Asia, Europe must work for greater goals
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.