About the Asia-Europe Meeting
The Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) is a forum for informal dialogue bringing together the 27 EU Member States and the European Commission with 16 Asian countries and the ASEAN Secretariat. The participating countries from Asia are the ten members of ASEAN (Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam), China, India, Japan, Korea, Mongolia and Pakistan. The European participants are the 27 countries of the European Union and the European Commission.
The original initiative for the Asia-Europe Meeting was taken in the early 1990s based on the desire to further develop relations between Asia and Europe. One of the initiators was Singapore, which in 1994 proposed a summit between several Asian countries and the EU. The EU had already had formal cooperation with the ASEAN countries at the Foreign Minister level but without the participation of other important Asian countries such as China, Japan and Korea. The cooperation did not have the political dimension sought with a meeting of Heads of State and Government. In the EU, the preliminary work had already been started with a decision to extend the dialogue between the EU and the Asian countries.
The basis for cooperation is formulated in the Asia-Europe Cooperation Framework (AECF 2000) - a charter for ASEM approved at ASEM 3. The purpose of ASEM is to promote and deepen the relationship between Asia and Europe in three main pillars 1) political dialogue, 2) economic topics and 3) social, cultural and educational issues.
ASEM is not an international organization or a conference but a meeting at which the Heads of State and Government exchange viewpoints on topical challenges.
Meetings take place at the Foreign Minister, Finance Minister and Economic Minister level, one purpose being to prepare the ASEM summits. At ASEM 3 the Heads of State and Government agreed that there would also be an ASEM Environment Ministers' meeting (China on 16-17 January 2002) and a conference on migration issues (Spain on 4-5 April 2002). Meetings are held continually at the Senior Official level to ensure continuity and progress in the process. A group of four coordinators (two Asian countries, the current Presidency of the EU and the European Commission coordinate between Asia and Europe.
ASEM Senior Officials prepare proposals for topics to be discussed at the summits that are then presented to the Foreign Ministers. The topics for a summit are first determined a few months before the summit. Nevertheless, these topics may be influenced by changes in the international situation.
ASEM is a process in continual development, but the custom has been that the Heads of State and Government meet for three working sessions, one for each pillar. The summit allows the participants to continue dialogue during working luncheons and bilateral meetings.
Several initiatives have been launched, including the Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF) headquartered in Singapore that strives to promote the international and inter-cultural dimension of the ASEM process. ASEF arranges and sponsors seminars, exhibitions and other international and inter-cultural events.
In addition, a forum for the cooperation of business leaders has been launched, the Asia-Europe Business Forum (AEBF). At the annual meetings of AEBF business leaders from the ASEM countries meet to develop commercial relationships.
Parallel to the official ASEM meetings, the ASEM People's Forum, a broad network of national and international nongovernmental organizations traditionally gathers to discuss social issues and provide a civil society perspective within the ASEM context.
Further information on is available on the websites of the various ASEM summits:
- ASEM I, March 1996, Bangkok, Thailand (http://asem.inter.net.th/)
- ASEM II, April 1998, London, United Kingdom (http://asem2.fco.gov.uk/)
- ASEM III, October 2000, Seoul, Republic of Korea (http://www.asem3.go.kr/)
- ASEM IV, September 2002, Copenhagen, Denmark (http://www.asem4.dk/)
- ASEM V, October 2004, Hanoi, Vietnam (http://www.asem5.gov.vn/)
- ASEM VI, September 2006, Helsinki, Finland (http://www.asem6.fi/)
- ASEM VII, October 2008, Beijing, China (http://www.asem7.cn/)
The European Commission also has a website on ASEM giving an overview of the key characteristics of the process: