Asia, Europe must work for greater goals

China Daily (Canada) - - ACROSS CANADA -

Ask sci­en­tists whether Europe and Asia are one big con­ti­nent or two: they will look at ge­og­ra­phy, ge­ol­ogy and his­tory. But just look at the daily news: Europe and Asia face the same global chal­lenges, the same threats. Di­a­logue and co­op­er­a­tion be­tween us are more cru­cial than ever. The in­sti­tu­tion of a great fo­rum for our con­ti­nents— the Asia-EuropeMeet­ing— is even more mean­ing­ful to­day than it was 20 years ago, when Asia-EuropeMeet­ing kicked off.

We share an in­can­des­cent neigh­bor­hood, theMid­dle East. We have the same in­ter­est in ad­dress­ing the ter­ror­ist threat, and stem the flow of for­eign fight­ers con­verg­ing on the re­gion from Europe and Asia alike. We are all fac­ing a global rise in hu­man mo­bil­ity: our Euro­pean pub­lic opin­ion of­ten for­gets about the mas­sive move­ments of mi­grants and refugees in the other con­ti­nents, in­clud­ing Asia. Some of the un­der­ly­ing causes of th­ese fluxes are also is­sues of com­mon con­cern: con­flicts, eco­nomic im­bal­ances, nat­u­ral dis­as­ters linked to cli­mate change.

Europe and Asia need one an­other. Asia is one of the fastest grow­ing re­gions on Earth. To keep the cur­rent pace, im­proved con­nec­tions be­tween our con­ti­nents will be vi­tal. And con­nec­tiv­ity is a key word at ASEM.

But it is not only about con­nect­ing Asia and Europe by sea, air or rail­way, but also dig­i­tally and through peo­ple-topeo­ple con­tacts— be­tween busi­ness­peo­ple, stu­dents, aca­demics and tourists. An in­crease in trade and in­vest­ments in both di­rec­tions must be a pri­or­ity for all of us. For this rea­son, the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion has de­cided to work full time to strengthen our ex­ist­ing trade agree­ments and build newones.

But the great­est threat to Asia’s de­vel­op­ment is in­sta­bil­ity. LastMay I at­tended the Shangri-La Di­a­logue in Sin­ga­pore, one of the main global di­a­logues on se­cu­rity and de­fense. I was im­pressed by a grow­ing de­mand for co­op­er­a­tion be­tween the Euro­peanUnion and Asian coun­tries on se­cu­rity is­sues. The EUis not just a big free trade area, it is also a global se­cu­rity provider. And we (in the EU) are an in­creas­ingly rel­e­vant part­ner for peace and se­cu­rity for the whole of “Eura­sia”.

In mid-Oc­to­ber the EU signed as an in­ter­na­tional wit­ness the na­tion­wide cease­fire agree­ment in­Myan­mar. We con­sis­tently sup­ported this agree­ment— po­lit­i­cally and fi­nan­cially— re­spond­ing to a wish by all par­ties for us to be in­volved. This has paid off. We also re­main in­volved in sup­port­ing a com­pre­hen­sive peace deal in the Philip­pines.

There is much more we can do to­gether, in the Far East as well as at the cross­road be­tween our re­gions. Think of Afghanistan. Af­ter many years of con­flict, the coun­try needs a new­covenant in­side its so­ci­ety, a new­covenant among all re­gional pow­ers, and a new­covenant be­tween Kabul and the whole in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity. The EUwill co-host an in­ter­na­tional con­fer­ence on Afghanistan in Brus­sels next year. It can be the place where this three­fold new­covenant sees the light.

The deal we reached this sum­mer on Iran’s nu­clear pro­gramme shows the way: when global pow­ers from all con­ti­nents co­op­er­ate— Europe, Rus­sia, China and theUS— the chances of suc­cess es­ca­late.

This is why the po­ten­tial of ASEM is so high. At our meet­ing in Lux­em­bourg, on Nov 5-6, 51 coun­tries and two re­gional or­ga­ni­za­tions will be rep­re­sented, ac­count­ing for 60 per­cent of the world’s pop­u­la­tion, trade and eco­nomic out­put. This in­cludes 12 G20 mem­bers and half of the cur­rent UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil.

The “re­treat ses­sion” be­tween min­is­ters will cre­ate the per­fect set­ting to com­pare notes on all the is­sues of com­mon con­cern. Our shared peace and pros­per­ity very much de­pends on co­op­er­a­tion be­tween Europe and Asia. Let us make the Lux­em­bourg meet­ing a cor­ner­stone to­ward a stronger part­ner­ship.

The author is the Euro­pean Union’s high rep­re­sen­ta­tive for for­eign af­fairs and se­cu­rity pol­icy, and chairs the 12th Asia-Europe For­eign Min­is­ters’Meet­ing.

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