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REPORT | ASEM IN A FAST-CHANGING WORLD

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Cooperation between Asia and Europe is becoming increasingly important, making the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) more relevant, strategic and necessary than ever before.

That was the consensus of panellists at an event held by Friends of Europe in cooperation with the European External Action Service (EEAS), as ASEM Senior Officials met in Brussels on 21 June to discuss ways to boost connectivity between Europe and Asia. The meeting was held amid growing geopolitical uncertainties, which heighten the need for dialogue and debate between Asian and European policymakers. These contacts should involve parliamentarians, business leaders, academics and civil society representatives, including young people – and ASEM’s informality and flexible structure offer a unique platform.

Three major trends are accelerating cooperation between the two continents. First, the European Union is becoming increasingly united following the populist votes last year in the United States – the election of Donald Trump as president – and the United Kingdom, where a majority in a referendum voted to leave the EU.

Second, China is boosting its economic diplomacy with projects such as the ‘One Belt, One Road’ plan to boost trade between Europe and Asia. Less noticed is India’s more-active foreign policy, which is emerging from an isolationist tradition on the back of strong economic growth.

As a consensus-based forum for discussion between European and Asia, ASEM can help respond positively to these shifts. Set up in 1996, it has 53 partners, which comprise 30 European and 21 Asian countries, as well as the European Union and the ASEAN Secretariat. It represents nearly 60 percent of the world’s GDP and more than 60 percent of its population. ASEM provides a stable platform to foster political dialogue, reinforce economic cooperation and promote socio-cultural collaboration.

“For the first time in centuries, Europe and Asia are re-emerging as the most dynamic areas in the world,” said Haroon Sheikh, author of “The Rise of the East: a Look at the New World Order”. “Does that mean more prospects for Europe-Asia cooperation? Yes, it does.”

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