The European Union (EU) has faced major challenges of late. The lasting impacts of the global financial crisis, compounded by the Eurozone sovereign debt crisis, have contributed to a slow economic recovery for many of the 27 member states. In the face of these challenges the EU must project a positive image overseas, a task that is the responsibility of the new European External Action Service (EEAS), headed by the High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy. These post-Lisbon Treaty developments consolidate the EU’s external relations and are expected to improve how the rest of the world views the EU and continue to project the EU as a global power. With the growing importance of the relationship between the EU and Asia—as witnessed by the EU-Korea FTA, signed in October 2010, and numerous other ongoing negotiations—it is an opportune moment to gauge the perceptions and understanding of the EU among its partners across Asia.
This briefing presented the interim research findings of a study examining the perceptions of the EU in 10 Asia-Pacific members of the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), including Singapore.* The briefing took place on 7 July at the Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF) premises. The findings include the results of 6 months’ of daily detailed analysis of EU related news featured in over 40 media outlets across the 10 locations. Research institutes from each of the ten study locations contributed to the project, which combines three components – daily analysis of national news media, public opinion surveys, and interviews with national decision- and policy-makers from multiple sectors. Speakers at the panel briefing highlighted the findings of the national news media research, carried out between January and June 2011. Specific attention was paid to the cases of Singapore and China.
So far, only the media research has been completed. The two remaining research components, opinion leader interviews and public opinion survey, will be completed by September 2011 and January 2012 respectively.
In shedding light on external perceptions of the EU across Asia, this qualitatively rigorous research project highlights the major opportunity areas for growth in co-operation between the EU and its ASEM partners. The project provides an opportunity to assess the effectiveness of the newly-created EEAS. It has also generated a data set on perceptions that will have broad utility across both the public and private sectors in Asia and Europe.
* Research locations include: Australia, China, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Russia, Singapore, and Thailand.