The visit, the first made by an European Council President to Vietnam since EU-Vietnam diplomatic ties were set up in 1990, is to highlight the EU’s appreciation of the increasing role and position that Vietnam plays in the dynamic Asian region, as well as to study the country’s socio-economic development, renewal and international integration.

During the visit, measures to strengthen bilateral ties in the broader framework of the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA,) as well as at regional and international multilateral forums will be tabled for discussion.

Since the EU officially opened its representative mission in Hanoi in 1996, bilateral ties have developed rapidly. The EU has become one of Vietnam ’s leading partners especially in economics, trade and investment, making an active contribution to the country’s socio-economic development and international economic integration.

In June 2005, the Vietnamese Prime Minister approved a plan to develop Vietnam-EU relations by 2010 with a view to 2015, focusing on building an ‘equal partnership with comprehensive and long-term cooperation’ between Vietnam and the EU.

After nine rounds of talks from June 2008 to October 2010, the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) was initialled on the sidelines of the 8 th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM-8) in Belgium on October 4, 2010. The agreement was officially signed by Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh and the EU’s Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy in Brussels on June 27, 2012.

The PCA marks a milestone in cooperation between both parties and indicates the broad development of Vietnam-EU relations over the past 20 years, as well as creating a legal foundation for bilateral ties to enter in a new chapter wider scope and at a deeper level.

Senior level visits have regularly exchanged, including Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung’s visit to the European Commission (EC) in October 2010; National Assembly Chairman Nguyen Sinh Hung’s visit to the European Parliament (EP) in December 2011; the visit to Vietnam by EC President Jose Manuel Barroso in November 2007; European Commission Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht visiting in February 2010 and a delegation from the European Parliament in March 2010.

Prime Minister Dung has met with European Council President Herman and EC President Barroso on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul in the Republic of Korea .

Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh also met with the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton, on the fringes of the 19 th ASEAN-Europe Ministerial Meeting (AEMM-19) in Brunei in April 2012 before visiting the EU for the official signing of the PCA in June.

During their meetings, senior officials have stated their appreciation of bilateral ties and their wishes to step up cooperation to match their potential and position.

On economic cooperation, the EU is one of Vietnam ’s leading trade partners with two-way trade increasing by 15-20 per cent each year, from $4.1 billion in 2000 to $24.29 billion in 2011.

The amount exceeded $18 billion in the first eight months of this year, up 23 per cent year on year. Of which, Vietnam’s exports to the EU reached $2.69 billion while its import turnover was $5.75 billion.

The EU is now Vietnam ’s second largest export market, after the US . Vietnam exports mainly footwear, garment, seafood, woodwork, electronics and consumer goods to the EU while it imports machinery, vehicles, pharmaceuticals, fabrics and fertiliser from the market.

In October 2010, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and EC President Barosso announced the start of negotiations for a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA), with the first round held in Hanoi in October 2012.

EU member countries are now the leading investors in Vietnam . By August 2012, 20 EU countries had invested in Vietnam , operating 1,226 projects with a total registered capital of $4.75 billion. Vietnam has 33 projects in 10 EU countries with $107 million in registered capital.

The EU is also the second largest bilateral donor of official development assistance (ODA) and the largest provider of non-refundable aid to Vietnam , with over $13 billion in ODA pledged during 1996-2012.

The EC and EU member countries have worked closely with Vietnam in a number of priority areas such as institutional assistance, science and technology, education, law, health, finance and banking, agriculture, culture and tourism.

Vietnam Investment Review - October 30, 2012

Vietnam considers EU its leading partner

Chairman of the National Assembly Nguyen Sinh Hung has reaffirmed Vietnam’s foreign policy that deem the EU as its leading partner.

At a meeting with President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy in Hanoi on November 1, Hung said Vietnam wants to build an equal partnership and long-term comprehensive cooperation with the EU to foster peace and development in the region and the world.

Expressing his delight at the positive development of bilateral relationship, Hung said the Vietnamese NA and people support the promotion of a strategic partnership and comprehensive cooperation with the EU and its member nations.

The NA Chairman highly valued the June 2012 signing of the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) between Vietnam and the EU as well as the progress of the ongoing negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement, saying that they will lay a firm legal foundation for expanding and deepening bilateral relationship.

He also spoke highly of the growing relationship between the Vietnamese NA and the European Parliament (EP) which has contributed to strengthening broader bilateral ties.

Briefing his guest on the current NA session, Hung said the operation of the Vietnamese legislature is becoming more transparent with tighter supervision of Government activities.

The Vietnamese NA is considering amendments to the 1992 Constitution in order to further ensure the protection of human rights in the new period of national development, he said.

EC President Van Rompuy replied that the present negotiations and signed agreements will enhance EU-Vietnam ties across all fields,

The EU values Vietnam’s role in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and its positive relationships with EU members, he said.

Van Rompuy also expressed his belief that Vietnam will better perform its roles as coordinator for the EU-ASEAN relationship.

The EU has been actively working towards the formal recognition of Vietnam’s market economy, he added.

The President also spoke highly of Question & Answer sessions in the Vietnamese NA, saying that they demonstrate the progress of reforms in its operation.

On the same day the National University of Hanoi granted an honorary doctorate to EC President Van Rompuy.

HCM City seeks more ODA from EU

A Ho Chi Minh City leader has expressed wish that the European Union (EU) will continue providing ODA and non-refundable aid for the Southern economic hub to implement projects on public services, poverty reduction, education and climate change.

At a reception for visiting European Council President Herman Van Rompuy on November 1, Chairman of the HCM City People’s Committee Le Hoang Quan further said that these projects are very significant for Vietnam in general and Ho Chi Minh City in particular.

He expressed his belief that Van Rompuy’s visit will open up a new chapter in the comprehensive relationship between Vietnam and the EU.

According to Quan, HCM City now has 450 representative offices of EU companies and 452 projects invested by EU countries with a total investment of over 3.5 billion USD. In 2011, the city imported more than 1.5 billion EUR worth of goods from the EU while its exports to this market exceeded 2 billion EUR.

Van Rompuy expressed his pleasure to visit Vietnam and Ho Chi Minh City , one of the most dynamic cities in the country as well as in the region.

He said he is impressed by Vietnam’s development during the past two decades, especially in the fields of poverty reduction, political stability and economic growth.

The President affirmed that the EU wishes to further contribute to the development of the country in the coming time.

Recently, the two sides have signed a Partnership and Cooperation Agreement and launched the first round of negotiations for a free trade agreement. Besides, the European Investment Bank has agreed to provide financial packages worth 640 million EUR for Vietnam.

In Ho Chi Minh City, the bank has participated in a project to build a metro line as well as several other projects.

Earlier the same day, the Hanoi National University granted an Honorary Doctorate to the European Council President for his significant contributions on the development of the relationship between Vietnam and European countries.

VietNamNet Bridge - November 2, 2012