The emergence of Asia is of global significance. Getting EU relations right with this diverse and dynamic region is one of the major challenges facing Europe.
Asia matters – for Europe. And Europe matters – for Asia.
It is with this simple premise in mind that the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) was created in 1996 and why it has since become a key forum for dialogue and cooperation between Europe and Asia, with an ever-growing number of partners involved. ASEM currently has 53 partners (more than double the original 26 in 1996) and represents nearly 60% of the world’s GDP and more than 60% of the world’s population.
It provides a stable platform to foster political dialogue and reinforce economic cooperation as well as collaboration in various other areas, including in socio-cultural and global issues. ASEM enhances mutual understanding and awareness through dialogue and cooperation on priority issues and by working together to translate challenges into opportunities. ASEM is an informal process, based on equal partnership, mutual respect and benefit.
The origins of ASEM lie in the recognition, in both Asia and Europe, that the relationship between the two regions needs to be strengthened.
In July 1994, the European Commission published a Communication entitled «Towards a New Strategy for Asia», stressing the importance of modernising the EU’s relationship with Asia and of reflecting properly its political, economic and cultural significance. The Commission Communication of September 2001 («Europe and Asia: A Strategic Framework for Enhanced Partnerships») reaffirmed this objective.
ASEM is an open and evolutionary process; its enlargement is conducted on the basis of consensus by leaders. The ASEM family has grown consistently since its creation.
ASEM at work:
Every two years, ASEM Heads of State and Government meet to set ASEM's priorities. They are also attended by the Presidents of the European Council and of the European Commission, and the ASEAN Secretary General. These Summits are held alternatively in Asia and Europe and serve as the highest level of decision-making in the ASEM process.
In the years between the summits, a meeting of the ASEM Ministers of Foreign Affairs (ASEM FMM) traditionally takes place to provide further momentum to ASEM cooperation and dialogue.
In addition to the summits and foreign ministers' meetings, numerous other meetings of ministers, officials and experts are held regularly to address political, economic, cultural, social and education-related issues. Dialogue topics cover a wide range of issues, including finance, trade, culture, education, human rights, disaster preparedness, transport, immigration, climate change, piracy at sea, information technology, food security, development, employment, energy security and global governance. Beyond government-level meetings, ASEM also brings together members of parliament, the business sector, civil society, academia and the media.
As ASEM has no permanent secretariat, the Foreign Ministers and their senior officials (SOM) have an overall coordinating role within the ASEM process, and are assisted in this by an informal group of coordinators (two from the Asian side and two from the European side).
ASEM is based on three pillars:
- The Political Pillar which addresses issues including the fight against terrorism, a common response to international security threats, global environmental issues, management of migratory flows, human rights, welfare of women and children, etc.
- The Economic and Financial Pillar to promote growth and employment, enhancing cooperation on global financial issues, dialogue in priority industrial sectors, fostering connectivity between the two regions, etc.
- The Social, Cultural, Intellectual Pillar which ensures a wide range of enhanced contacts and dialogue between the two regions on topics such as education, social protection and employment, and co-operation on the protection of cultural heritage.
The Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF) was established within ASEM in order to promote greater mutual understanding between Asia and Europe through intellectual, cultural and people-to-people exchanges.
EU and the ASEM process:
The permanent coordinator for the European Union is the European External Action Service. The ASEM Dialogue Facility was created by the European Commission in 2008 to enhance support for the ASEM process, to strengthen ASEM coordination and provide a solid platform for sustainable ASEM cooperation. Given the increasing number of countries involved in the ASEM process and their diversity, the Facility also aims to ensure balanced participation of less-developed countries in the ASEM dialogue.
The EU makes a substantial financial contribution to the Trans-Eurasia Information Network (TEIN) which was launched at the 2rd ASEM Summit in 2000 and provides a large-scale research and education data-communications network for the Asia-Pacific region.
For additional information and a full list of documents regarding all summits and meetings, please consult the ASEM InfoBoard