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European Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy
Opening session remarks
9 th ASEM Foreign Ministers 'meeting
25 th May 2009, Hanoi, Vietnam
Dear Prime Minister, dear colleagues, your Excellencies,
At this opening session of our 9 th ASEM Foreign Ministers’ Meeting this afternoon, please allow me on behalf of the European Commission to echo the words of my fellow Coordinators in extending a special welcome to all of the colleagues - Foreign Ministers, both Asian and European - who are here today for our ninth Foreign Ministers’ Meeting under the auspices of ASEM. ASEM has come a long way since the founding ASEM 1 Summit in Bangkok in 1996.
Here in Hanoi, on the eve of this city’s celebration of 1000 years - a millennium – since its foundation, it is appropriate to remark that ASEM is a platform for two of the greatest cultural traditions of civilisation to meet and to dialogue – Asia and Europe.
I particularly appreciate Vietnam’s excellent preparation and hosting of this meeting, and the government’s sustained and pro-active participation in ASEM - as well as the city of Hanoi’s charming welcome to us all here today. I remark that Hanoi was also the locale for the 5 th ASEM Summit in 2004 - which welcomed many new ASEM members, both Asian and European.
Over the next two days we will also be addressing the global challenges of tomorrow. ASEM Foreign Ministers are following up on the instructions of our Leaders at the successful ASEM 7 Summit in Beijing last October. In Beijing our Leaders reinforced ASEM’s vital role as a prime point of contact and convergence between Asia and Europe in order to better address the policy challenges of globalisation – be they economic and financial in a context of crisis, or energy security, climate change, sustainable development, social cohesion and dialogue of cultures and civilisations. These are issues which I am pleased to remark are all on our agenda here in Hanoi over the coming two days.
ASEM has become where Europe meets virtually the whole of Asia. And Asia is growing. I understand that several more Asian countries would like to enter ASEM. I welcome the possibility of more Asian members of ASEM. The interest in ASEM of more countries is a clear measure of the vitality of ASEM and its success.
ASEM members meet to address the global challenges in many sectors. In addition to our political dialogue (at Senior Official, Foreign Minister, and Summit levels) more and more sectors are also the subject of active ASEM dialogue at Ministerial (and Senior Official and expert) levels – such as; finance, economics, trade, immigration, energy security, development, environment, transport, education, culture, counter-terrorism, and disaster preparedness, for example.
ASEM enhances global convergence of international policy in many sectors. The recent ASEM 7 Summit in Beijing was a timely and truly dynamic preparation for the increased role of Asian and developing countries in the G20 meeting of November 2008 and ongoing G20 work towards mutual understanding, agreement and coordination of policies to remedy the global economic and financial crisis.
Asia and Europe have the combined weight to influence policy-making in the international arena. The Beijing Summit fully lived up to the shared expectation of a solid, forward-looking and challenging agenda for ASEM, firmly rooted in immediate and practical priorities – which we are taking forward today.
I am particularly struck by the level of collaboration between Asian and European partners working together to host joint ASEM initiatives – at ministerial, senior official or expert levels. This type of specific and practical cooperation is the very embodiment of ASEM.
To enhance continued deep ASEM cooperation and dialogue on global policies, the Commission intends to continue providing substantial support to ASEM. We are particularly eager to maintain and support the concept of issue-based leadership agreed at the ASEM 6 in Helsinki, and re-endorsed at the ASEM 7 Summit in Beijing, as a means of achieving enhanced quality and continuity in our exchanges.
By way of a practical follow-up, as one part of the Commission’s support package, we propose to continue our ASEM Dialogue Financing Facility up to and after the ASEM 8 Summit, to foster and fund dialogues within ASEM in priority sectors of shared interest according to partners’ levels of development. I invite you to work with us to reach the objective of a more structured and better coordinated and transparent ASEM dialogue overall.
Two particular initiatives in this regard - which are coherent with, and follow-ups to the ASEM 7 Beijing Summit Leaders’ conclusions concern sustainable development and energy security – and these are both on the agenda here.
In Brussels on 18 th June 2009, I and my colleague European Energy Commissioner Andris Pielbalgs, will host the First ASEM Energy Ministerial Dialogue Conference to which you all and your Energy Minister colleagues are all invited to participate and to speak. Vietnam was one of the countries which prepared this event by hosting an energy security workshop here and I am pleased that the Minister of Industry and Trade of Vietnam, Mr. Vu Huy Hoang has accepted to come to Brussels 18 th June to speak in the opening session of this ASEM Ministerial.
Secondly, hosted by the Philippines in Manila on 20-21 st April 2009 - the Commission was also pleased to co-sponsor the First ASEM Sustainable Development Conference. And we would be pleased again to sponsor a follow-up High Level ASEM Conference on Sustainable Development in the first half of 2010 in order to maintain and deepen the dialogue and to prepare the next ASEM 8 Brussels Summit’s discussions of this important topic.
Finally, a word about administrative coordination, transparency and efficiency, which is a concern going forward for ASEM. ASEM can remain wholly relevant, but could still fail to register in the public domain, despite all our best efforts. It is essential that we raise the awareness both of stakeholders – business and labour, parliaments, academia and civil society at large – and of the general public in our two regions. The Commission is keen to work with partners on developing a comprehensive visibility strategy. There is a clear need to improve our external as well as our internal communications as we strive to make our way of working and the ASEM process itself more efficient. We are prepared to work and coordinate with ASEF on the public visibility of ASEM, and our funding for ASEF is assured for 2009 and 2010.
Please allow me to conclude by extending my sincere thanks to our hosts Vietnam who have taken such meticulous care in preparing this meeting. I fully support the ambition to give our ASEM work an operational and deliverables focus, building on the excellent foundation established in Beijing, and I am confident that we will be able to develop over the next two days some useful pointers to help shape the agenda for ASEM 8 in Brussels, whose theme I have learned, will be how to address the challenges that we face following the current financial and economic crisis, as well as the need to improve the quality of life.
I look forward to meeting you all, and to our discussions here in Hanoi to begin to prepare the next ASEM Summit in Brussels in October 2010.