The Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) is an informal process of dialogue and co-operation bringing together the 27 European Union Member States and the European Commission with 16 Asian countries and the ASEAN Secretariat. The ASEM dialogue addresses political, economic and cultural issues, with the objective of strengthening the relationship between the two regions, in a spirit of mutual respect and equal partnership.
The origins of the ASEM process lay in a mutual recognition, in both Asia and Europe, that the relationship between the two regions needed to be strengthened, reflecting the new global context of the 1990s, and the perspectives of the new century.
In July 1994, the European Commission published " Towards a New Strategy for Asia", stressing the importance of modernising its relationship with Asia, and of properly reflecting it's the region's political, economic and cultural significance.The Commission Communication of September 2001 (" Europe and Asia: A Strategic Framework for Enhanced Partnerships") reaffirmed this objective. In November 1994, Singapore and France proposed that an EU-Asia summit meeting be held, to consider how to build a new partnership between our two regions. Following Singapore's proposal, the first ASEM Summit was held in Bangkok in March 1996, marking the beginning of the ASEM Summit cycle.
The ASEM 1 Summit, held in Thailand in March 1996, brought together 26 partners: the fifteen EU Member States and the European Commission, with ten Asian countries (Brunei, China, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam).
As a result of the enlargement of the EU in May 2004, the ASEM Summit in Hanoi on 8-9 October 2004 enlarged ASEM to include the ten new EU Member States as well as three new ASEAN countries (Cambodia, Laos and Burma/Myanmar).
The ASEM 6 Summit held in September 2006 decided to admit Bulgaria and Romania on the European side, and India, Mongolia, Pakistan and the ASEAN Secretariat on the Asian side.
ASEM membership was formally enlarged to 45 at the Beijing Summit on 24-25 October 2008. Since then, the ASEM process brings together the 27 European Union Member States and the European Commission with 16 Asian countries and the ASEAN Secretariat.
Since 1996, ASEM Summits have been held every two years, alternating between European and Asian locations - in London (1998), Seoul (2000), Copenhagen (2002), Hanoi (2004), Helsinki (2006) and Beijing (2008). The next ASEM Summit will take place in Brussels on 4-5 October 2010. During the Summits, ASEM government leaders give overall direction and set up a forward-looking agenda.
ASEM is a continual dialogue
In the intervening two years between Summits, ASEM Ministerial Meetings and regular meetings of senior officials are organised on all political, economical, social and cultural issues of mutual interest to the partners.
Apart from the official meetings, nearly 100 initiatives have been implemented over the past decade, including numerous expert-level, thematic working meetings and symposia, often involving the business communities and civil society groups of the two regions. Subjects covered have been extended from the initial emphasis on economic cooperation to include human rights, rule of law, global health threats, sustainable development, and intercultural and interfaith dialogues.
The ASEM 7 Summit adopted the Beijing Declaration for Sustainable Development, reaffirming the commitment of ASEM partners to the objectives of sustainable development. The Declaration puts a special focus on the fields of the Millennium Development Goals, Climate Change and Energy Security, Social Cohesion.
ASEM has the potential to cover all issues of common interest to Asia and Europe. It has provided a platform of dialogue to address political, economic, and social/cultural issues. As an informal process of dialogue, based on equal partnership and enhancing mutual understanding, ASEM can facilitate and stimulate progress in other bilateral and multilateral fora. ASEM has notably contributed to improving global governance, the international security environment, managing globalisation and its effects and has enhanced interregional and international business frameworks. ASEM has also served as a cultural dialogue facilitator and helped to increase mutual understanding through people-to-people contacts.
ASEM is an informal process
As an informal process, ASEM has no secretariat. Foreign Ministers and their senior officials (SOM) have an overall coordinating role within the ASEM process, and are assisted by a group of four Coordinators (the EU Presidency - currently Spain and the European Commission on the European side). The ASEM 6 Summit decided to set up an ASEM Virtual Secretariat, which would operate as a closed intranet system to facilitate management of the agenda and working programme and enhance the institutional memory.
The only existing ASEM institution is the Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF) in Singapore, a not-for-profit foundation charged with promoting cultural, intellectual and people-to-people contacts between the two regions.
More about ASEM
More information about the Asia-Europe Meeting can be found at:
Calendar of ASEM 2010 events [36 KB]