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Forging greater connectivity between Asia and Europe

By Ioan Voicu - posted Friday, 19 August 2016


In spite  of specific governmental  appeals to  contribute to boosting the  visibility of cooperation between Europe and Asia, mass-media demonstrated  too much discreetness  about the results of the recent (15-16 July) 11th Asia-Europe Summit (ASEM 11), which took place in Ulaanbaatar, capital city of Mongolia, under the theme 20 Years of ASEM: Partnership for the Future through Connectivity.

Leaders and delegates from 51 Asian and European states, as well as high officials from the European Union and ASEAN attended ASEM 11.

A young forum

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Since its first session in Bangkok, in 1996, with only 26 participating countries, ASEM continues to deal with political, economic and cultural issues, with the objective of strengthening the full spectrum of relationships between its current 53 partners, in a spirit of mutual respect and equality.

The results of ASEM 11 in 2016 have been summarized in two comprehensive documents adopted by consensus: the Chair’s Statement (45 long paragraphs) and the “Ulaanbaatar Declaration” on the Future of ASEM, marking the ASEM’s 20th Anniversary. 

Some commitments and ideas reflected in these documents deserve to be universally known.

Assessing the history of a relatively young forum without headquarters or permanent secretariat, leaders from two continents, as well as from Australia and New Zealand, noted with satisfaction that in the past 20 years the ASEM process has successfully stood the test of time and has proved its vitality and relevance through steady enlargement of its ranks and promotion of cooperation between the two regions in various fields. 

A strong commitment was reaffirmed to further deepen the partnership between the two regions while preserving the informal and flexible nature of the ASEM process, and to implement substantial human-centered cooperation projects in the areas of common interest with a focus on greater connectivity, wider inclusiveness, creating opportunities for all and more tangible outcomes.

During a period of serious crisis of multilateralism in our pluralistic world the explicit commitment of 51 countries and two  major regional organizations  to reach more tangible outcomes is highly topical, having in mind that the existing ASEM documents  defining its mandate continue to be drafted in  too general  terms and are quite repetitive by their  very content.

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Many United Nations (UN) documents mentioned in ASEM statements are much more specific and action-oriented, but ASEM’s participants’ firmly expressed political will to contribute to the implementation of the UN 2030 Agenda for sustainable development and of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change has an undeniable diplomatic value for future negotiations on these crucial issues, even if the commitment is formulated in vague language.

Specific commitments

A special mention should be made about the original  engagement in the bi-regional cooperation between the Danube and Mekong regions as a promising  model in transforming shared challenges related to food, water and energy security into opportunities for inclusive growth and sustainable development.

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This article was first published on Inside Asean.



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About the Author

Dr Ioan Voicu is a Visiting Professor at Assumption University in Bangkok

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