ASEM in brief
ASEM is a cooperation forum for Asian and European countries. It was initiated to strengthen dialogue and interaction between the two regions. The inaugural ASEM Summit was held in Bangkok, Thailand, in 1996 and since then the meeting of Heads of State or Government has been organised every two years alternately in Asia and Europe.
The participants in the first ASEM Summit included representatives from the European Commission, the then EU Member States, the seven ASEAN countries (Association of Southeast Asian Nations, ASEAN) plus China, Japan and South Korea. The number of participating countries increased in Hanoi, Vietnam, in 2004, as the countries that had acceded in the EU over the Union’s latest enlargement round and the countries that had become members of ASEAN in 1997 and 1999, Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia, joined the process. Currently, the number of participants is 39.
The ASEM process is based on dialogue
The Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) is a forum with various levels of cooperation between Asian and European countries. The ASEM process is based on dialogue with the objective of strengthening mutual understanding between the two regions and promoting concrete cooperation that aims at sustainable economic and social development. The cooperation covers three sectors referred to as a political pillar, an economic pillar and a cultural pillar. The priorities, objectives and principles of the ASEM process have been laid down in the Asia-Europe Cooperation Framework 2000 (AECF 2000).
In addition to official level cooperation, the process aims to increase dialogue between both economic actors and NGOs. The ASEM 6 Summit will be paralleled by an Asia-Europe Business Forum (AEBF) for the representatives of business life, and by an Asia-Europe People's Forum (AEPF) for the representatives of NGOs. Dialogue between individual citizens will be promoted through various cooperation and exchange programmes.
Cooperation in the political field emphasises the importance of international security and multilateral approach to problems. The issues discussed under the political pillar have included, e.g., the fight against terrorism, weapons of mass destruction and their proliferation, the UN reform, the impact of globalisation, global environment challenges and human rights.
Economic cooperation has been the driving force behind the whole ASEM process. Under the economic pillar, Asia and Europe can promote trade and investment, discuss ways to tighten cooperation in other areas and aim to harmonise procedures relating to economic activities.
In the social, cultural and intellectual field, the objective is to develop dialogue between Asia and Europe and increase mutual awareness in order to strengthen unity in diversity. The Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF) which constitutes the heart of the cultural dialogue, is the only institutionalised part of the ASEM process. ASEF was founded in 1997, a year after the initiation of the ASEM dialogue. The secretariat for the Asia-Europe Foundation is located in Singapore and has all ASEM countries as its members.