In October, the 10th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) summit in Milan will bring together leaders representing 60% of the world’s population, 52% of global GDP and over two-thirds of all international trade.
ASEM will be celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2016, but has the sheer size of the gathering – now with 52 countries – made it too unwieldy to yield worthwhile results?
Rather that focus on grand, set-piece summits shouldn’t Europe-Asia contacts be simplified, more informal and more results-based? Wouldn’t the EU be better off concentrating on bi-lateral relations with key Asian partners rather than dealing with such an amorphous and often divided bloc? Is ASEM’s agenda just too broad?
On 8th July our sister think-tank, Friends of Europe, held the flagship conference of its Asia Programme, bringing together top speakers from Europe and Asia for talks on ASEM’s role today and in the future. Among the keynote speakers was David O’Sullivan, Chief Operating Officer at the European External Action Service. We asked him whether ASEM provides the right forum for issues as diverse as human rights, climate change and counter-piracy? This is his response:
Yeo Lay Kwee, Director of the EU Centre at National University of Singapore, took a question on the role of young people in ASEM. This is how she sees it:
Ultimately, perhaps the most fundamental question facing ASEM is how it can improve understanding between Europeans and Asians. Here’s the view from Nay Aung, founder of the travel agency Oway.com.mm in Myanmar:
What do you think? Has ASEM become too unwieldy for meaningful discussions? Or is ASEM an increasingly vital platform for nations to work out issues and promote greater cooperation? Can a forum set up with an economic focus handle the vast range of topics now on the agenda – from security to human rights and the environment? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policy-makers and experts for their reactions.