European Union External Action

Asia-Europe: remarks by High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell at the press conference following the 14th ASEM Foreign Ministers’ Meeting

Brussels, 17/12/2019 - 06:50, UNIQUE ID: 191216_25

Asia-Europe: remarks by High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell at the press conference following the 14th ASEM Foreign Ministers’ Meeting

Madrid, Spain. 16 December 2019

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I would like to thank the government of Spain on behalf of the European Union for hosting in this beautiful palace that belongs to the national Spanish heritage. I also want to thank his Majesty the King [of Spain Felipe VI] for allowing us to use this beautiful place and for the excellent job done in organising this important ministerial meeting that has been fruitful and I hope opened the door for future cooperation.


The European Union attaches great importance to its partnership with Asia. We have scaled up our cooperation hand in hand with Asian partners in recent years, developing stronger political ties and a deeper security engagement. That so many Asian partners came to Madrid today shows us that that partnership is also important for them. And at a time of many changes in the international landscape we need each other and we need to work more closely together today more than ever.


It is my first international conference as High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy of the European Union. And I am glad to do it here with ASEM which is a unique platform for European and Asian partners for dialogue and engaging in common challenges. Just think that together we represent 55% of global trade, 60% of global population and 65% of global GDP. Two thirds of the World’s revenue is being generated in our countries. These are very impressive numbers and I am sure that we together should be able to make a global difference.


Our theme for the conference, "Asia and Europe: Together for Effective Multilateralism” shows this very well.  I have been drafting together with all the colleagues, let us say a Chair’s statement, but it has been agreed by all of us – although everybody would have liked to say things in a different way on one point or another. I think this statement is a good balance of our work. We have been talking about many subjects and especially about climate change. Today in Spain is an important day also because we have been hosting the last Conference on Climate Change. And we are very much aware that sustainability – we have been saying during our lunch – need to be taken into consideration in its three dimensions, environmental, social and political.


Connectivity has played a very important role in our work. Connectivity between Europe and Asia is at the same time a threat and an opportunity. It is bringing about countries, people and societies. It has very concrete aspects: transports, networks, digital connections but more than that, it is also about people. People to people contacts. Through location and exchanges, common knowledge, research programs, tourism: whatever brings human beings together. This is at the end our endeavour. This is at the end la raison d’être of this meeting. We will meet in one year from now in Cambodia.


My last words must be to thank all the people engaged in organising this conference. You cannot believe how many people have to work in order to make it possible. From the kitchen to the transportation, from translators to the people who strive to reach a common agreement on a text. To all of them, from the most humble activity to the highest intellectual level of all people engaged, thank you very much and nice travel back home. 



Q. Was there any talk about the situation in Hong Kong during the meeting? You spoke about the possibility of a free trade agreement between Europe and Asia. Do you see the possibility of a trade agreement between all the countries in ASEM? Quería preguntarle sobre un posible Proyecto de la nueva Comisión Europea. Hoy hemos visto en Bruselas como un tribunal belga ha vuelto a retrasar una vista judicial respecto a tres personas reclamadas por una euroorden en España. Me gustaría preguntarle si la nueva Comisión tiene entre sus planos reformar la orden europea de detención y entrega para intentar evitar que en el futuro sucedan estas cosas de desconfianza entre Estados.


I am not disagreeing at all with [Vivian Balakrishnan, Singapore Foreign Minister], on the contrary I thank you for your enlightening and inspiring words. You should come more often to Europe and explain those kind of things because you do it very well, much better than most the European politicians. When people look from the outside they have a certain perspective.


And you are very much right. Trade, as everything in life, has good sides and not such good sides. Trade, as any human activity produces winners and losers. And even if the net balance is positive we have to take into account the losers. Maybe we were not aware that the number of losers were so big.

What is happening today in the world in many countries is a little bit the backlash of globalisation. The fact is that the losers of globalisation are now in a big number and bring their interests and their worries to the political landscape. And this happens from Latin America to the streets of Paris and everywhere. But at the same time I think that we have to continue opening our economies in order to look for a global optimum.

I use this opportunity to regret that the [dispute settlement system of the] World Trade Organisation has become non-operational due to the lack of cooperation of the United States that have made that there are not enough judges to operate. And I think that a set of bilateral agreements, all coordinated bilateral agreements bring us to a suboptimal situation with respect to what would be an overall agreement. This is almost mathematics. A certain bilateral agreement not taking into account what is happening with another is suboptimal compared to an overall agreement that unhappily is far out of reach those days.


But Asia and Europe have a common future to build. We are complementary. And when you see how important for our jobs are the exports to Asia, and how important for your prosperity are our imports and investments, all issues that make us partners, whether we like it or not. So we have to continue working together because the humankind would be very much imbalanced without a good understanding between Europe and Asia.


Acerca de la otra cuestión, yo creo que también aquí hay que hacer pedagogía, explicar que de lo que se trata no es de una relación entre gobiernos, sino entre poderes judiciales. Que no son los Ministros del Interior de cada país los que piden extradiciones a sus colegas, sino que son los jueces de un país los que le piden a sus colegas de otro país.

Estamos construyendo un espacio jurídico europeo supranacional. Eso no se va a hacer de la noche a la mañana. Hay que crear una confianza mutua de manera que el juez del país A atiende a la petición del juez del país B en el convencimiento de que la persona requerida recibirá el mismo trato que hubiera recibido en el país A. Y esto choca, como es lógico, con las practicas, culturas, las historias que cada país tiene con los demás. Naturalmente se puede mejorar y se debe mejorar. Y debe, en mi opinión, haber más cooperación entre las instancias judiciales de un país y de otro. 


¿Se puede revisar el orden? No soy un especialista ni es mi tarea fundamental como Alto Representante pero si puedo emitir una opinión. Claro que se puede mejorar. Se puede mejorar sobre todo a través de mecanismos que creen confianza mutua entre los poderes judiciales de un país y de otro, que los jueces hablen más entre ellos, que si alguien tiene una duda la pregunte y la esclarezca. Pero bueno hay cosas que no son de hoy, son de ayer.


En Bélgica, las autoridades judiciales de Flandes todavía no han tenido a bien hacer caso a una orden europea de una conocida etarra a la que se reclaman delitos de sangre y que sigue estando en Bélgica tranquilamente porque los jueces no han considerado oportuno que esa persona sea juzgada en España. Si eso ocurre desde hace años no nos debe extrañar que ocurren otras cosas. Pero todo se basa en la necesidad de crear los mismos mecanismos que existen al interior del sistema judicial de cada país, extrapolados a nivel europeo. Y en esto estamos.


La tarea será larga pero cualesquiera que sean los accidentes de recorrido creo que es bueno intentar no volver atrás y que no volvamos a la época en que las extradiciones se resolvían a través de contactos personales entre los Ministros de Interior de cada país. Es mucho mejor dejarlo en manos de los jueces de un país con los de otro. Solo así se podrá construir un espacio judicial europeo.


Q. After the meeting you had yesterday with the Foreign Minister of China and his reply to you, do you think that in your current position you can engage in an effective way with the Chinese government on issues like democracy in Hong Kong or human rights in Xinjiang without being rejected as someone interfering in China’s internal affairs?


When we talk about human rights, we have to do it with full respect to the country with whom we are dealing with.  I have extraordinary good relations with the Foreign Affairs Minister of China [Wang Yi, State Councillor of the People’s Republic of China, Minister of Foreign Affairs] since I met him one and a half year ago in New York. I do not see any inconvenience.


We have been talking about the subjects you are referring to and we will continue doing it in the best approach in order to express the big concerns we European have regarding human rights all over the world, the specific situation of each country, taking into account the characteristics of each of them and with full respect. It is clear that when you deal with this kind of things you are entering in domestic issues. But human rights is not a domestic issue. Human rights is a universal issue.


Q. Under your theme of inclusion, I was wondering whether you have discussed or whether you will put on the agenda the points of structured dialogues that the youth presented during the model ASEM presentation of the points that they made in their chair statement?


Well, I think I will continue inviting you [Vivian Balakrishnan, Singapore Foreign Minister] to come to Europe. It is difficult to add something to these very inspiring words. That is true we have been listening to several young people in our plenary meeting today, and we will take into account your contribution. I think that the fact that some young people from Europe and from Asia have been invited to come to Madrid to participate at this meeting shows a clear message about how this union projects into the future.


My co-president [Vivian Balakrishnan, Singapore Foreign Minister] is very much right, the important thing for the new generation is which place they are going to have in the economy, in the industry, in the services economy that is coming and it is coming from Asia. The new ways of innovation are coming from Asia.


And Mr. Watt, you know Watt? The Bristish invented the steam machine. If Mr. Watt had been a Chinese, the world would have been completely different. But he was Bristish. Now the Mr Watt of the future [has] a strong probability of not being European, but being from Asia. The new wave of innovation is coming from Asia. And this will alter the economic structure, productivity and jobs.


That is why we should work more together in order not to create a big divide as it happened in the past revolutions among the ones who have the technology and impose their power to the others that do not have this technology.


We have to share the technological developments in order to create a more harmonious world than the one that we inherited from the first industrial revolution.


Q. Recently there has been ongoing reports of plastics or rubbish being dumped from developed countries to developing countries. And as you, Mr Balakrishnan, speak on behalf of Asian countries, has this topic been discussed and what kind of solutions are you looking forward to it? And of course, on the side-lines, is there anything, any kind of updates that you've spoken to the Malaysian counterpart?


Well, I am also a former environment minister. Ms Merkel also is a former environment minister. Yes, I completely agree with you.

I think next meeting in Cambodia, multilateralism is good, but sometimes it can be a little bit boring because when you ask the 53 people around the table and each one of you have three minutes, it takes long and in three minutes, you cannot cover everything.


And at the end, there is some general statement which are going deeper in the subject you raised. 


Maybe you have to select three or four, five deep issues to concentrate on, and one after the other – not everybody has to talk about everything. We would have been more productive today – let us do a little bit of auto-criticism – if we had been focussing more on several issues which are hot issues in order to deliver some – I would not say agreement but a least some common understanding of where the problems are and what could be the solutions.


Because the humankind today is facing more than ever the problem of externalities. Prices do not send a good economic signal because they do not take into account ethics, which are as much as important as the price itself. And today people are becoming aware of that. And this is going to be a big revolution.


When the European Union decided last week that we will be carbon neutral in 2050, we are opening the door to a big geopolitical turmoil because this is going to change the distribution of wealth and power in the world.


And it is creating once again losers and winners and countries who today are very rich will maybe not be so rich and countries who are very poor will maybe have an opportunity because they will be able to produce things in order to build electric batteries that will be the engines of the future.


So we are opening the door to an unknown future, which will require a lot of cooperation. This is the magic word. We can solve the problems through cooperation or through confrontation. And the ASEM is a good tool to go on the way of cooperation.


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