- What is ASEM?? - Initiated in 1996 with 26 members, 15 EU member states, the EC, 7 ASEAN states, Japan, Korea, China , the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) provided a much need informal platform for dialogue and cooperation between Asian and European countries. Roots are much argued but they have been widely attributed to the efforts by Goh Chok Tong and Jacques Chirac, who both championed the ideas on the respective sides among others.
Many have argued that it was due to the global shift towards multipolarity in the post-cold war era and the need to link the three major poles of global power – USA, Europe and Asia. Transatlantic relations had been traditionally strong via platforms such as the G7/G8, with a formal EU-US summit established in 1995 US – Asian cooperation was linked via Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) – established in 1989 This left the Europe – Asia dynamic unbridged
Official Level: ASEM Summits, Ministerial Meetings, Senior Officials’ Meetings, ASEM Initiatives and Experts Meetings ASEM Chairman Support Group (ACSG), initiated in 2011
Non-official Level: Asia-Europe Business Forum (AEBF), Asia-Europe People’s Forum (AEPF)
Summits – very much depends on the summit host – Obama factor (for good or for bad)
Ministerials – regularly – usually every 1 or 2 years – Foreign Min the big one
Working group level – functional – agenda setting – supportive mechanisms
Issue Based Leadership – localised – regionalised issues – small country groupings taking the lead
AEPP - 2 years , parliamentarians, governance issues
AEBF/AEPF – 2 years, business, peoples forum etc.
ASEF - IO – ED’s description – plus follow up in next session.
ASEM has undergone a number of expansions – though growing membership of the EU, ASEAN, greater interest in the dialogue platform from those within the traditional boundaries of Asia and Europe and those from further afield.
What does expansion bring?
New faces, new ideas, new dialogue partners
Significant issues for dialogue – e.g. Russia and the the obvious benefits with regards to underdeveloped Transport and Transit links
Injection of enthusiasm – e.g. Australia’s calls to reformat the meetings to be more dynamic
Support for initiatives – e.g. Swiss support for this initiative and others
Rapid shift in the world’s economic centre of gravity from Europe – North America back to Asia.
Significance of ASEM as the ‘only show in town’ for multilateral government to government dialogue between Asia and Europe.
Europe seeks to access a pivotal moment in Asia’s growth and convergence story, while Asia seeks greater trade and investment access to Europe’s 500 million plus market.
This dynamic represents challenges for those practitioners charged with managing relations and especially public diplomacy
Staying relevant Effectiveness – Functioning/Coordination – Secretariat argument still hangs over the process Difficult balance to strike - “maintain its unique informality, networking and flexibility but also become more pragmatic, effective and result oriented” Visibility ??? The old issue raising its head…
Ronan Lenihan - ASEM
Overview of ASEM history: What
does it tell us about contemporary
Ronan Lenihan, Director for Operations and
Development, Asia Matters