Potential of Stronger Lao-EU Cooperation
H.E. Ms Ina Marčiulionytė, the EU Ambassador in Laos
Interview by Dr Pick Keobandith, Founder and International Director, Inspiring Culture
Laos works in cooperation with many countries, the main ones being China and from ASEAN, but it also has a lesser known partnership with the European Union. While Laos isn’t itself a major partner of the world’s largest single market area, it is part of the East and South-East Asian regions, which are. In an interview with Ms Ina Marčiulionytė, the EU Ambassador in Laos, we take a look at Lao-EU cooperation and its potential significance for both peoples.
- What are the key areas of cooperation between the EU and Laos?
The EU and Laos have collaborated for many years; I personally arrived in Laos as the second resident EU Ambassador in 2020, just before the EU and Laos celebrated 45 years of diplomatic relations. Since 1975, the relationship between the EU and the Lao PDR has developed steadily and in a wide range of fields. Our cooperation, in my opinion, is two-tracked, with broad development cooperation on the one hand and political dialogue on the other. The EU places a high priority on partnerships and connectivity with Asia, because two regions combined account for 65% of global GDP, 60% of world’s population, and 55% of worldwide trade. Due to our support for a global order founded on rules, the Lao PDR is one of our discussion partners as we work to build a peaceful, sustainable and interconnected future.
The EU has over 25 years experience with aid programmes in terms of development cooperation. During this time, the European Union has invested roughly 2,8 trillion LAK in various initiatives in Laos; when combined with the bilateral aid of the EU Member States, the value of the European help has been 9,25 billion LAK in just the last 10 years. The Sustainable Development Goals and Agenda 2030 and Laos ambition to graduate from the LDC category status by 2026 are all supported by the European Union as a dependable partner in Laos’ socioeconomic development agenda. Working as one Team Europe, the European Union, Member States, and Switzerland have significantly increased the effectiveness of our assistance and deepened the policy dialogue which we highly value.
Our current Team Europe Strategy for Lao PDR 2021-2025 is closely aligned with Laos’ national development priorities, focusing on three key areas: Engage in a green and inclusive economic partnership that delivers mutual benefits for our people; Support the development of the human resource capacity; and Promote good governance and human rights. Together, these financial commitments total about 550 million euros. Team Europe in the Lao PDR specifically supports initiatives in agricultural and rural development, environmental protection and natural resource management, private sector development, trade an tourism; education, particularly technical vocational education and training, health and good governance. Actions taken within this framework provide women, youth, digitalisation, decent work, nutrition, and cooperation with civil society organisations special emphasis.
Our belief in a partnership of equals in a political dialogue and development cooperation with Laos acknowledges Laos’ committment to sustainable and inclusive growth as well as the active role Laos can play in achieving our global objectives to fight poverty, advance peace and stability, combat climate change, and safeguard the envoirnment.
• You have now been in Vientiane for more than two years, what are your impressions about the country and its people?
Europeans still need to learn more about the Lao PDR because they still don’t know enough about it. I adore Laos and the kind, nice people who are always happy to appreciate the country’s rich cultural legacy. Lao and ethnic groups textiles have such a wide range! I really hope that the country’s rich historic architecture would be well preserved for upcoming generations because it significantly enhances the beauty of the nation. We were happy to draw attention to this topic with the exhibition, devoted to Lao culture heritage.
Of course, Lao coffee is becoming more popular in Europe as more of us drink high-quality coffee and begin to learn about delicious Lao coffee and promote it for European market.
Lao fauna is one of the richest in Asia, but regrettably little recognised even by those with an interest
in eco-tourism. We must effectively market it.
• Among everything that Laos has to offer, commercially and culturally, what would you most recommend to Europeans?
Lao PDR is a country that Europeans need to learn more about. As I already indicated, Laos may become particularly popular for eco-tourism. Since Laos has so much to offer, culture tourism is very important to note. As we see the potential in Laos, particularly in coffee, tea, sustainable wood processing industries, the EU delegation and entire \Team Europe are striving to attract more European investment there.We anticipate that “made in Laos” goods will gain popularity in European markets. I want to be clear that I think that Lao businesswomen have a lot of promise as well. They are intelligent, hard working and deserving of assistance.
H.E. Ms Ina Marčiulionytė
- EU Ambassador for Lao PDR, September 2020 – Present
- Ambassador, Lithuanian embassy in the PR of China, September 2015 – September 2020
- Director of Latin America, Africa, Asia and Pacific department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania, July 2012 – September 2015