The Decade of EU-Japan Cooperation: Part III
John de Boer (University of Tokyo & GLOCOM Platform)
The third objective in the Decade of EU-Japan Cooperation is one that will without a doubt provide the most concrete and tangible benefits for the EU and Japan. However, as both admit this objective also represents the most significant challenges that the two communities currently face. Under this third objective Japan and the EU have committed to cooperate in order to "Cope with Global and Societal Challenges". The idea behind this initiative is to pool resources in order to combat issues that cannot be dealt with adequately on a unilateral basis. These challenges include combating terrorism; transnational crime and drugs; environmental problems; health issues; food safety; energy issues; bioethics; science and technology; aging society; unemployment; education; gender equality; urban traffic control; clean urban transport; maritime safety; aircraft noise; and satellite navigation. Originally, terrorism was left off of the list when it was compiled back on 19 July 2000. However, in light of the events on 11 September 2001 combating terrorism was abruptly included as a global challenge that required close cooperation.
The first sentence under the category of "Coping with Global and Societal Challenges" in the Action Plan for the Decade of EU-Japan Cooperation was dedicated to fighting terrorism. The statement outlined that "the events of 11 September 2001 showed that we (the EU and Japan) have to cooperate - multilaterally and bilaterally - to fight as a priority terrorism in all its expressions and whatever its cause". Towards this end the EU and Japan pledged to work for the smooth and rapid implementation of relevant counter-terrorism conventions and protocols as well as towards the finalization of the UN Comprehensive Convention against International Terrorism. In addition to this, they agreed to enhance cooperation to stop the financing of terrorism, which included the freezing of funds and other financial assets owned by terrorists. Considering that a large number of terrorist organizations are also located beyond European and Japanese borders the two also recognized the importance of reinforcing technical cooperation to developing countries so that they can improve their capacity to fight terrorism.
As a sub-category, fighting transnational crime was also outlined as a priority. Of particular concern to both was the smuggling of migrants, the trafficking in persons, the trafficking in drugs and the illicit manufacturing and trafficking in firearms. Towards this end the exchange of information between the European Police Office (EuroPol) and Japanese police authorities was encouraged as well as the strengthening of their respective criminal judicial systems.
Considering that much international attention has been focused on combating terrorism ever since the war on "terrorism" was declared by the United States it is no surprise that much effort has been invested in pushing the counter-terrorism agenda between Japan and the EU. Both have worked closely to identify the financial assets of terrorists, Japan has quickly moved to set up a specialized international police agency of its own (the Japanese equivalent to the FBI and EuroPol), and the two have contributed a significant amount of troops and resources to assist the US in its war on "terrorism". Unfortunately, for strategic reasons little effort has been directed towards clarifying the definition of terrorism. In fact, it was decided to be far more useful for the US, the EU and Japan to keep the definition ambiguous in order to allow for relative freedom of targeting and military action against suspected terrorist organizations and individuals. Considering the scale of transnational crime, which traffics millions of kilograms worth of drugs, hundreds of thousands of illegal firearms and millions of children, women and men for the purpose of prostitution and slavery each year, this objective should be given at minimum an equal amount of attention and resources as have been recently allocated to fight terrorism. Unfortunately, this is not the case. If governments are able to identify and freeze the accounts and assets of "terrorists" why can't they do the same for those who participate in transnational crime?
Another common challenge identified by the EU and Japan is a phenomenon called the "aging society". Like Japan, many countries in the EU are suffering from a decline in their populations and are simultaneously finding it difficult to maintain their respective health and welfare systems. The initiative put forward by the two has been to promote the idea of "active aging", which focuses on creating new employment activities for the elderly in order to alleviate their "burden" on society and so as to keep them "productive" for the maximum time possible. An international forum has already been held on this issue in Spain with a significant amount of information being shared between developed countries that face this problem. However, to date there have been no concrete initiatives developed in this area. In fact, this issue has drawn much criticism from the developing world, which considers the phenomenon to be a "luxury" as most of their population dies before they reach the age of 60.
In addition to this, gender equality has also been included as a priority area for the two. In order to promote gender equality the two governments have pledged to incorporate gender equality perspectives in all policies both at the national and international levels with the objective of mainstreaming the issue. To date much work remains to be done on this issue and as a matter of fact gender equality does not seem to be a priority for either government as very few concrete initiatives have been taken to change the biased reality against women.
Clearly another key initiative has been the joint effort to combat environmental problems with most attention being focused on understanding climate change. Both have done much to convince the world about the necessity of putting the Kyoto Protocol into effect and have largely succeeded despite their failure to persuade the US. In conjunction to this, the EU and Japan are active against deforestation, desertification and are working to find the path towards sustainable development. Both understand the importance of pursuing novel approaches to promote sustainable development and have tackled this issue through joint projects that incorporate biotechnology. No doubt amazing breakthroughs will be arrived at, however, the Action Plan places no emphasis on educating citizens, businesses and governments so that they will change their hazardous behavior. This is an initiative that needs to be undertaken with considerable effort and resources. Technological discoveries could lead to an alleviation of the severity of the problem, however, without a change in behavior sustainable development is impossible.
Cooperation in science and technology is also an area of great promise. Japan and the EU are forerunners in many fields and have to date engaged in a variety of collaborative projects that have sprung up from the EU-Japan Science and Technology Forum, which began in 1994. Joint projects have been conducted on global warming and water pollution with the Integrated Ocean Drilling Programme, scheduled to start next year. This marks an important initiative that will provide vital information about geo-dynamics. For the future, the EU and Japan are seeking increased cooperation in the area of nuclear fusion and in seismic research. A key aspect of which will include a long-term agreement on nuclear trade and technology for peaceful purposes. Other initiatives underway have to do with resolving problems related to urban traffic, aircraft and maritime safety. Each area of collaboration merits further consideration and will no doubt have a big impact on the future of our world.
Overall, strengthening the dialogue and cooperation between Japan and the EU is critical for societies that are facing a variety of problems many of which pose global risk. Much more remains to be done, however, the first few steps taken in this direction are commendable. It is sincerely hoped that Japan and the EU both follow through on their commitments outlined under this objective. If they do our world will without a doubt be a better place and if they don't the reverse will be true.