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EU-Vietnam Relations: Stable Partnership

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Bilateral relations between Vietnam and the European Union (EU) have continued since the parties established diplomatic ties in 1996.[1] There are formal agreements between the parties in the economic, commercial, and political fields. That is why Vietnam is a solid and reliable partner of the EU in Southeast Asia.[2] Vietnam, which receives support from the EU on all kinds of issues, frequently holds meetings with EU countries. In this context, between 9 and 16 December 2022, Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh went to Europe to attend the 45th anniversary of the Southeast Asian Nations Association (ASEAN)-EU relations and to make official visits to Luxembourg, Netherlands, and Belgium.[3]

Economy and trade were prominent topics in the negotiations. Currently, a large part of Vietnam-EU relations consists of commercial relations. Trading relations between the states have been developing rapidly and effectively in the past. The EU has been the second-largest overseas market for Vietnamese products for years and is also Vietnam’s fourth-largest trading partner after China, South Korea, and the United States (US).[4] Recently, Vietnam’s main export countries in the EU market include the Netherlands, Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Spain, Luxembourg, Belgium, and Poland.[5]

The Vietnam-EU Free Trade Agreement signed between Vietnam and the EU on June 30, 2019, is a new milestone for cooperation and development. At the same time, the agreement demonstrates Vietnam’s determination to integrate into the world economy despite the complex and unpredictable developments in the world’s economic and political situation.[6] The EU has been making efforts for the economic and trade liberalization of Vietnam for a long time. Besides the free trade agreement, the EU also supports Vietnam with concessional loans and grants.[7]

On December 10, 2022, Vietnamese Prime Minister Chinh met with his Dutch counterpart, Mark Rutte. Among EU countries, the Netherlands has special importance for Vietnam. It is also Vietnam’s second-largest trading partner in Europe and the largest investor in the EU. During this visit, the Prime Minister of Vietnam also contacted important economic institutions, participated in the Vietnam-Netherlands Business Forum, and signed bilateral cooperation agreements.[8]

Prime Minister of Vietnam Chinh, who went to Luxembourg after the Netherlands, met with the President of the Chamber of Deputies, Fernand Etgen. With a total capital of $2,6 billion, Luxembourg is the EU’s third largest investor in Vietnam, as well as one of the first countries to ratify the EU-Vietnam Investment Protection Agreement. As it can be understood from here, one of the countries with strong economic cooperation with Vietnam is Luxembourg. Chinh visited the Luxembourg Stock Exchange, signed various memorandums of understanding on cooperation between the two countries, and took steps to strengthen the economic ties between the parties by participating in the Vietnam-Luxembourg Economic Forum.[9]

On December 15, 2022, Vietnamese Prime Minister Chinh, who met with Princess Astrid of Belgium and President of the Belgian Senate Stephanie D’Hose, reached a consensus on strengthening bilateral investments and commercial partnerships. Subsequently, Princess Astrid emphasized that she attaches importance to the comprehensive cooperation between the parties and hopes to develop this cooperation.[10]

Another issue discussed in the talks was peace and stability. Among the reasons why Vietnam attaches importance to relations with the EU is that it wants to get the support of the EU in the conflict regarding the South China Sea. Pham Thu Hang, the Vice Spokeswoman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, stated on December 10, 2022, that Vietnam and EU countries should make active and practical contributions to the maintenance of peace, stability, and legal order at sea.[11]

The South China Sea, which is one of the most important maritime trade routes in the world and has rich hydrocarbon reserves, is characterized as one of the regions closest to war due to the sovereignty claims of the regional states over the resources. Mainly China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan have claims in the South China Sea.[12] The resources here are likely to create enormous economic opportunities for smaller countries such as Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam. It is possible for China to increase its energy security by supporting its growing economy through these resources. The governments of countries that claim huge oil reserves and natural gas fields compete to monopolize them.[13]

Threats to peace and stability in the region arising from conflicts between neighbouring states in the South China Sea cause the EU to worry as it has the potential to hinder international trade.[14] The EU, which doesn’t want to face such problems, tries to play a role in the solution of the problem by offering incentives and investments to the regional states.[15] Vietnam attaches importance to the support that will come from the EU in the conflicts in the South China Sea, as it wants the EU to continue its investments in its country and needs the help of the EU in the operation of international law when the problem erupts.

As a result, relations between Vietnam and the EU continue in various fields and are getting stronger day by day. In this sense, Vietnam-EU relations are a concrete indicator of the stable partnership developing between East and West.


[1] Delegation of the European Union to Vietnam, Guide to the EU-Vietnam Trade and Investment Agreements, Hanoi, 2019, p. 12.

[2] “The European Union and Vietnam”, European Union External Action, shorturl.at/ijky8, (Date of Accession: 18.12.2022).

[3] “Prime Minister of Vietnam to Meet Swedish Counterpart at EU-ASEAN Summit”, Scand Asia, https://scandasia.com/vietnam-prime-minister-to-meet-with-swedish-counterpart-at-the-eu-asean-summit/, (Date of Accession: 18.12.2022).

[4] Delegation of the European Union to Vietnam, op. cit., p. 12.

[5] “Bilateral Relation Between Vietnam and the EU”, General Department of Vietnam Customs, http://evfta.moit.gov.vn/default.aspx?page=news&do=detail&category_id=13caec66-a1f8-

4b9c-9066-b25657f4d36d&id=fe64a293-2b69-4c37-b1e0-cdd062451769, (Date of Accession: 18.12.2022).

[6] Ibid.

[7] Delegation of the European Union to Vietnam, op. cit., p. 16.

[8] “PM Starts Official Visit to Netherlands”, Vietnam Net, https://vietnamnet.vn/en/vietnam-news-headlines-december-11-2089854.html, (Date of Accession: 18.12.2022).

[9] “Luxembourg Press Highlights Vietnamese PM’s Visit”, Vietnam Net, https://vietnamnet.vn/en/vietnam-news-headlines-december-11-2089854.html, (Date of Accession: 18.12.2022).

[10] “PM Pham Minh Chinh Meets Senate President, Princess of Belgium”, Vietnam Plus, https://en.vietnamplus.vn/pm-pham-minh-chinh-meets-senate-president-princess-of-belgium/245624.vnp, (Date of Accession: 18.12.2022).

[11] “Vietnam Appeals for Cooperation, Contributions to Peace, Stability, Legal Order at Sea”, Vietnam Net, https://vietnamnet.vn/en/vietnam-news-headlines-december-11-2089854.html, (Date of Accession: 18.12.2022).

[12] Kübra Çoban Hastunç, “Güney Çin Denizi’nde Avrupa Birliği’nin Dönüştürücü Rolü: Bölgesel Entegrasyon Yoluyla Alternatif Çatışma Çözümü Mekanizmaları”, Ankara Avrupa Çalışmaları Dergisi, 21(1), 2022, p. 96.

[13] Hastunç, op. cit, p. 99.

[14] Eva Pejsova, “Introduction: Light At The End Of The Tunnel?”, Sense and Sensibility Addressing the South China Sea Disputes, Eva Pejsova (Ed.), European Union Institute for Security Studies, Paris, 2016, p.6.

[15] Hastunç, op. cit., p. 102-103.

Neslihan TOPCU
Neslihan TOPCU
Neslihan Topcu, 2017 yılında Adnan Menderes Üniversitesi Siyaset Bilimi ve Kamu Yönetimi bölümünden mezun olmuş ve ardından aynı üniversitenin Uluslararası İlişkiler Anabilim Dalı’nda yüksek lisans eğitimine başlamıştır. Yüksek lisans derecesini elde ettiği “Çin’in Enerji Güvenliği Politikaları” başlıklı tezi, 2020 yılında kitap olarak da yayınlanmıştır. 2016 senesinde Litvanya’daki Kazimieras Simonavičius Üniversitesi’nde ve 2019 yılında da Portekiz’deki Minho Üniversitesi’nde eğitim alan Topçu, halihazırda Selçuk Üniversitesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Anabilim Dalı’nda doktora eğitimine devam etmektedir. Asya Pasifik, enerji güvenliği ve devletlerin uzay politikalarıyla ilgili çalışmaları çeşitli dergilerde ve kitaplarda yayınlanmış olan Topçu, iyi derecede İngilizce ve orta seviyede İspanyolca bilmektedir.