Diplomatic Bluebook 2019

Chapter 2

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

Section 4 Europe

1 Overview

<The Growing Fluidity of the Situation in Europe>

For Europe in 2018, the economy continued to recover at a moderate pace. Although the number of asylum applicants had decreased sharply in comparison with 2015, there has been a rise of Eurosceptic political parties in the respective countries with a particularly critical stance toward the existing migration and refugee policies. This trend, which has been labelled as “populism,” is on the rise, and there are widespread concerns over it, while the unity of Europe appears to be wavering. Hence, with the struggles over Brexit negotiations, the year was marked by an uncertain outlook and a fluid situation.

With regard to Brexit, although the 27 European Union (EU) member countries except for the UK, endorsed the Brexit withdrawal agreement and approved the political declaration on future EU-UK relations at the special meeting of the European Council held in November, deliberations by the UK Parliament were deferred to 2019. As for the issues surrounding migrants and refugees, conclusions that included a certain degree of response measures were adopted by the European Council in June, but the contents of the conclusion retained significant vestiges of the major differences in standpoint among the member countries. Over the past few years, moves by some member countries to oppose the European Commission with regard to their domestic systems such as judicial reform, were observed within the EU.

With regard to the domestic politics of the respective countries, in the UK, there was a lack of agreement between the parliament and the government, and within the government itself on the direction of Brexit negotiations. In France, there was an opposition movement against President Macron and drop in his approval ratings, as demonstrated by the “yellow vests movement” In Germany, Chancellor Merkel is not able to run in the next elections for the party leader due to the results of local elections. In Italy, political disorder erupted as a result of the change of government.

Furthermore, European countries continue to face with hybrid threats, which involve the combination of multiple means of attack, such as terrorism and cyberattacks. Its relationship with Russia, including the Ukrainian crisis that has serious implications for Europe's security environment, remains a critical issue for Europe. In addition, China is also using the “16+1” framework (a cooperative framework of China and countries in Central and Eastern Europe) under the “Belt and Road Initiatives” to exert influence over Central and Eastern European countries.

<Importance of a Europe that Shares Fundamental Values and Principles>

Despite such unrest, the fact that Europe is an important partner for Japan remains unchanged. The EU and European countries share with Japan fundamental values and principles such as freedom, democracy, rule of law, and human rights, and continue to be proponents of free trade and multilateralism. In economic terms, the 28 EU member countries account for about 21% of the world's Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

In addition, European countries pursue common policies across a broad spectrum of fields that range from diplomacy to security, economy, and state finance, through various frameworks including the EU. They also play a major role in formulating standards in the international community, with some countries among them serving as permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, G7 member states, and other member states of major international frameworks. Also, they often adopt a similar standpoint as Japan on a wide range of international issues.

Moreover, Europe also continues to exert considerable influence on international public opinion due to its languages, history, cultural and artistic activities, and prominent media groups and think tanks, among other things.

<Multi-layered and multifaceted European diplomacy>

A Europe that is strongly united benefits the entire international community including Japan, which shares the fundamental values and principles. While continuously supporting such European unity, Japan is, at the same time, also strengthening its cooperative relations more attentively with the EU and the increasingly diverse European countries such as the UK, France, and Germany, from a multi-layered and multifaceted perspective.

With the EU, Japan signed the Japan-EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) and the Japan-EU Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA) in July (entered into force/commenced partial application respectively on February 1, 2019). Hence, 2018 was a historical year that saw the significant strengthening of Japan-EU relations. The Japan-EU EPA clearly demonstrates to the world the unwavering political will of Japan and the EU to lead the global economy against the spreading movement of protectionism in the world. The SPA holds extremely great significance, serving as an agreement that sets out provisions toward deepening cooperation across a wide range of areas between Japan and the EU, which share common values.

Through dialogues with the heads of state, foreign ministers and other ministers of the UK, France, and Germany, Japan has also deepened cooperation toward maintaining and strengthening a free and open international order. Japan held summit meetings with the UK at the G7 Summit and G20 Summit, and held the Japan-UK Foreign Ministers' Strategic Dialogue in September. In addition, Prime Minister Abe visited the UK in January 2019. With France, the Japan-France Foreign and Defense Ministers' Meeting (“2+2”) was held in January 2018, while Prime Minister Abe visited France in October. Furthermore, a maritime seminar was held in Tokyo in December with the aim of engaging in discussions on a wide range of maritime policies with France, which is also a Pacific Country. After the seminar, a comprehensive maritime dialogue was established between Japan and France. In these ways, Japan made significant progress in bilateral cooperation with the UK and France, including cooperation to achieve a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific.” With Germany, in addition to the mutual visits of the Foreign Ministers of Japan and Germany and the issuance of a joint declaration in 2018, Chancellor Merkel visited Japan in February 2019 and affirmed Germany's commitment to cooperating with Japan in the Indo-Pacific region.

Japan also engaged in careful diplomacy and advanced its cooperative relations with other European countries and regional frameworks in the region, while taking into consideration the situation in each country and region. In January, Prime Minister Abe became the first Prime Minister of Japan to visit the three Baltic States (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania), as well as Bulgaria, Serbia and Romania. He held the Japan-Baltic Cooperation Dialogue to promote overall cooperation with the three Baltic States, and launched the “Western Balkans Cooperation Initiative” to support the economic and social reform of the Western Balkans, which has been seeking accession to the EU. Prime Minister Abe visited Spain in October and elevated Japan-Spain relations to a “strategic partnership.” Furthermore, during the visit by Foreign Minister Kono to Italy in November, he became the first foreign minister of Japan to attend the Mediterranean Dialogues organized jointly by Italy's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and think tanks. The Second “Visegrad Group (the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia) plus Japan” Summit Meeting was held in October after a five-year hiatus, while the sixth GUAM (Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Moldova) + Japan Foreign Ministers' Meeting was held in September.

With the recognition that the security of Asia is indivisible from that of Europe, Japan has also advanced cooperation with regional security organizations including the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), and further strengthened collaborative relations between Asia and Europe through the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM).

Prime Minister Abe attending the 12th ASEM Summit Meeting (October 18 to 19, Brussels, Belgium. Photo: EU)Prime Minister Abe attending the 12th ASEM Summit Meeting (October 18 to 19, Brussels, Belgium. Photo: EU)

In addition to the abovementioned efforts, Japan is actively involved in public diplomacy activities including dispatching experts and promoting “MIRAI,” a program for personal and intellectual exchange that allows students from Europe and other regions to visit and learn about Japan. Through these efforts, Japan has built myriad connections with European countries and organizations in a broad range of fields from politics to security, economy, education, culture, science, and technology. By providing information about Japan and Asia and promoting mutual understanding through these channels, Japan is working to maintain close, multi-tiered relations with these countries and organizations.