The ASEM process (Asia-Europe meeting)
The Commission intends to strengthen its links with Asia through an informal dialogue at different levels, called the ASEM process. The process aims to deepen relations in the political, economic and cultural spheres for the mutual benefit of both parties.
Commission working document, of 18 April 2000: Perspectives and Priorities for the ASEM Process (Asia-Europe Meeting) into the new decade [COM(2000) 241 final - Not published in the Official Journal].
ASEM is an informal process of dialogue bringing together the Member States, the European Commission and ten Asian countries: Brunei, China, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam.
The dialogue takes place at several levels: there are Summit-level meetings, which are attended by the Asian and European Heads of State or Government and the President of the Commission, and Ministerial-level meetings on foreign affairs, finance, the economy, the environment, or science and technology. Discussions take place under three pillars: the political pillar, the economic and financial pillar, and the cultural and intellectual pillar. The larger meetings are prepared by the group of Coordinators, made up of four representatives: the Presidency, the European Commission and two Asian countries in rotation. To date, there have been four summits: in Bangkok in 1996, in London in 1998, in Seoul in 2000 and in Copenhagen in 2002. There have been many Ministerial-level meetings in the various fields.
In this document, the Commission emphasises the informal character of the process, which it regards as one of its greatest assets, and its pluralistic dimension. The Commission considers that the main comparative advantage of the process is its ability to stimulate and facilitate work in bilateral and multilateral fora, and to promote dialogue and mutual understanding in areas where a consensus can be reached.
In 2000, the Commission was concerned that the process could run out of steam if it failed to show the public and the world of business that it was still relevant to their concerns and interests. At the same time, it stressed the importance of ASEM's potential, and called on public opinion to support the process and encourage the participation of civil society.
In its working document, the Commission sets out general priorities for the three pillars of ASEM. Their aim is to build on the achievements of the process and deepen relations between the two regions. In the political field, and with a view to focusing on issues of common interest, the Commission proposes:
- to intensify the high-level dialogue;
- to strengthen networking and informal dialogue;
- to provide for an exchange of views in the context of appropriate international institutions;
- to support human rights, democracy and the rule of law;
- to make joint efforts in addressing global issues that the partnership could further.
In the economic field: The aim is to strengthen the economic partnership, giving priority to dialogue at different levels: between companies, between the public and private sectors, between Finance and Economic Ministers, as well as maintaining a dialogue on more general socio-economic issues.
The intensification of the dialogue between the Economic Ministers and their Senior Officials should:
- promote the strengthening of the WTO multilateral trade system;
- strengthen two-way trade and investment flows;
- establish an enhanced climate for business cooperation;
- enhance dialogue and cooperation in key sectors for the future, such as infrastructure, transport, high-technology, services, telecommunications.
In the cultural and intellectual fields, ASEM should focus on promoting enhanced contacts and strengthened mutual awareness between the peoples of the two regions. The Commission calls for enhanced dialogue and cooperation in the fields of science and technology, the environment, social sciences, the arts and humanities, and the promotion of networking and increased contact and exchanges in the field of education. It proposes to continue to lend support to the Asia-Europe Foundation as a catalyst for cultural and intellectual dialogue between the two regions.
The Commission sets five specific priorities for the Seoul Summit:
- an enhanced exchange of views on regional and global security issues;
- enhanced dialogue and cooperation on trade, social policy and economic issues;
- intensified educational exchanges;
- cooperation in the field of consumer protection;
- a possible broadening of participation in the ASEM process.