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 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.

20 comments Post a commentcomment

  1. avatar
    Karel Van Isacker

    A bit bizar. the EU starts an economic war with Russia because the US wants so, and now wants to be seen as a trustworthy economic partner? These EU politicians and decision makers really have watched too much fairy tales…

  2. avatar
    Tarquin Farquhar

    EU+ASEM=60% of the world’s population.
    The EU has c7% [and declining] of the world’s population
    The EU must merge [as a junior partner] with another larger trade bloc else it will become insignificant.

    • avatar
      EU reform- proactive

      …….the parasitic EU worm “Onchocerca volvulus” causes symptoms which include severe itching, bumps under the skin, and blindness. As a result the EC is shooting themselves in both feet- all the time!

    • avatar

      We could go further on this argument. The world/planet is but 0.000000000000000000000000000000001% or even less of the universe. We are too small to be independent and must apply to the federation of planets or whatever alliance is nearest.

      /EU-ist argument

  3. avatar
    Paul X

    @ Debating Europe

    I think the conclusion to be drawn by the lack of comments on here is that the majority of people (myself included) haven’t a clue what ASEM is or what purpose it serves?

    On the basis that there is very little publicity about it I suggest it is not very successful in whatever it’s aims are and it will probably save a lot of taxpayers money if it was thrown in the bin alongside many of the other pointless summits

    Summit = checking into hotels at expensive locations, talk for a little while about problems without bothering to suggest any meaningful solutions then spend lots of taxpayers money eating, drinking and making merry

    • avatar
      EU reform- proactive

      @PaulX- DE will hardly involve itself in discussions as past experience has shown.

      ASEM stands for: ASiaEuropeMeeting- establ. 1996- see details

      It is a trade forum which is the EU’s original task! Opening doors for the private and public sector businesses, assist, remove barriers and connect! Foremost of interest to big corporations & exporters.

      Confusingly, it is also an abbreviation for American Society for Engineering Management: “ASEM” (EU please stop using too much abbrev language!)
      DE journalists & EU insiders assume everyone knows all the thousands of shortcuts being used around the world-it is just too much!

    • avatar
      Paul X

      @ EU Reform
      Thank you for the enlightenment

      As I suspected, the arrangement is a dismal failure at its stated aims e.g. “deepening the relations between Asia and Europe at all levels”

      As I also suspect the arrangement is just an excuse for people to live the high life at the taxpayers expense e.g. “as well as political, economic, and socio-cultural meetings and events at various levels” (for socio- cultural events read “parties”)

      Therefore my original suggestion still stands, scrap it and spend the money on something useful to the people of Europe

    • avatar

      I’m quite sure that China will allow foreign politicians (from India, Thailand, Malaysia ea) to have influence on its laws.


  4. avatar
    EU reform- proactive

    Has ASEM become too unwieldy for meaningful discussions?

    No, trade & business contacts on many different levels are vital. But- keep it strictly business! Trade was & still is an important building block of any civilization, country, its people & determines their well being.

    Unfortunately, I never saw a themed discussion presented by DE, trying to explore & investigate whether or where the EU in its 66 year development could have gone wrong! Too much money, time and effort of many reputable people are at stake to admit any past errors!

    Let’s recap & follow the EU from its historic birth- “factually”- leaving emotions at home. The EU’s original intent was:

    The 1948 founded OEEC (Organization for European Economic Co-operation) which was followed by its first of many treaties in 1958- the “TEEC/EEC (EUROPEAN ECONOMIC COMMUNITY)”- was called the “Treaty of Rome” by the founding “six”. It was repackaged undemocratically- and the word “Economic” was deleted from the following treaty’s name and re-named the Maastricht Treaty in
    1993! This treaty was the beginning of many complications, dissatisfaction and the division into pro and anti EU camps of today!

    Please note: the emphasis in 1948/1958- was on “Europe” (geographically divided however by the cold war!) The “COMECON” countries 1949-1991 lead by communist Russia were created in opposition to the OEEC. After the fall of communism in 1989- “real détente” in Europe was a missed opportunity!

    Should it have remained purely a treaty of trading nations- matters could have been kept much simpler and the former communist COMECON countries with Russia much wealthier today! It wasn’t! The trade went global- mainly to Asia- and the COMECON remained a football and the old power struggle between west & east continues. The EU favored & pushed for “enlargement” & “integration”. Many ex communist countries favored this choice as a quick way to riches with the disastrous effect on the citizens in ‘old Europe’! Instead of pursuing pure trade without too many strings attached- similar what the EU did/does with Asia/China! The EU went too far and too far east- strengthening China in the process! It could have been the COMECON first and instead! Utilizing & negotiating similar advantages- which China offered after 1989!

    The example of East Germany being “assimilated” into W-Germany was- although expensive for W.G possible, because of same identities and past common history. Trying to repeat the same exercise with the whole of Europe into the original six founders was a misjudgment & doomed from the beginning!

    The EU could have had a EU-COMECON summit in 1989/1991 already! In 2014 the ASEM meeting could have been a united EU trading block called “EUCOM” and not EU!

    • avatar
      Tarquin Farquhar

      @EU Reform- Proactive
      Good post!

      I have one minor issue however, namely your reference to ‘reputable people’.

      Should that not in fact refer to ‘disreputable people’ perhaps?


    • avatar
      EU reform- proactive

      @Tarquin ….большое спасибо!

      In a spirit of ‘détente’- depending the position & emphasis ones chooses- yebo, i leave it to everybody to interpret this reference as he wishes! It is meant as a positive acknowledgement to the many well meaning people working on such promising ‘political masterpiece’ over 60 years- turning it into a stillbirth eventually!

  5. avatar

    EU-ASIA cooperation: is ASEM the right platform?

    Is not a matter of right or wrong, I think economic cooperation with any player from major league is normal. Especially when not everybody wants to follow German economic model based on exports, the root of great global imbalances

    • avatar
      EU reform- proactive

      Hi Sir,

      “not everybody wants to follow German economic model based on exports, the root of great global imbalances”

      Do you actually believe what you say? You seem to have a chronic gripe about Germany? Trade is a serious business! Please check the stats and scrutinize the validity of what you believe and what “Export & Trade” means to you!

      Did you know? China Investment Corporation, has a 10 per cent stake in the consortium that owns Heathrow. If the UK is not careful, China will buy GB’s crown jewels as well one day on a global auction!

      Germany is the third largest exporter and importer in the world, accounting for more than half of the European Union’s international trade.

      UK’s export to its main trading partners: Germany 11.3%, US 10.5%, Netherlands 8.8%, France 7.4%, Ireland 6.2%, Belgium 5.1% (2012)

      I give you some more info in a separate blog to avoid moderation & delay.

    • avatar
      EU reform- proactive

      ………..continuation: How does a country finance its trade deficit?

      “Without an adjustment that either reduces imports or pushes up exports, investors may become wary of putting their funds in the UK.” Or a country borrows and borrows ending like Greece & others! Any other solutions?

  6. avatar

    None of these leaders represent me unless it is the prime minister of the Netherlands in a prime ministerial role for the Netherlands.

    Clown Barroso and co do not represent me, nor does Merkel, or Hollande, or warmonger Cameron.

  7. avatar
    James Beckles

    ASEM is strategically important to both continents. Like all projects the size and objectives need to be reviewed and evaluated. What are the aims of ASEM? And what impact will the decisions and discussions have on the world stage? These should be some of the underlying questions the delegates should ask themselves as cooperation among the member states of this grouping will shape the 21st century economically, culturally and politically.

Your email will not be published

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Notify me of new comments. You can also subscribe without commenting.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

More debate series – Debating Asia-Europe View all

By continuing to use this website, you consent to the use of cookies on your device as described in our Privacy Policy unless you have disabled them. You can change your cookie settings at any time but parts of our site will not function correctly without them.