Diplomatic Bluebook 2020

Chapter 2

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

Section 4 Europe

1 Overview

<The Importance of Cooperation with Europe, with which Japan Shares Fundamental Values and Principles>

The European Union (EU) and European countries are important partners for Japan, and share fundamental values and principles such as freedom, democracy, the rule of law, and human rights. It is necessary more than ever before for Japan to cooperate with them on the various issues that the international community faces today.

In addition, European countries pursue common policies across a wide range of fields such as diplomacy and security, economy, and state finance, through various frameworks including the EU. They also play a major role in formulating standards in the international community through major international frameworks such as the United Nations Security Council, the G7, the G20, and the World Trade Organization (WTO). They also continue to have considerable influence on international opinion with a background of their language, history, culture, artistic activities, as well as major media organizations and think tanks.

<Europe Working to Overcome Issues Amid Growing Fluidity>

For Europe, 2019 was a year in which developments were seen toward overcoming issues amid the growing fluidity of the situation. While the two major parties (the European People's Party (EPP) and the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D)) did not secure a combined majority in the European Parliament election held in May, centrist and environmental parties, such as La République En Marche! led by President Macron of France, increased their seats, which decentralized power in the European Parliament. Although there were some views that forecast Eurosceptic parties to increase their number of seats, the parties only saw a slight increase in seats. After the election, the selection of main leadership of the EU was not directed by Germany and France as it had been before, alterations at the leader level continued, with Hungary, Poland, and other countries requesting an independent position as the Visegrad Group (V4) (the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, and Poland). As a result, the new EU leadership was elected at the Special Meeting of the European Council in July and appointed in December, including President of the European Commission von der Leyen and President of the European Council Michel.

With regard to Brexit, a central theme in EU politics, the House of Commons of the UK repeatedly rejected the Withdrawal Agreement. However, as a result of the general election in December in which the Conservative Party led by Prime Minister Johnson acquired an overall majority, the Withdrawal Agreement Bill was approved in the UK Parliament in January 2020, and ultimately Brexit was realized based on mutual agreement between the UK and the EU. Due to this, the EU experienced the first decrease in its member countries in history. The transition period, in which the UK still continues to be treated as a member of the EU after Brexit, began in February 2020. The transition period will last until the end of 2020, during which negotiations are being held toward concluding international agreements setting out the new framework for the future relationship between and the UK and the EU (the transition period can be extended once, for up to two years by mutual consent of the UK and the EU).

With regard to the process of expanding the EU member countries, there has been a strengthening inward-looking trend within the EU against the backdrop of Brexit and other developments. At the European Council in October, an agreement was not reached on discussions concerning the negotiations for North Macedonia and Albania to join the EU. As for security, division can be seen among European countries, some of which are highly wary of Russia, including the Baltic States, Eastern European countries, and some Nordic countries, and some of which are not. Differences of positions by countries can also be seen concerning relations between Europe and the U.S. and China, as well as the response to the immigration issue. In this way, today's Europe is a mosaic comprising countries with various positions. Amid this, in the post-Brexit EU, the voices calling for the unified Europe with stronger presence have been heard and it has become its major agenda.

<Relations with Countries and Regions Outside Europe>

Relations with Russia, including the issue of Ukraine, have serious implications for Europe's security environment, and remains a critical issue for Europe. In addition, China is strengthening its influence on Central and Eastern European countries through the “17+1” framework (a cooperative framework between China and Central and Eastern European countries) under the One Belt, One Road Initiative. In response, the European Commission and High Representative Mogherini of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy issued the “Joint Communication to the European Parliament, the European Council and the Council: EU-China – A Strategic Outlook” in March, and for the first time described China as a “systemic rival,” together with describing China as a “cooperation partner,” a “negotiating partner,” and a “competitor.” In addition, a growing sense of caution can be seen in the field of economic security, including the announcement by the European Commission recommendation on cybersecurity of 5G (fifth generation mobile communication systems) networks in March, and the entry into force of the EU's investment screening system in April. Moreover, a path still cannot be seen toward conclusion of trade negotiations with the U.S.

<Diplomacy to Europe, Which Increasingly Has a “Mosaic” of Differing Positions>

As European countries increasingly have a “mosaic” of differing positions, Japan supports a strongly unified Europe and is attentively developing diplomacy with them.

Between the EU and Japan, the Japan-EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) entered into force in February, and the provisional application of the Japan-EU Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA) began. The Japan-EU EPA clearly demonstrates to the world the unwavering political will of Japan and the EU to lead the world against the spreading movement of protectionism in the world. The Japan-EU 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. At the first Joint Committee of the Japan-EU Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA) held in Tokyo in March, Japan and the EU confirmed cooperation on sustainable connectivity and quality infrastructure as well as global issues. At the Europa Connectivity Forum held in September in Brussels, Belgium, Prime Minister Abe and President Juncker of the European Commission gave the keynote speeches. Prime Minister Abe emphasized that Japan and the EU would cooperate in fields of connectivity between Asia and Europe. He also signed a document at the summit level establishing cooperation to strengthen connectivity in regions such as the west Balkans and the Indo-Pacific.

Prime Minister Abe giving the keynote speech at the Europa Connectivity Forum (September 27, Brussels, Belgium; Photo: Cabinet Public Relations Office)Prime Minister Abe giving the keynote speech at the Europa Connectivity Forum (September 27, Brussels, Belgium; Photo: Cabinet Public Relations Office)

With the new EU leaders, Prime Minister Abe had a Japan-EU Summit Telephone Call with President of the European Commission von der Leyen in December immediately following her appointment, and held a meeting with President of the European Council Michel prior to his appointment when he was Prime Minister of Belgium during the UN General Assembly in September. In this way, 2019 was a year in which Japan-EU relations were further strengthened and made closer.

For relations with the UK, France, Germany, and Italy, lively exchanges were held at high levels, including the summit and foreign minister levels. For the UK, Prime Minister Abe visited the country in January. He and Prime Minister May issued the Japan-UK Joint Statement with eyes toward post-Brexit, and confirmed strengthening cooperation toward achieving a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP).” They also had summit meetings at the G20 Osaka Summit in June and the G7 Summit in Biarritz, France in August. For France, Prime Minister Abe visited the country in April, issued the Roadmap on Japan-France Cooperation for Opening New Horizons between Japan and France under an Exceptional Partnership (2019-2023) when President Macron visited Japan ahead of the G20 Osaka Summit in June, and also held a summit meeting with President Macron during the G7 Summit in Biarritz in August. For Germany, Prime Minister Abe held a summit meeting with Chancellor Merkel when she visited Japan in February, and also held summit meetings with her during the G20 Osaka Summit in June and the G7 Summit in Biarritz in August. Through these and other opportunities, cooperation toward achieving a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” was confirmed. For Italy, Prime Minister Abe visited the country in April, and he and Prime Minister Conte agreed to cooperate toward achieving a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific.”

As for relations with other European countries and other regional frameworks in Europe, Prime Minister Abe continued to promote through holding meetings and other occasions the Japan-Baltic Cooperation Dialogue, which he launched to advance overall cooperation with three Baltic States in 2018, as well as the Western Balkans Cooperation Initiative, which supports the economic and social reform of the Western Balkans that have been seeking accession to the EU. In addition, for relations with the V4, the Third “Visegrad Group plus Japan” Summit Meeting was held in Slovakia when Prime Minister Abe visited Europe in April 2019. Prime Minister Orbán of Hungary and Prime Minister Morawiecki of Poland also visited Japan in December 2019 and January 2020 respectively, and Prime Minister Abe held summit meetings with them.

Furthermore, during the Rugby World Cup 2019 held in Japan from September to November, dignitaries including royalty and ministers from the UK, Ireland, and other countries visited Japan. Dignitaries including royalty and ministers from 53 countries and regions such as Europe, Central Asia, and the Caucus visited Japan in October for the Ceremony of the Enthronement of His Majesty the Emperor. Among them, Prime Minister Abe held meetings with dignitaries from 27 countries and Foreign Minister Motegi held meetings with dignitaries from four countries. In November, His Holiness Pope Francis was the second pope to visit Japan in history following the visit 38 years before by Pope John Paul II (see the Column on page 123).

In addition to the above, Japan is actively involved in public diplomacy activities including dispatching experts and “MIRAI,” a program for personal and intellectual exchange that allows young people from Europe and other regions to visit Japan to make the real picture of Japan and Asia well known and promote mutual understanding. Through these efforts, Japan is maintaining and strengthening close, multilayered connections with European countries and organizations in a wide range of fields such as politics, security, economy, business, science and technology, education, and culture.