ASEM AT 20 - The challenge of connectivity

09 September 2015 - 18:00 - 09 September 2015 - 22:00
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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13.30 - 14.00 Registration of participants

ASEM is about connecting countries, regions and people. The significance of Asia-Europe infrastructure connectivity was underscored by the 2014 ASEM summit in Milan with leaders urging the establishment of an integrated, sustainable, secure, efficient and convenient air, maritime and land transportation system, including intermodal solutions, in and between Asia and Europe. Is connectivity a credible recipe for reinforcing and reviving ASEM? What are the different projects and ideas which should get special attention when discussing Asian-European connectivity? Can Asia and Europe work together on digital connectivity? What lessons can be shared from the EU’s experience in establishing a single market, building transport networks and connecting member states and regions as well as ASEAN's Master plan on connectivity? What is the role of the private sector in helping to connect ASEM?

Paolo Costa / President of the Venice Port Authority

Henrik Hololei / European Commission Deputy Secretary-General and incoming Director-General for Mobility and Transport (DG MOVE)

Uwe Leuschner / Vice President for Business Development, East Region at DB Schenker Rail AG

Miodrag Pesut / Chief of the Transport Facilitation and Economics Section in the Sustainable Transport Division of the United Nations Economic Commission forEurope (UNECE)

Andrejs Pildegovičs / Latvian State Secretary for Foreign Affairs

Zhang Xiaokang / Ambassador and ASEM Senior Official at the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs


Moderated by Shada Islam /Director of Policy at Friends of Europe

15.30 - 16.00 Coffee break

Connectivity is an important ASEM buzzword but it is not just about transport and infrastructure links – it’s also about establishing strong networks between institutions and in areas such as education, science and technology as well as through trade, business, security and culture. ASEM leaders last year underlined the contribution increased ties could make to economic prosperity and sustainable development and to promoting free and seamless movement of people, trade, investment, energy, information, knowledge and ideas and greater institutional linkages. What is being done to encourage institutional and people-to-people connectivity in ASEM? What are the results of recent ASEM meetings on education in terms of enhancing connectivity? Is ASEM doing enough to involve all stakeholders, including industry and the think-tank and academic community in connectivity initiatives? What is the special role of youth and women in the drive to connect Asia and Europe?

Ugo Astuto / Acting Managing Director for Asia and the Pacific at the European External Action Service (EEAS)

Aris Junaidi / Director of ASEM Education Secretariat at the Indonesia Ministry of Education and Culture

Luvsantseren Orgil / Ambassador and ASEM Senior Official at the Mongolian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Marc Ungeheuer / Secretary General of the Luxembourg Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Yasuhiro Watanabe / Professor of Tourism at the J.F. Oberlin University, Tokyo, Japan

Anita Prakash / Director General of Policy Relations at the Economic Research at the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA)


Moderated by Shada Islam /Director of Policy at Friends of Europe

17.30 - 18.30 Cocktail reception

Co-organised with

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With the support of

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Europe’s relationship with Asia and Africa is expanding, reflecting the increasing global importance of emerging economies. We track these developments through our Asia Programme and Europe-China Forum, and through our work looking at the EU vision and strategy towards China, India, Japan and ASEAN, and its role in the Asia-Europe Meeting.

This event is exclusively for Friends of Europe’s members, EU institution representatives and media. If your organisation is interested to join please contact Nigel Olisa on
Sophia Kabir, Programme Manager
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Event starts
09 September