Diplomatic Bluebook 2022

Chapter 2

Japan's Foreign Policy by Region

Section 5 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. Amidst the spread of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), cooperation with the EU and European countries is necessary to respond to the challenges faced by the international community and to realize fundamental values in the international community.

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 an important role in formulating standards in the international community. The countries also influence international opinion benefiting from their language, history, cultural and artistic activities, and through communication activities utilizing major media organizations and think tanks. Cooperation with Europe is important in enhancing Japan's presence and influence in the international community.

<Response to COVID-19 in Europe>

Even in 2021, European countries continued to be compelled to take strict measures dramatically, including the lockdown across England following the confirmation of a new COVID-19 variant (the Alpha variant) in the UK in December 2020. The tendency of tight restrictions continued through the spring all over Europe, including the implementation of a nationwide lockdown in France in April. However, as vaccinations progressed in various countries before the summer vacation season, restrictions began to be relaxed to achieve a balance between COVID-19 countermeasures and socioeconomic activities, including the reopening of restaurants and entertainment facilities and the resumption of classes at schools. Although the number of infections began to increase again in various countries after June due to the spread of the Delta variant and the relaxation of restrictions, the number of severe cases and deaths remained relatively low. Amidst this, ahead of other countries, the UK introduced a “living with COVID-19” policy in which it eliminated most restrictions, including large-scale sporting events being held in June and July that attracted tens of thousands of spectators.

In July beginning with the operation of the “EU Digital COVID Certificate” in the EU, resumption of socioeconomic activities has been progressing since the summer through active implementation of vaccination certificates. In many EU memberstates, certificates must be presented in order to use stores, facilities, and transportation systems.

In August, the European Commission announced that it had achieved its goal of vaccinating 70% of the adult population of the EU and appealed to continue recommending vaccinations to unvaccinated people, support for low- and middle-income countries to close the vaccination gap, and the need for international cooperation.

Thereafter, the overall tendency toward relaxation of restrictions continued until mid-November. However, the emergence of the Omicron variant later that month prompted countries to once again tighten quarantine measures and domestic restrictions. In December, as the outbreak of the variant continued to spread throughout Europe, the trend toward tighter restrictions continued, including mandatory wearing of masks and restrictions to enter entertainment facilities.

<Relations with Countries and Regions Outside Europe>

In regard to relations with China, there were activities to manage relations with China, including online summit meetings with the leaders of France, Germany, and China in April and July, as well as online summit meetings with President Xi Jinping held four times by Germany, twice by France, and once by Italy. There were also moves toward cooperation on global challenges such as climate change, including the holding of the EU-China High Level Environment and Climate Dialogue. On the other hand, Europe's sense of vigilance toward China has been growing, with especially high interest regarding the situation in Hong Kong and the human rights situation in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, as well as the situations concerning the South China Sea and Taiwan. Concerns about China are growing, as seen by the EU Foreign Affairs Council's decision to impose sanctions on China for large-scale arbitrary detentions in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, the release of the Joint Communication on the EU Strategy for Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific in September, and the adoption of the resolution on a new EU-China Strategy in the European Parliament. Furthermore, concern is growing in Europe about economic coercion and disinformation. In December, the European Commission released a proposed regulation on anti-coercive measures against economic coercion by third countries against the EU and its member states. In regard to relations with the United States, U.S. President Biden visited Europe in June, and it was indicated that there would be cooperation in a wide range of fields, including COVID-19, climate change, and trade and investment. At the NATO Summit held during the same period, a Communiqué issued at the meeting announced the enhancement of political dialogue and practical cooperation with partner countries in the Asia-Pacific, including Japan.

Relations with Russia continued to be a priority issue for Europe, but following Russia's aggression against Ukraine in February 2022 and Europe's reaction of strong condemnation and economic sanctions, the confrontation is intensifying between the two.

<Multilayered, Attentive Diplomacy with Europe>

In Europe, while the spread of COVID-19 has raised awareness of the importance of fundamental values such as freedom, democracy, and human rights, there have been in fact differences in the views of member countries on matters such as the recovery instrument, the rule of law, and relations with countries outside the region. Amidst this, Japan supports a strongly united Europe and conducts multilayered, attentive diplomacy with them. In 2021, despite major limitations on in-person visits by dignitaries due to COVID-19, diplomacy using teleconference meetings and telephone calls was actively developed.

In addition, taking the opportunity of in-person attendance at the G7 Cornwall Summit (June) and the G7 Foreign and Development Ministers' Meetings (May and December) held under the Presidency of the UK, and the G20 Foreign Ministers' Meeting (June) held under the Presidency of Italy, Japan held summit meetings and foreign ministers' meetings with the UK, France, Germany, and other countries to confirm realization of a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” (FOIP) as well as cooperation on global challenges such as climate change and responding to COVID-19. In addition, security and defense cooperation with European countries in particular was deepened in 2021. The Japan-UK Foreign and Defence Ministers' Meeting (“2+2”) and the first Japan-Germany “2+2” were held online respectively in February and April. Moreover, the UK, French, Dutch, and German vessels were dispatched to the Indo-Pacific, and port calls to Japan, joint exercise, and other activities were implemented.

In the context of Japan-EU relations, close cooperation is conducted based on the Japan-EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) which entered into force in February 2019, the Japan-EU Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA) of which the provisional application started at the same time, the Japan-EU Partnership on Connectivity signed in September 2019, and the Japan-EU Green Alliance established in May 2021. In the same month, Prime Minister Suga held the Japan-EU Summit (online) with President Michel of the European Council and President von der Leyen of the European Commission. They confirmed cooperation in addressing global challenges and further developing Japan-EU relations, including strengthening cooperation in the Indo-Pacific and COVID-19 countermeasures. Concerning relations with NATO, specific cooperation has been advanced in cyber and other fields based on the Individual Partnership and Cooperation Programme Between Japan and NATO, which was updated in 2020. In addition, in order to promote cooperation in areas such as women, peace, and security (WPS), a fourth female Self-Defense Force (SDF) personnel member has been dispatched to NATO Headquarters since December 2021.

Regarding the regions of the Visegrad Group (V4),1 the Baltic States, and the Western Balkans, multilayered diplomacy was implemented with promotion of cooperation through bilateral relations and the EU as well as promotion of cooperative relations with each country. Foreign Minister Motegi visited Poland in May to attend the “V4+Japan” Foreign Ministers' Meeting, and in July he made the first visit to the Baltic States by a Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs.

Furthermore, Japan conducts public diplomacy activities including dispatch of experts, cooperation with European think tanks and Japan's Friendship Ties Programs “MIRAI” (see the Column on page 126) for intellectual and people-to-people exchange that allows young people from Europe to visit Japan. These activities are aimed to promote the right picture of Japan and Asia and mutual understanding. Particularly by utilizing online exchanges, Japan is working on strengthening relations with Europe by conducting information-sharing and exchanges of views with European countries, organizations, and experts in a wide range of fields such as politics, security, economy, business, science and technology, education, culture and art.

  • 1 For more information, see “Other European Regions” on p. 136.