For more than twenty years, it has been a strong link between the two continents. Since 1 March 1996, the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) has been opening the way to ever more intensive exchange between Europe and Asia. When it was founded, ASEM brought together 26 partners. Its growth to 51 partner countries today, plus the EU and ASEAN as regional organisations, demonstrates the great appeal the forum has developed since then. Today, 60 percent of the world population come from ASEM partner countries and ASEM also accounts for some 60 percent of global trade and global GDP.
Sustainability as the cornerstone
ASEM provides a platform for meetings between Asia and Europe on a range of topics and at all levels, from Heads of State and Government to ministers, experts and civil society representatives. In October 2018, the European Union will host the 12th ASEM Summit in Brussels to be attended by the Heads of State and Government as well as the most senior representatives of the EU and ASEAN. The Summit will focus on a topic which has been to the fore from the very outset for ASEM: connectivity. The dynamic economic and political developments of the last two decades highlight the value of direct exchange and the sharing of expertise in international relations.
With a view to making connections between Asia and Europe more concrete and targeted, the ASEM Foreign Ministers agreed on an ASEM-specific, tailormade definition of connectivity in November 2017. This definition, which commits to the principle of sustainability, forms the basis of cooperation between ASEM partners in sectors such as transport, energy and the economy.
From shipping to culture
Some of the best examples of connectivity within ASEM include the current specialist meetings. Last year, the ASEM Customs Directors-General met in Berlin to learn more from one another and thus optimise the customs procedures conducted by ASEM partners. In April this year, Germany is attending an ASEM Seminar on Green Shipping in Singapore at which experts and representatives of industry and business will examine practical ways of making commercial shipping more ecological, efficient and sustainable. Other highlights in the ASEM calendar in 2018 include the meeting of Culture and Finance Ministers in Bulgaria in March and April respectively.
ASEM is not least a forum for exchange between different cultures and societies. The Asia-Europe Foundation which is based in Singapore and financed by the ASEM partners organises numerous meetings, workshops and multi-day seminars in the ASEM partner countries which are geared, for example, to students, journalists and human rights defenders.