European member countries need to engage more deeply with the Asian Development Bank, both on practical matters as well as for strategic purposes. As the authors of this report point out, European countries have an interest in a prosperous and stable Asia–Pacific region and stand to benefit from deeper cooperation and integration. The ADB has made significant contributions on both fronts since its establishment in 1966. The Bank is now facing the challenge of adapting to a rapidly evolving environment in order to maintain legitimacy. Its role in sustaining and furthering development, stability and regional cooperation will only increase in importance in the years to come.
This Clingendael report assesses the operations of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and provides analysis of the Bank’s relevance for its 17 European member countries today and tomorrow. The authors also offer a set of policy recommendations to the Dutch and other European governments that have to adapt to the shifting regional and global power balances of which the ADB is, in a sense, symptomatic. The report focuses on the economic, political and geostrategic importance of the Bank.
Dutch political debate
The time is ripe to discuss the relevance of the ADB for European member states, including the Netherlands. The Bank holds relevance in the context of the January 2014 policy advice by the Dutch Advisory Council for International Affairs (AIV), which discusses the importance and consequences of the rise of Asia and recommends that the Dutch government promotes EU activism in the field of institution building in the Asia-Pacific. Also, the ADB is the subject of debate in the Dutch House of Representatives on 11 February 2014.
Economic, political and strategic relevance
One important reason for European governments to engage with the ADB lies in the Bank's contributions to prosperity and security in the Asia-Pacific. Yet the Bank also provides more direct benefits in the economic and political-strategic sense. The ADB positively contributes to European countries' economic diplomacy - not just in terms of procurement opportunities but, more importantly, also by assisting the creation of more rules-based, transparent and stable markets and governments. For the Netherlands, the ADB's activities in the increasingly relevant Asian water sector are of particular interest. On the political-strategic front, the ADB's relevance should be considered in the wider context of its geography and global power shifts.
A pipe of communication
Membership of the ADB offers European countries valuable opportunities to reinforce ties with players that are quickly strengthening their role and influence in the changing world of international politics and economics. Furthermore, the Bank’s non-Western diplomatic style – which is discernible in both normative and practical terms – provides valuable lessons on how to operate successfully in tomorrow’s world, wherein European countries will be less influential.