European Union External Action

Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM)

17/05/2016 - 17:16
Relations with International Organisations and Fora

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

The Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) is a unique, informal platform for dialogue and cooperation between Asia and Europe on the big challenges of a fast-changing world, such as Connectivity, trade and investment, climate change, but also broad security challenges such as counter-terrorism, migration, maritime security and cyber issues. Bringing together 53 partners from across Europe and Asia, ASEM is the main multilateral platform linking Europe and Asia with significant global weight: ASEM partners represent around 65% of global GDP, 60% of global population, 75% of global tourism and 68% of global trade.

ASEM main purpose is to provide a platform to foster political dialogue, strengthen economic cooperation and tackle global challenges together. In many respects, recent developments in the international landscape have increased the value of ASEM as a key building block for an open, cooperative and rules-based international system.

ASEM is conducted as an informal and flexible process on the basis of equal partnership, mutual respect and mutual benefit. ASEM aims to promote the exchange of ideas and best practices and thus act as a breeding ground for new policy ideas. In short, ASEM is the most influential comprehensive partnership between Asia and Europe, boosting Connectivity in all its dimensions between the two regions.

ASEM leaflet and factsheet

The initial ASEM partnership which was inaugurated in Bangkok, Thailand on 1-2 March 1996 consisted of just 15 EU member states and 7 ASEAN member states plus China, Japan, Korea and the European Commission. Today ASEM comprises 51 partner countries: the 27 Member States of the European Union [1] plus Norway, Switzerland and the United Kingdom on the European side and the 10 ASEAN countries [2] plus Australia, Bangladesh, China, India, Japan, Kazakhstan, the Republic of Korea, Mongolia, New Zealand, Pakistan and Russia on the Asian side. It also includes two institutional partners: the European Union and the ASEAN Secretariat.


[1] Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden.

[2] Association of Southeast Asian Nations: Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.


ASEM works through meetings and activities organised at different levels.

The ASEM Summit is a meeting between the 51 Heads of State or Government, the President of the European Council, the President of the European Commission, and the Secretary-General of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The summits are held every second year, alternating between Asia and Europe.

Ministerial Meetings are organised in-between the ASEM Summits, gathering ministers of foreign affairs, finance, economics, labour and employment, culture, education, transport and environment. Occasionally other ministerial conferences are held on specific issues and areas that are not covered by the main ministerial meetings.

Senior Officials' Meetings (SOM) bring together high-level civil servants from the Foreign Ministries of all ASEM partners for the overall coordination of the ASEM process. Sectoral SOMs are also held in preparation of the various Ministerial meetings.

Activities and initiatives are organised by ASEM partners on a wide range of issues of mutual interest. A full overview of all ASEM meetings can be found at the ASEM InfoBoard:

At the 12th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) Summit, which took place on 18 and 19 October 2018 in Brussels, leaders addressed the topics of connectivity and support for multilateralism under the heading "Europe and Asia: global partners for global challenges".

The next Summit will be held in Cambodia on the 25-26 November 2021.

ASEM has no secretariat. Foreign ministers and their senior officials have an overall coordinating role within the ASEM process. They are assisted in this by an informal group of coordinators: two from the Asian side (currently Singapore representing the ASEAN and Russia the non-ASEAN (NESA) countries) and two from the European side (the European External Action Service (EEAS) as the permanent coordinator and the rotating EU Presidency).

The ASEM Family

The Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF) is an international non-profit organisation, based in Singapore, with the aim to promote cultural ties and foster people-to-people contacts between both civil society and business leaders from the two regions.

The Asia-Europe Parliamentary Partnership (ASEP) promotes cooperation between parliaments in Europe and Asia and offers parliamentarians an opportunity to influence the ASEM process.

The Asia-Europe Peoples’ Forum (AEPF) is the ‘grass roots’ level of ASEM and serves as an interregional network of civil society and societal movements across Asia and Europe.

The Asia-Europe Business Forum (AEBF) aims to enhance business-to-business dialogue
and cooperation between the two regions and to provide opportunity for interaction between business and political leaders.

The Asia-Europe Labour Forum (AELF) consists of trade union centres that engage the ASEM process to make social justice and development central in the agenda of ASEM Ministers and Heads of State.

The ASEM Cultural Festival takes place each year in the sidelines of the Summits or the Foreign Ministers meetings to strengthen inter-cultural dialogue among ASEM partners. 


  • 1994 Singapore and France propose that an EU- Asia summit meeting be held, to consider how to build a new partnership between the two regions.
  • 1996 The first ASEM Summit is held in Bangkok in March 1996, with 15 EU member states and 10 Asian countries participating, as well as the European Commission. Since then, the ASEM family has continued to grow through successive rounds of enlargement to 53 ASEM Partners today.
  • 2006 ASEM celebrates its 10th anniversary by adopting the ‘Helsinki Declaration on the Future of ASEM’, reasserting ASEM’s role as a catalyst in EU- Asia relations
  • 2016 ASEM marks its 20th anniversary Summit in Mongolia, looking forward to the challenges of the 21st century.
  • 2018 On 18-19 October 2018, the EU hosts the 12th ASEM Summit under the title ‘Global Partners for Global Challenges’ aiming to chart a common response to pressing global ages.
  • 2021 ASEM celebrates its 25th anniversary, reaffirming its role as the most comprehensive partnership between Asia and Europe, crossing hands across continents