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José Manuel Barroso
President of the European Commission
Statement by President Barroso at the press conference following the ASEM Summit
ASEM Summit /Vientiane, Laos
6 November 2012
Dear Prime Minister, ladies and gentlemen,
Let me start by thanking Lao PDR for hosting this Summit. Mr Prime Minister, you have done a remarkable job in welcoming all of us here and we are grateful for your organization and your hospitality.
We have finished two days of very open, productive and intense discussions and we are indeed very happy with the outcome of this Summit.
The Prime Minister of Laos and the President of the European Council already presented the most important results. Let me just underline some aspects.
Europe-Asia relations are today more relevant than ever. And this is not just a vague general political declaration of intentions. This is confirmed by the facts of the economic relationship, by trade, and also by increasing political interaction. The European Union's engagement with Asia is, we believe, also key for the world.
The message that we have brought to this gathering was very clear: Europe is a committed Asian partner and we want to be even more present in this part of the world.
In fact, Europe has already a strong stake in Asia’s success and growth. Asia is the destination of almost a quarter of European Union exports worth 68 billion euros per year. And we procure 42% of our imports from Asian partners. Asia is also a major recipient of EU Foreign Direct Investment.
Asia has also a strong stake in Europe’s prosperity. We are the largest export market for Asian products as well as a key destination for Asian investors. This proves that despite the geographical distance our continents are ever more interdependent. And this notion of interdependence was very much present in our open discussions in this summit.
These two days we had the occasion to discuss how to build on this interdependence in a mutually beneficial way, for our two regions and for the rest of the world.
We spoke about the economic and financial situation and how only an integrated approach on the part of Europe and Asia and the other major economies can restore strong, sustainable, balanced growth.
But the economy is just one dimension of our partnership. In the European Union we are building a solid framework for our relations with Asia, based on three pillars: Partnership Agreements; Free Trade Agreements; and multilateral cooperation of which this forum, the Asia – Europe Meeting, is the main example.
On multilateral cooperation, this Summit allowed us to address important global issues such as climate change and the green economy.
We are both faced with the challenge of ensuring that growth is both sustainable and inclusive. The issues of resource depletion or income inequality need to be addressed. Environmental degradation is not sustainable; inequality, extreme poverty is not sustainable. In this respect we reaffirmed our commitment to the fulfilment of MDGs and to work together on the follow up to the Rio+20 Summit and in preparing the Climate conference in Doha.
We also had a good exchange of views on how to address current political and security-related challenges in the region and beyond. I just visited Myanmar where I could witness the important changes taking place there and where I have offered EU support to advance peace, national reconciliation and economic development. This shows how the EU also has an important role to play in fostering democracy, respect for human rights, peace and stability in the region.
All the above confirms the relevance of the ASEM process in today's world. We are now a family of 51, but I am sure that this will not be the final number.
My last remark is to say that our region-to-region relations will be further facilitated if the regional integration process in Asia, through ASEAN, makes further strides. Open regionalism is indeed a basis for effective multilateralism.
As you know – and many leaders congratulated the European Union for that – the European Union was recently honoured with the Nobel Peace Prize for – and I quote: "The successful struggle for peace and reconciliation and for democracy and human rights.” We were reminded by the Nobel Peace Prize that beyond the current difficulties, the transformative power of regional integration is a huge achievement for our citizens. I believe that also deepened inter - regional dialogue like the one we are pursuing. The Asia – Europe Meeting is, in fact, a first step in this direction.
So, let me once more express my sincere appreciation to the leaders and the people of Laos for the excellent hospitality provided to all of us here in Vientiane and for hosting such an important Summit for the future of our relations.
I thank you for your attention.