ASEAN’s 55th Anniversary Celebrated during Joint IRSEA-The Habibie Center Webinar

ASEAN’s 55th Anniversary Celebrated during Joint IRSEA-The Habibie Center Webinar

On October 19th, 2022, the Romanian Institute for Europe-Asia Studies (IRSEA), represented by its Founding President,H.E. Ambassador (p) Gheorghe Savuica, and The Habibie Center (THC), from Jakarta, Indonesia, represented by its Executive Director, Mohammad Hasan Ansori, PhD, have jointly held a webinar themed “Romania in EU, Indonesia in ASEAN – Vivid Promoters within the EU-ASEAN Strategic Partnership”, in cooperation with Faculty of International Economic Relations, Bucharest University of Economic Studies (ASE), under the guidance of Vice-Dean, Prof. Anca Ilie, PhD, Centre for International Cooperation and Development Studies (IDC), Department of Comparative Governance and European Studies, Faculty of Political Science, Bucharest University, under the guidance of Director, Assoc. Prof. Luciana Alexandra Ghica, PhD, and the Faculty of Theology, Letters, History and Arts, University of Piteşti, under the guidance of Dean, Assoc. Prof. Constantin-Augustus Bărbulescu, PhD. On behalf of the Indonesian side, the webinar benefited the participation of the European Studies Department, School of Strategic and Global Studies, University of Indonesia, under the guidance of Dr. Polit. Sc. Henny Saptatia D.N., the International Relations Department, Faculty of Political and Social Sciences, Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University Jakarta, under the guidance of Faisal Nurdin Idris, PhD and the Foreign Policy Community of Indonesia (FPCI), under the guidance of Raynaldi Herdiansyah.

The webinar, graciously moderated by Ms. Mabda Haerunnisa Fajrilla Sidiq, Researcher of THC, has been attended by over 70 university professors and students. The event explored the role played by the two state actors in their communities, i.e. European Union (EU) and Association of Southeast Asian Countries (ASEAN), respectively. While geographically distant, the two countries share many commonalities, especially in the light of their excellent bilateral relations, as well as of their positions, roles, and responsibilities at regional level, i.e. EU, respectively ASEAN. The EU-ASEAN relationship has been elevated to Strategic Partnership in 2020.

In this regard, their past achievements and future opportunities both at bilateral and regional levels represent a focal point of interest for students, scholars, and professionals of international relations alike.

To answer the robust interest toward the two countries and two communities, respectively, as well as to celebrate ASEAN’s 55th birthday, IRSEA and THC have teamed together to provide their respective audiences with the most qualified keynote speakers on the matter.

H.E. Minister Leonard Orban, Romania’s former Chief Negotiator with the European Union, subsequently Minister of European Affairs and Presidential Adviser on EU Affairs, Romania’s first Member of the European Commission, conveyed to the audience his thoughts and insights.

The Minister showcased the „profound positive changes for the country and for its people” in the aftermath of Romania’s accession to the European Union. In this regard, the Minister pinpointed the „overall evolution of the Romanian country and society”, recalling that the country’s GDP has registered a threefold increase and the free movement for people in all its forms has brought more stability and prosperity. As part of the European decision-making process, the country can and does promote its national position and interest. Politically, Romania has consolidated its status by demonstrating it is a credible partner at the European level and a constant advocate of the European process. Financially, since its accession, Romania has received over 50 billion euro since 2007, compared to its previous budget.

The period of Romania’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union – Minister Orban noted – has been widely regarded as one of the most successful presidencies in the history of the European Union. According to Minister Orban, also a former Presidential Adviser, currently Professor at the Romanian-American University, Romania has proven its capacity to add value to the EU, having been recognised at all European levels. Consequently, Romania is currently considered a reliable partner and has grown aș a responsible actor within the Union.

Professor Orban further talked about the agenda of consensus and cohesion promoted by Romania within the EU, in the light of the constantly changing international environment. The country’s constant organisational vision and strategic capacity have been the most striking characteristics of Romania within the EU.

Minister Orban, directly responsible with the preparation of the Sibiu Summit and the Sibiu Declaration, stressed the milestone role played by the Declaration in further straightening the cohesion and organisational process of the Union.

Shofwan Al Banna Choiruzzad, PhD, Executive Secretary of the ASEAN Study Center, Faculty of Social and Political Sciences, University of Indonesia, also an Assistant Professor and former Head of the Undergraduate Programme of his department, shared his thoughts over ASEAN’s establishment and development process, as well as the current goals of the regional association.

In this regard, he noted, since the establishment of ASEAN, especially in the ‘80s and ‘90s, the Southeast Asian organisation has played a very positive role in maintaining the stability of the region. ASEAN is an important entity which has significantly changed the outlook of Southeast Asia from a conflicting one to a stable one. The professor pointed it was exactly ASEAN’s non-conflicting orientation that rendered it successful, while other previous defensive regional organisations, such as SEATO, failed.

According to the Indonesian scholar, ASEAN’s most important premise is to prioritize economic development and enable economic development by political stability. The scholar further moved on to pinpoint the Declaration of Zone of Peace, Freedom, and Neutrality (ZOPFAN), the establishment of the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta and the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC) as some of the most important milestones reached by ASEAN, as well as the association’s tendency towards East Asian integration, visible in formats such as ASEAN+3.

In his lecture, Shofwan also pinpointed the “increasing distrust in the region” and the consequences of the War in Ukraine over the Southeast and East Asian geostrategic outlook. At the same time, the Indonesian scholar appreciated that the Ukraine crisis has also created distrust toward the international institutions, which seem not to work effectively to refrain from such events.

With regard to Indonesia’s priorities for 2023, when the country will hold the ASEAN Chairmanship, the Professor expects historical achievements. Trying to strengthen ASEAN Centrality in the increasingly complicated Indo-Pacific context, identifying synergies between the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific and the Global Security Initiative, prioritising the peaceful resolution of the Myanmar crisis and finalizing the negotiations for the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea might count among Indonesia’s achievements as the ASEAN Chair in 2023.

The two keynote speakers agreed there are excellent premises for both Romania and Indonesia to upgrade their relations, considering such a development as an important step forward in a world where geopolitical tensions are increasing, the global economic recession is looming and cooperation among countries and communities seems to be the only way toward mutual progress.

In the aftermath of the two presentations and dialogue between the keynote speakers, questions have been raised on behalf of the audience. Prof. Luciana Ghica, University of Bucharest, showcased the importance of environmental protection and pointed out the need to identify synergies between the EU and ASEAN in order to work towards common goals on the matter. The participants – mostly postgraduate students – also addressed questions with regard to the Ukraine crisis and the actions to be taken by Romania in the context of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, as well as concerning the preparations and the expected results from the G20 Summit to be hosted by Indonesia in November 2022. The keynote speakers provided elaborated answers to all questions, noting the highly intellectually stimulating environment.

In his remarks, H.E. Ambassador (p) Gheorghe Savuica, Founding President of IRSEA, expressed his appreciation toward the quality of the webinar and the outstandingly insightful remarks of both speakers. At the same time, Ambassador Savuica stressed the importance of closer and deepen cooperation between Romania and Indonesia, noting the favourable conditions and necessity to elevate the bilateral relations at the partnership level. Certainly, the Founding President of IRSEA mentioned, such a framework will create the premises for further extending EU-ASEAN relations. IRSEA’s Founding President similarly noted that Romania has been the first country in the former socialist bloc to recognise ASEAN – since its very creation – as a regional economic organisation.

Prof. Mohammad Hasan Ansori, PhD, Executive Director of THC, conveyed his vote of thanks to the participants and his particular appreciation for the keynote speakers.

H.E. Mr. Muhammad Amhar Azeth, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Indonesia to Romania, expressed his sincere appreciation for the success of the webinar celebrating ASEAN’s 55 anniversary through a letter read by Ambassador (p) Savuica. His Excellency noted the webinar represents “another brick laid in the consolidation of the bilateral relations of our countries”, showcasing his appreciation for the dedication of Ambassador Gheorghe Savuica, “a good friend of Indonesia”. The Ambassador greeted the students present at the event and invited the Romanian students to apply for the Scholarships provided by the Indonesian Government through the Embassy of Indonesia to Romania.

THC has been a partner of IRSEA since 2008, the two organisations have recently renewed their cooperation framework. THC was established by Bacharuddin Jusuf Habibie and his family as an independent, non-governmental, and non-profit organization with a vision to advance modernization and democratization efforts in Indonesia based on morality, cultural integrity, and religious values. Its mission is to creating a culturally and structurally democratic society that recognizes, respects, and upholds human rights, as well as examines and raises issues of democratic development and human rights, and to promote and improve human resource management and technology socialization efforts. This mission is used as the basis for strategic development programs in THC's agenda, which includes democratization and human rights, human resources in the fields of science and technology, media and information, marine resources, dissemination and dissemination of technology, as well as network formation and cooperation.


Established by Ambassador (p) Gheorghe Savuica as Romania’s first independent, autonomous, not-for-profit think-tank particularly dedicated to the study of Europe-Asia Relations, IRSEA has paid close attention to the political, strategic, economic and cultural aspects in Southeast Asia and ASEAN. Besides a consistent track of national and international cooperation, the Romanian think-tank has designed and developed several inclusive dialogue platforms, such as IRSEA Distinguished Speakers, IRSEA Roundtable, IRSEA Diplomatic Training Programme, as well as research programmes, weekly foreign policy briefings and occasional papers on Asia-Europe studies.