Since the inception of the ASEM process in 1996, Asia and Europe have kept their biennial appointment with remarkable regularity. It must be taken as a sign of the depth of commonality between them. Indeed, both regions have grown out of a long and turbulent history, both pride themselves of age old traditions and both present a wealth in cultural diversity. They have a common predilection for organized and structured relationships between nations which by experience foster security and stability. They both strive for an economic model that is balanced between consumption, saving and investment and that can prove sustainable over the long term. They similarly place human development at the center of their policies. They both favor multilateral and equitable governance of the world rather than zones of influence and relationships based on power.
The ASEM Summit in Brussels on October 4th and 5th this year will be the eighth privileged occasion to give expression to the common views of Asia and Europe. Representing 58 % of global population, 50 % of global GDP and over 60% of global trade, this gathering will hopefully inspire the world community. Indeed, a month later, the first G-20 meeting to take place in a non G-8 country will gather in Seoul, Republic of Korea, to shape the policies that are required in the face of the financial and economic crisis. A few weeks thereafter, the 16th Conference of the Parties of the Climate Change Convention will meet in Cancun, Mexico, to pursue the efforts started at the Copenhagen Summit of December last year.
ASEM Leaders will address these and other global challenges but they will naturally also focus on the relationship between the two regions. They will seek to strengthen their political dialogue, enhance their trade and investment relationship, expand people to people and cultural exchanges and further develop ASEM as their common strategic asset. The process of collectively defining the agenda has begun, in all transparency and through an inclusive process of consultation involving every ASEM partner. That process will continue until the very day of the Summit. ASEM 8 must truly be the Summit of each European and each Asian partner.
In addition, it will be the summit of the other constituent parts of the ASEM process. A People’s Forum, a Business Forum and a Parliamentary Forum will be held in parallel to the gathering of the Heads of States and of Governments. Also ASEM’s only institution, the Asia Europe Foundation, will organize a ‘Connecting Civil Society’ Conference on the margins of the Summit.
In the run up, preparations will be intensive. Under the principle of ‘issue based leadership’, one of the most dynamic features of ASEM, Asian and European partners will organize a dozen of events of high relevance to the evolving Summit agenda. Independent centers and institutions likewise will program discussions on the issues at stake. Host country Belgium will certainly play its part. Actually, it is enthusiastic about all these initiatives. They are evidence of the spirit of dialogue and of cooperation that makes ASEM so worthwhile.
Finally, as a testimony of ASEM’s unrelenting success (and as if it were becoming a habit), also the upcoming ASEM Summit of Brussels will admit new members. Russia and Australia will join in the proceedings for the first time. They are very much welcome!
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