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Today I have the great honour of welcoming you to the historic El Pardo Royal Palace in my new capacity as European Union High Representative [for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy] I would like to extend my deep gratitude to His Majesty the King [Felipe VI] of Spain and to the Spanish Government for hosting this meeting.
I welcome you all to the 14th ASEM [Asia-Europe Meeting] Foreign Ministers’ Meeting. In a world of accelerating change it is clear that our cooperation matters now more than ever. Simply put, Asia and Europe need each other much more than ever.
As Ministers you have all taken the time and effort to gather here today. And this level of representation is proof of the relevance of ASEM and our collective ambition.
It is a recognition of the importance of us talking, working and cooperating with each other at the highest level, to increase the prosperity and security of our regions and our citizens.
Around this table I see Foreign Ministers of two continents, together representing significant global weight: 55% of global trade, 60% of the global population, 60% of global GDP, 75% of global tourism.
ASEM matters for the sheer weight it represents. We need to use this collective weight and power and put it at the service of promoting rules-based solutions to key challenges we face, from climate change to security issues, the rules-based trading system, sustainable connectivity and gender equality, just to name a few of them.
It is for this reason that we chose the overarching theme "Asia and Europe: Together for an Effective Multilateralism”, and that decided that ‘Sustainable Connectivity’ between Europe and Asia will be a central theme at this Foreign Ministers’ Meeting of ASEM.
On the other hand, recent developments on the international stage have increased the value of our organisation. When the rules-based system is being challenged, we have a massive mutual interest in sending a clear message that we all stand for rules-based multilateralism, for free and fair trade and for the institutions that have served us so well.
We know that we cannot be multilateralist alone. To be multilateralist we need each other, Asians and Europeans, to uphold the system – and ensure it is fit for purpose.
This Meeting also comes at a time of increasing connectivity between the two continents. I am glad that the notion of “sustainable connectivity”, which is a cornerstone of the EU’s approach to Connectivity, has also become the agreed language in the ASEM context. To serve the people, Connectivity must be based on clear rules, on reciprocity, transparency and market principles.
Tackling climate change must be a top priority for all of us. We have just here in Madrid finished the COP 25 and as ASEM Partners we need to step up our efforts to address the climate emergency.
Likewise, we must be united in implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. As Foreign Ministers of ASEM, we can and should focus joint efforts to advance gender equality, women's empowerment and the respect for human rights.
This is the first ASEM Ministerial which I chair. I hope the 14th ASEM Foreign Minister’s Meeting here in Madrid will be remembered for the openness of the dialogue.
Yet there are also important differences around the ASEM table. Not all of us agree on everything. There are differences among us we do not have to hide them. On the contrary, let us have an open and mature dialogue to see how we can come closer together and demonstrate that this group cares about rules-based multilateralism – effective multilateralism not just methodically of course– and is keen to work together on global challenges.
This is our purpose and thanks to all of you for being here in this magnificent historic place at the heart of Spain.
And now let me give the floor with your permission your Majesty, to the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Singapore and ASEAN coordinator, Doctor Vivian Balakrishnan.
Link to the video: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-182171