On the 18th-19th October 2018, Brussels will be hosting its 12th Asia-Europe Summit meeting (ASEM). According to the ASEM12 Brussels Declaration, the key theme in this year’s summit is ‘Europe and Asia: Global Partners for Global Challenges’.
The emphasis will be on strengthening dialogue and cooperation between the two regions in a wide range of global issues including: trade and investment; connectivity; sustainable development and climate; security challenges, such as terrorism, non-proliferation, cyber-security, and irregular migration.
ASEM was established in 1996 by the European Union (EU) and several Asian countries that were part of the Association of Southeast Asian nations (ASEAN), and the individual countries of China, Japan, and Korea. The Summit brings together Heads of State and Government from 30 European countries and 21 Asian Countries, the President of the European Council, the President of the European Commission, and the Secretary General of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). It is an informal multi-sectoral political dialogue and cooperation process which is based on equal partnership and enhancing mutual understanding in diverse political, economic and socio-cultural issues that are of common interest to the two regions.
Australia’s bid to join ASEM was deferred indefinitely at the April 1998 ASEM Summit in London, due to opposition from the Malaysian government under the Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Muhammad and some other East Asian countries including Indonesia. Those countries considered Australia ‘un-Asian’ and more ‘Western’, seeking to focus instead on deepening East Asia’s regional cohesion. Australia formally applied for ASEM membership, under the Rudd Government, in October 2008. Following the confirmation in May 2009 of Australia’s application to join ASEM, Australia’s Foreign Minister formally announced Australia’s involvement on the 28th May 2009. Australia’s interest and enthusiasm to participate in ASEM has been motivated by a desire to exert ‘quiet diplomacy’ while actively advancing Australia’s national interests within the region by building on existing partnerships and fostering dialogue with the Asia-Pacific.
Alongside ASEM, are three forums: ‘Asia-Europe Business Forum’ (AEBF), ‘Asia-Europe People’s Forum’ (AEPF), and the ‘Asia-Europe Parliamentary Partnership’. These fora emerged in the late-1990s from a shared desire among peoples, organisations and networks in Asia and Europe to create new avenues for dialogue, cooperation and solidarity, as well as to strengthen trade and investment relations between the two continents. The AEPF in particular provides the opportunity to bring representatives from organisations and social movements across the two continents together to share experiences, ideas and strategies and to further develop plans of action for the future.
By Sophie Di Francesco - Mayot