The Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute of International Relations and Strategic Studies (LKI) in partnership with the Delegation of the European Union to Sri Lanka and the Maldives hosted a half-day conference on the theme, “The EU Indo-Pacific Strategy through Sri Lanka’s Lens: Opportunities for Cooperation and Partnership” on Thursday, 27th January 2022. The event supported by the Delegation of the European Union to Sri Lanka and the Maldives and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation was organized on the occasion of the visit of the EU Special Envoy for the Indo-Pacific, H.E. Gabriele Visentin to Sri Lanka. 

The Executive Director of LKI, Dr. D.L. Mendis warmly welcomed the participants who attended this conference and said that a rule-based order will protect small States and make International Law the language of International Relations.  Ambassador of the Delegation of the European Union to Sri Lanka and the Maldives, H.E. Denis Chaibi made the opening remarks and referred to the connections between Europe and Sri Lanka.

The EU Special Envoy for the Indo-Pacific, H.E. Gabriele Visentin outlined the thematic content of the EU Indo-Pacific Strategy launched in September 2021, highlighting its relevance for further engagement between the EU and Sri Lanka. He outlined the way in which a multilateral approach would guarantee stability through the strengthening of international rule-based order. He further stated that seven priority areas for cooperation have been identified; such as, sustainable and economic prosperity, green transition, ocean governance, digital governance and partnerships, connectivity and security and defence. The Envoy further underscored that the EU’s Indo-Pacific Strategy envisages strengthening links with the states in the region and not dependencies. 

The keynote address was delivered by Hon. Prof. G.L Peiris, Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka in which he outlined the importance of multilateralism, inclusivity and rule-based order. He also dealt with topics such as green recovery, trade, sustainable ocean governance as issues of relevance to Sri Lanka at present for cooperation and partnerships. He highlighted that a rule-based order can help small states safeguard their position at the international level. Additional remarks were delivered by the State Minister of Regional Cooperation, Hon. Tharaka Balasuriya. 

The Foreign Secretary of Sri Lanka, Adml. Prof. Jayanath Colombage and Representatives of EU Member States participated at this conference.  The Ambassador of the French Republic to Sri Lanka and the Maldives, H.E. Eric Lavertu, Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to Sri Lanka and the Maldives, H.E. Tanja Gongrijjp and the Deputy Director General for South Asia and Indo-Pacific policy, German Federal Foreign Office, Dr. Jasper Wieck, addressed this conference. 

The conference brought together local and international experts to discuss the EU strategy and its implications in three thematic areas, namely; (i) Sri Lanka’s and EU’s positioning within geopolitical shifts in the Indo-Pacific, chaired by the Foreign Minister, Hon. Prof. G.L. Peiris, (ii) Trade, Connectivity and Green Recovery as Strategic Tools: Challenges and Opportunities for Sri Lanka and the EU, chaired by the Foreign Secretary, Adml. Prof. Jayanath Colombage, (iii) EU and Sri Lanka Efforts for Sustainable Ocean Governance, chaired by the Executive Director of LKI, Dr. D.L. Mendis. The three panel discussions were followed by respective Q & A sessions.

The speakers articulated their diverse viewpoints on the key fundamentals of the European strategy in a constructive manner in order to reinforce the rule-based order and proposed various modalities for cooperation and partnership in the Indo-Pacific region. In his vote of thanks, Director of the LKI, Chathuka Senanayake thanked the panellists and participants for attending this conference and sharing their insights. A full report on this conference and proceedings will be published.