In the context of the COVID-19 epidemic evolving in a complex manner, ASEAN has no choice but to carry out the dual task of epidemic control and economic recovery while promoting cooperation within the bloc and with other partners.
|Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Nguyen Quoc Dung (R) says COVID-19 control and economic recovery will be highlighted at the 36th ASEAN Summit this week|
VOV: How has COVID-19 affected the agenda Vietnam has set for the ASEAN Chairmanship 2020? What has Vietnam done to help the grouping weather the storm?
Deputy FM Dung: Vietnam began to prepare for the ASEAN Chairmanship 2020 from early 2019 and at that time the world had no concept of COVID-19. But the global COVID-19 outbreak put our plan into reverse, forcing us to consider swift changes and responses to adapt to the new situation.
Another difficulty is that when the COVID-19 epidemic broke out, all countries of course prioritized dealing with the disease first. Therefore, as ASEAN Chair, Vietnam had to shift ASEAN cooperation from carrying out normal tasks to responding to COVID-19, and such changes received strong support from regional countries.
Right from the beginning of February this year, before the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, Vietnam offered to work with other ASEAN countries to issue an ASEAN Chair’s Statement in response to COVID-19.
On February 14, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, as ASEAN Chair 2020, exchanged views with leaders of regional countries and issued the statement. At the same time, ASEAN set up a foreign ministerial level coordination mechanism for COVID-19 prevention and a vice foreign ministerial-level working group on responding to medical emergency.
On April 14, ASEAN leaders approved specific measures this working group had proposed, in an attempt to unite the bloc to effectively cope with the epidemic.
VOV: How will Vietnam realize the theme For a Cohesive and Responsive ASEAN in the context of the COVID-19 epidemic?
Deputy FM Dung: Cohesiveness does not only mean solidarity and unity but also specific cooperation to bring about shared benefits. The recent united fight against the COVID-19 disease is testimony to this endeavor. ASEAN countries have carried out citizen protection work, shared experience in combating the disease, and provided medical supplies to each other.
Responsiveness means when something happens, ASEAN members promptly meet and adopt measures to respond to COVID-19 effectively.
As the COVID-19 epidemic is yet to be under control and we do not know when it will come to an end, ASEAN leaders have assigned their ministers and officials to draw up a recovery plan, aimed at cushioning the impact of the epidemic and gradually getting ASEAN cooperation back on track.
VOV: Vietnam has already gone halfway through the ASEAN Chairmanship 2020. What will it do to promote the theme for the rest of the year?
Deputy FM Dung: As I said ASEAN concentrated its efforts on coping with the COVID-19 epidemic in the first half of the year, but it did not forget to undertake plans and initiatives drawn up at the beginning of the year.
However, there is still a lot of work to do in the remaining six months of the year, requiring us to focus more on the implementation of Vietnam’s initiatives. In other words, ASEAN will have to carry out a dual task of epidemic control and economic recovery while promoting cooperation within the bloc and with other partners.
VOV: The 36th ASEAN Summit will be held on June 26, so what are the major highlights of this event?
Deputy FM Dung: The most important issue, of course, is responding to COVID-19 and resuming activities affected by the pandemic.
Along with that is the implementation of Vietnam's initiatives, including mid-term review till 2025, development plans to achieve ASEAN Vision post 2025, and communication campaigns to elevate ASEAN’s image regionally and globally.
Vietnam has proposed raising the ASEAN flag, using the ASEAN anthem and having its own path at airports. It is not easy for the initiative to be endorsed because countries have different laws, but as far as I know countries are adjusting to implement it.VOV: Thank you very much.