the UK, will continue to be united and actively contribute to the peace, stability, and prosperity of the international community (see 2-4-1 (1) and 2-4-1 (2)).

(Diplomatic Relations with Europe)

In 2016, Japan's European diplomacy made progress. Early in May, Prime Minister Abe visited Italy, France, Belgium, Germany and the UK in order to coordinate with leaders of each country and the EU in advance of the G7 Ise-Shima Summit and to strengthen bilateral relations, including cooperation regarding the 150th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations with Italy and Belgium. Furthermore, he took the opportunities of the G7 Ise-Shima Summit at the end of May, the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) Summit Meeting in the middle of July (in Mongolia), and the High-level Week of the United Nations General Assembly in September (in New York, U.S.), to hold meetings with the leaders of European countries/organizations. Early in January Foreign Minister Kishida, together with Minister of Defense Gen Nakatani, held the Second Japan-UK Foreign and Defence Ministers' Meeting (“2+2”) with Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Philip Hammond and Secretary of State for Defence Michael Fallon, when they visited Japan. Furthermore, in the middle of March, Foreign Minister Kishida visited Italy, Vatican and France, and held foreign ministers' meetings.

Through these opportunities, relationships between the leaders and foreign ministers were strengthened, and understanding from European countries and institutions on Japan's stance and efforts was enhanced in areas such as security, economy, regional situations, and global issues. Furthermore, concrete cooperation between Japan and Europe was advanced. For instance, on the security front, concrete cooperation in the security and defense area progressed with the UK, France, and Italy. Japan also shared the view with NATO and the EU to continue close cooperation.

In addition, the Government of Japan is actively implementing projects related to public diplomacy and human and intellectual exchanges, including the “MIRAI Program,” which invites students from Europe, etc., the holding of seminars in cooperation with major think tanks in Europe, and the dispatch of lecturers. Through these initiatives, Japan is pursuing a broad range of cooperative activities with EU countries and institutions in such fields as politics, security, the economy, education, culture, as well as science and technology with a view to maintaining a close and multi-layered relationship through communication about Japan and Asia and promotion of mutual understanding.

Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Miki Yamada surrounded by university students who came to Japan under the MIRAI Program (December 21, 2015, Tokyo).Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Miki Yamada surrounded by university students who came to Japan under the MIRAI Program (December 21, 2015, Tokyo).