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REPORT: Strong wind in ASEM sails: Connectivity is the answer

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The Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) is planning to focus on connectivity in order to revive and re-energise the forum in the run up to its 20th anniversary celebrations in 2016, participants told a Friends of Europe conference on 9 September.

“I think we have a fairly strong wind in our sails,” said Andrejs Pildegovičs, Latvian State Secretary for Foreign Affairs. “The wind is there because of the understanding that connectivity is the answer. If you avoid globalisation, it doesn’t crush you but leaves you out – and the same goes for connectivity,”

ASEM is an informal dialogue between 30 European and 21 Asian countries, plus the EU and ASEAN, and it has sometimes been seen as a forum for talk rather than action. That need not be the case, said Zhang Xiaokang, Ambassador and ASEM Senior Official at the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “The first step in real actions is to set up a working group on connectivity,” she said. “That would be the first time to connect all the stakeholders together so they can engage in a comprehensive and systematic manner. In this way, the roles of the stakeholders can be brought into full play.”

For Europeans, ASEM presents an opportunity to tap into Asia’s high-growth economies, said Henrik Hololei, European Commission Deputy Secretary-General and incoming Director-General for Mobility and Transport (DG MOVE). “Europe does not have a significant business or political presence in Asia, particularly Southeast Asia,” he said. “I think we can do much more. It’s clear that one of the ways to build a stronger partnership is through connectivity.”

At its 10th anniversary in 2006, ASEM issued the Helsinki Declaration on the meeting’s future. The July 2016 meeting in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, could produce a similar declaration of the group’s future direction. “We are proposing to issue a document similar to the Helsinki Declaration,” said Orgil Luvsantseren, Ambassador and ASEM Senior Official at the Mongolian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “Celebration activities will increase public awareness of ASEM in individual countries.”

What is ASEM? Check out the info-graphic here.

Interested in learning more? Read the EU-funded study, The future of the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM). Chapter Two, “The EU as global player: ASEM, EU-AFRICA and EU-CELAC”, is written by Friends of Europe Director of Policy, Shada Islam.


Session I -Transport and infrastructure connectivity – Trucks, trains, ships and airplanes

Session II -Connecting people, institutions and ideas – It’s a networked world

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