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Enhancing the Asia strategy

This Communication develops a new strategy for an enhanced partnership between Europe and Asia and to establish a comprehensive, coherent and balanced framework for relations with Asia and its regions in the coming decade.

ACT

Communication from the Commission to the Council of 4 September 2001. Europe and Asia: A Strategic Framework for Enhanced Partnerships [COM(2001)469 - Not published in the Official Journal].

SUMMARY

Taking account of the developments that have taken place since its 1994 Communication entitled 'Towards a New Asia Strategy', the Commission updates the mechanism established by the 1994 strategy. It sets outs a comprehensive strategic framework for relations between Asia, its regions and the European Union (EU) in the coming decade, while recognising the diversity of Asia through different forms of partnership. The Commission aims to strengthen the EU's political and economic presence in Asia, raising it to a level commensurate with the growing global weight of the enlarged Union.

The new strategy therefore focuses on six key points:

  • strengthening the EU's engagement with Asia in the political and security fields;
  • further strengthening mutual trade and investment flows with the region;
  • demonstrating the EU's effectiveness as a partner in reducing poverty in Asia;
  • promoting respect for human rights, democracy, good governance and the rule of law;
  • building global alliances with key Asian partners (to address global challenges and within international organisations);
  • strengthening mutual awareness between the EU and Asia.

The Communication identifies concrete proposals aimed at strengthening EU-Asia relations in these key areas and launching actions on a broader regional scale.

As regards peace and security, the EU must play an active role in regional fora, promote conflict prevention through the sharing of experiences and strengthen EU-Asia dialogue on justice and home affairs, an area that includes, in particular, the right to asylum, immigration and arms trafficking.

Mutual trade and investment flows must benefit from better market access and investment conditions on both sides. Efforts must be made to encourage contacts between the private sector (especially small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)) and in particular the high technology sector, strengthen dialogue on economic and financial policy, and enhance market access for the poorest developing countries.

In order to reduce poverty, the Commission will give priority in its cooperation programmes to key issues such as education and health, economic and social governance, and the link between environment and poverty. Enhanced dialogue on social policy issues would make it possible to exchange experiences on the most appropriate method of addressing the challenges of globalisation and modernisation.

Promoting civil society and a dialogue between Asia and Europe must encourage democracy, good governance and the rule of law. As regards human rights, constructive exchanges, such as the dialogue with China on human rights, should pave the way for better cooperation.

It is also important to conclude partnerships and build alliances in addressing global issues such as the reform of the United Nations, the World Trade Organisation, the environment and other challenges, for example international crime, terrorism and the spread of AIDS.

The opening of new delegations is one of the instruments that promotes better mutual knowledge between Europe and Asia. Support should also be provided for university, cultural and scientific exchanges and for civil society contacts between the regions.

The Communication also sets out specific measures to target the EU's initiatives concerning the different component parts of Asia (South Asia, South-East Asia, North-East Asia and Australasia, which is included for the first time in the EU-Asia strategic framework). These measures aim first and foremost to improve relations with certain countries in the region and cover bilateral issues with each country, while providing a framework for the overall relations between Europe and Asia. The Commission favours a pragmatic approach, based on a specific analysis of its relations with each country or group of countries.

At an institutional level, the EU's relations with Asia have developed considerably in recent years. The first bilateral summit was held in 1991 with Japan. Similar summits have been organised recently with India and China as well as with East Asia as a whole under the ASEM process (Asia-Europe Meeting). At ministerial level, the EU's dialogue with the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) on the one hand, and with Australia and New Zealand on the other, continues to make progress.

Last updated: 24.06.2005
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