"The World and Japan" Database (Project Leader: TANAKA Akihiko)
Database of Japanese Politics and International Relations
National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS); Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia (IASA), The University of Tokyo

[Title] "Japan and the EU: The Strong and Steady Pillars Supporting Many Bridges"- Keynote Speech by the Prime Minister at the Europa Connectivity Forum

[Date] September 27, 2019
[Source] Prime Minister of Japan and His Cabinet
[Full text]


Good morning to you all.

When President Juncker invited me to join him for this meeting, I was unable to come up with a single reason not to do so.

But to justify my attendance, three reasons sprang to mind.

First, it was an invitation from none other than President Juncker.

He and I succeeded in achieving something major indeed.

President Juncker, President Donald Tusk, and I, representing the EU and Japan, signed documents that marked a new era. That happened on July 17, 2018.

As a matter of fact, I was supposed to be in Brussels at the time.

Shortly before that, however, a tremendous flood hit the western part of Japan.

"Well, in that case, Shinzo, we'll come to you," the two of them told me, and then showed up in Tokyo.

Jean-Claude, I was touched by that.

One of the documents the three of us signed was an EPA - an economic partnership agreement - which is designed to embody the economic realities of our era.

The other was an SPA, or strategic partnership agreement.

It was a signing of historic documents. The two came to Tokyo as they wanted to have no delay.

The EPA and SPA work in tandem to propel Japan and the EU forward into the future.

As for the EPA, it has newly created one of the world's largest free and advanced economic zones, encompassing approximately 30 percent of world GDP and 40 percent of world trade.

Japanese consumers, having seen the prices of wines and cheeses fall, are feeling the effects keenly.

Japan's GDP is expected to earn a boost of roughly 1 percent or 5 trillion yen, and newly-created employment is expected to reach 290,000, not a small number, indeed.


One sees of late backlash against globalism here and there. And yet Japan and the EU, by forging the EPA, have pushed themselves to the forefront as flag bearers for free trade.

There at the forefront are commitments to values that we must uphold at all costs.

What makes that point entirely clear is the other document we signed, the Japan-EU SPA.

As I look at it, again, and over again, I cannot help but think that the agreement is an embodiment, of the height you in Europe and the Japanese have scaled; and of the most expansive perspective achieved therein, after all these modern years that span the past century and a half. I will come back to this point again later.

Anyway, the importance of the EPA and SPA is the second reason that brought me here.

The third point, and my final reason, is that I have given some thought to why, why Jean-Claude chose "connectivity" as a common topic for discussion.

Next, I'd like to substantiate what I have just said. First, regarding the SPA.

After that I'd like to outline my thoughts regarding "connectivity" and then discuss in concrete terms what the EU and Japan can jointly achieve.


Ladies and gentlemen,

We are in an age where the values and principles we have held dear could waver or drift. And yet the EU and Japan, two poles on both ends of Eurasia, forged an SPA and made it begin with a resounding declaration.

The declaration made is that Japan and the EU are able to continue their deep and long-lasting cooperation as strategic partners because they share common values and principles. That is because those values and principles constitute the basis for their cooperation.

What kind of values and principles?

The SPA cites "democracy" as being of primary importance, followed by "the rule of law," "human rights," and "freedoms."

The SPA's logic continues by saying that the EU and Japan have unlimited potential as a result.

It is an agreement that is future-oriented from beginning to end.

Consultations should take place at "all levels" and joint actions on "all issues of common interest." So reads the agreement.

With the SPA in place, we now have a firm legal foundation for all things jointly pursuable.

As we share values and hold principles in common, anything can be incorporated into the "box" of the SPA, and accordingly the text enumerates as many as 40 areas.

It is so designed as to make anything possible -- say, disarmament or counter-terrorism -- in all domains, extending from outer space to the oceans.

If you think about it, Japan and Europe have come a long way, in zigs and zags.

But now, they are, shall we say, two sturdy pillars, upholding common values under one and the same flag.

The citizens on both sides have now come to hold the determination to support one another to make the world a better place.

Our EPA made Japan and the EU flag bearers of free trade, while our SPA made us the guardians of universal values.

With the two of them in balanced combination, if the world were a ship sailing the open seas, these two agreements would serve as a stabilizer to counteract even the most severe pitching and rolling.

The fact that the pledge of a "connectivity partnership" between the EU and Japan has taken shape is nothing less than the concrete representation of that stabilizing function.

As for the requirements that desirable connectivity should meet, the G7 and G20 summits that Japan held earlier spelled out universal standards that everyone should uphold.

The EU and Japan, now bound by the partnership agreement, will implement those standards and work to become exemplary so that others follow suit.


The infrastructure we build from now must be quality infrastructure. What is necessary is sustainable, comprehensive and rules-based connectivity.

Now, when I say that word "connectivity," images pop up of physical infrastructure such as roads and ports.

When I say "connectivity" a second time, it reminds me of dynamism.

On land, in the sea, in the skies, space, and cyberspace, people, capital, and goods are all on the move, with knowledge and information darting intensively about.

By the way, I must confess that I had no idea until just recently that the small town of Schengen, Luxembourg was not only the birthplace of that well-known agreement but also famous for its wine.

So, I will try rolling the word "connectivity" around a bit atop my tongue, just as I would do to appreciate Schengen's white wines, which I imagine Jean-Claude also likes. When I do this, I can sense the flavour of the word.

That is to say, the "-nect" found in the word "connect" has its origin in the Latin word necto, meaning "to bind," while the "con-" means "together." So "connect" means "together to the end." That's how I tasted the flavour of the word.


We have so far taken a look at the origin of the word "connectivity" thinking of the dynamism it holds and also the physical infrastructure it entails, thereby leading us to say the following.

--Thanks to our EPA and SPA, the EU and Japan are linked through and through.

--The ones to appropriately manage the dynamism that arises in the skies, space, and cyberspace, alongside the limitless realms of land and sea, must be the two central pillars of the EU and Japan, standing solid and firm and supporting these domains.

--As parties that share an unshakable determination in terms of upholding democracy, placing value on the rule of law, and safeguarding human rights and freedom, we take responsibility for carefully considering and then putting into practice what kinds of governance are desirable, and, if we are to establish rules, the kind we should establish.

Whether it be a single road or a single port, when the EU and Japan undertake something, we are able to build sustainable, comprehensive, and rules-based connectivity, from the Indo-Pacific to the Western Balkans and Africa.

We are able to engender connectivity that is not merely "connecting things" but rather "connecting things well."

Of course, it goes without saying that in order to make the connectivity linking Japan and Europe something rock-solid, the Indo-Pacific, the sea route that leads to the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, must be free and open.

The sub-theme of this forum is "building bridges" -- many bridges -- "for a sustainable future."


Let us look at some concrete examples showing building such bridges is indeed possible when Japan and the EU work together.

I believe it was 2017 that President Juncker referred to the Western Balkans in his State of the Union Address, speaking about their future accession to the EU.

As for me, in January 2018, I visited the Baltic States and went on to visit the Western Balkans.

In both regions, we created frameworks for regularized dialogue as well as initiatives for cooperation.

There has emerged from among a host of sectors in Japan a surge of interest in the three Baltic States.

Dialogue at the government level and interchange among companies have come to move forward in parallel.

Meanwhile, under the "Western Balkans Cooperation Initiative," the Japanese government has recently appointed a roving ambassador focused exclusively on this region.

In addition, for example the assistance Japan provided to Serbia in September 2017 will dramatically purify the smoke emitted from Serbia's largest thermal power station.

The "Western Balkans Cooperation Initiative" also made possible interchanges on enhancing disaster resilience between government administrators from each of the Western Balkan countries and Japanese experts having abundant knowledge in this field.

There is also a project currently underway that invites young people from the Western Balkans to Japan.

Recently I had dinner together with Mr. Hashim Thaci, President of Kosovo during his visit to Japan, and I once again thought to myself that the efforts towards reconstruction and growth that the successor countries of the former Yugoslavia have continued to undertake after suffering such terrible

ravages of war are truly a noble thing.

I renewed my determination that the EU and Japan must join forces and be assiduous in carrying out cooperation towards the Western Balkans.

The same is true for the Baltic States, and I expect they will be a good place for EU-Japan cooperation.

A sturdy and prosperous Europe serves the world's interests.

Nothing would serve Japan's interests more than if the EU, which hoists high its uncompromisable values, were to increase its unity and become stronger.


Let me turn now to the continent of Africa.

For example, raw cotton from Burkina Faso goes to the processing plant and then on to a port on the Gulf of Guinea. From the Atlantic Ocean it heads out into the world. The roads along the way are a problem.

If quality roads could be built, the landlocked country of Niger will also benefit. The economy of western Africa as a whole will reap benefits.

The EU and Japan have joined forces and are right now in the process of constructing precisely those quality roads.

This example of Burkina Faso should serve as a model for the cooperation we are pressing forward in various places in Africa.

One month ago, at the Seventh Tokyo International Conference on African Development, convened by my government, Japan made a pledge to the more than 40 national leaders who assembled.

That pledge was to provide quality infrastructure and make every possible effort to provide assistance so that the recipients will not be ensnared in debt. This is the very same as the pledge the EU is carrying out towards Africa.

The Government of Japan will from now choose ten priority countries in Africa each year for the next three years, for a gross total of thirty countries, and provide their officials with training in sovereign debt and risk management. To Ghana and Zambia, we have decided to send advisers on debt management and macroeconomic management.

It is we, the EU and Japan, who are able to provide connectivity in every domain, from transport,

telecommunications, electricity, and the free flow of data with trust, to outer space.

Whether it's distributing finance or building up civil society, whenever the EU and Japan work together, we have the ability to create an immeasurable synergistic effect. Let's put that to the test. Let's give it a try, shall we?


Let me say in closing that at this very moment in Japan the Rugby World Cup is reaching its climax.

On October 22, the enthronement ceremony of His Majesty the Emperor will be held, and leaders from countries all around the globe will attend.

And next year, the Olympic and Paralympic Games will take place. In 2025, it will be the World Expo. I very much look forward to you coming to visit Japan.

All those events teach the Japanese one eternal truth.

It is by connecting with each other that humans can be humans. When we are connected, our societies and our countries become stronger. It is the truth that connectivity is a major bridge linking people, societies, and countries to the future.

Moreover, Japan and Europe, now linked by an EPA and an SPA, are able to cooperate with each other to build a number of bridges to the future.

Jean-Claude, there is nothing that reassures the Japanese people as much as this.

Would you perhaps understand if I said it is a feeling similar to how the crew of a ship sailing the ocean at night feels reassured by the sidelight of a consort ship.

Jean-Claude, I take pride in the path that we have walked thus far and the achievements we have made along the way.

With that, I will end my remarks. Thank you so much for listening.