The European Union Centre (EU Centre) in Singapore was set up in 2008 by the National University of Singapore (NUS) and Nanyang Technological University (NTU) with generous co-funding from the European Union. The first grant from the European Union was for the period from mid-2008 – December 2012. Supported by contributions from the two host universities, NUS and NTU, the EU Centre was able to carry out an impressive range of outreach activities to promote better understanding of the European Union (EU) and its policies, and more importantly, to build up knowledge about the EU through dialogue, research and publications on policies and on EU relations with Singapore and Southeast Asia.
The EU Centre is very broad based and works with different partners and institutions, from Embassies, government agencies to research organisations, think tanks and business federations. We organised a variety of activities and events, from public talks and lectures to academic seminars and conferences and also training workshops in order to reach out to different audiences. We make particular efforts to reach out to the youths through our schools outreach programme, and also through different competitions – from photography to films, essays to infographics.
Our efforts were recognised, and we were given another grant from the EU for 2013-2016, with continued support from the two host universities, NUS and NTU. As the EU Centre attempts to reach out to Southeast Asia, and to contribute to greater dialogue and cooperation between the EU and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA) was brought in as a partner in this second grant period. SIIA was a founding member of the ASEAN-ISIS network, a network of international and strategic studies think tanks in Southeast Asia with considerable policy influence.
During these eight years (2008 – 2016), the EU Centre organised over 200 events, an average of 2-3 events a month, published 6 books and monographs and developed a series working papers, background briefs and policy briefs. We also made an effort to publish all our conference proceedings and provide short summaries, write ups and reports of all our lectures, seminars, panel discussions and workshops in order to reach a wider audience beyond those who attended these events. We also started a weekly news summary service providing nuggets of information on developments in Europe which has been well received.
The Centre was also very active in its networking and collaboration with other EU Centres in the Asia Pacific and also with think tanks and universities in Europe. It initiated the annual Asia-Pacific EU Centres’ researchers / experts Roundtable and also took on the task of producing the bi-annual regional newsletter for the Centres and Institutes in Asia.
Despite its very small outfit, the EU Centre has made an impact on Singapore as reflected in its participation in the SG50 celebrations1. We published with the World Scientific Publishing Company (a leading publisher in Singapore of scientific and policy books) a commemorative book on 50 Years of Singapore-Europe Relations: Celebrating Singapore’s Connections with Europe. The book was launched in Singapore and Brussels, exposing a wide audience to the very rich and multifaceted ties between Singapore, the EU and its member states. Within this short period of 8 years, we have also build a firm reputation as a reliable and dynamic organisation and have worked with many different institutions and agencies (both in Singapore and abroad) to multiply the impact and visibility of our work.
The EU Centre reached out beyond Singapore through competition opened to youths and young adults from Southeast Asia – from infographics to documentary film competitions to an EU-ASEAN Policy Design competition. We also worked actively to encourage EU-ASEAN dialogue and besides the fact that the Director participated often in such policy dialogues, the Centre had also co-organised a few events in Brussels.
The EU Centre in Singapore was part of the larger global network of Centres supported by the EU through the Industrialised Country Instrument (ICI). The grants from the EU to support the EU Centre in Singapore during 2008-2016 came from this Instrument.
In 2014, the EU with its new 7-year Multiannual Financial Framework, decided to scrap the ICI, and instead created the Partnership Instrument (PI) to support its public diplomacy and outreach programme. The EU then announced that the support for activities of the EU Centres in the Asia Pacific will transition to a new model based on application procedures operated through the global Jean Monnet Programme under the EU’s Erasmus Plus Initiative.
With this new development, the EU Centre in Singapore has also been “reconfigured”. The EU Centre in Singapore is now supported by the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and the Singapore Management University (SMU) together with funding from NUS and the EU for the Jean Monnet network. With this new arrangement, the EU Centre in Singapore will be more focused on education, policy dialogue and research. Together with its external Jean Monnet partners – Universitas Indonesia, University of Malaya and Maastricht University, the EU Centre is committed to programmes and activities revolving around two research themes – Multiculturalism and Multilateralism.
The EU Centre will build a platform for both intra-ASEAN and EU-ASEAN exchange, to strengthen research collaboration and policy dialogue. More importantly, we want to build and grow a network of institutions and researchers / experts in Southeast Asia and Europe that would sustain an ongoing dialogue, build up the knowledge base and promote policy-relevant research into the common challenges we face in Southeast Asia and Europe and between ASEAN and the EU.
1 2015 saw a year of celebrations in Singapore to mark Singapore’s 50 years of independence. This was collectively referred to as SG50 celebrations, and included the publication of 50 books dealing with different aspects of Singapore’s policies and its external relations.