Mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism, refugee issue on the agenda

New Straits Times - - News - LAILI IS­MAIL KUALA LUMPUR news@nst.com.my

OVER 30 prom­i­nent in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions ex­perts from Asia and Europe will gather un­der one roof to­day to bring the two con­ti­nents to­gether on global is­sues and re­gional de­vel­op­ment trends.

The Asia-Europe Con­fer­ence 2017, the first of its kind in the Asean re­gion, will be held at Univer­siti Malaya’s (UM) Asia-Europe In­sti­tute (AEI).

The con­fer­ence will ex­plore the state of Asia-Europe re­la­tions and pos­si­bil­i­ties of broader roles for the Euro­pean Union (EU) in Asia Pa­cific amidst chal­leng­ing dy­nam­ics in the re­gion.

AEI ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor Pro­fes­sor Dr Azi­rah Hashim said the two-day event would see key­note and panel speak­ers de­lib­er­at­ing com­mon prob­lems that the two re­gions share, such as so­cio-eco­nomic and se­cu­rity is­sues.

“The speak­ers will be shar­ing ways of cop­ing with th­ese is­sues, and they may dis­cuss the pos­si­bil­ity of form­ing com­mit­tees between th­ese two re­gions. We have a mix­ture of aca­demics, am­bas­sadors and jour­nal­ists who will de­liver their per­spec­tives from Europe, Asia and Asean.”

Malaysian speak­ers will in­clude For­eign Min­istry bi­lat­eral af­fairs deputy sec­re­tary-gen­eral Raja Nushir­wan Zainal Abidin, AEI se­nior ad­vis­ers and for­mer diplo­mats Tan Sri Razali Is­mail and Datuk M. Redzuan Kushairi, as well as for­mer New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd chair­man Tan Sri Mo­hamed Jawhar Has­san.

For­eign diplo­mats who will speak at the con­fer­ence in­clude Ja­panese am­bas­sador to Malay-sia Dr Makio Miya­gawa, am­bas­sador and EU del­e­ga­tion head to Malaysia Maria Castillo Fer­nan­dez, EU am­bas­sador to Asean Fran­cisco Fon­tan Pardo, for­mer Thai for­eign min­is­ter and Asean sec­re­tary-gen­eral Dr Surin Pit­suwan and for­mer In­done­sian for­eign min­is­ter Dr Marty Natale­gawa.

AEI and UM’s Cen­tre for Asean Re­gion­al­ism vis­it­ing pro­fes­sor, Dr An­thony Mil­ner, said the re­gion had never had a full-scale con­fer­ence on Asia-Europe re­la­tions.

He said it was timely to dis­cuss Europe’s strate­gic role in the re­gion on the back of the “fal­ter­ing United States” un­der Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s ad­min­is­tra­tion.

He said Europe had played an im­por­tant fi­nan­cial role in the re­gion, but had not been a big strate­gic player.

He said aside from EU’s roles in se­cu­rity is­sues in the re­gion, such as col­lab­o­ra­tive ef­forts in coun­tert­er­ror­ism, the pan­el­lists would also talk about the han­dling of refugees and mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism.

“Pre­sum­ably, in the whole area of free trade, there will be talk of more co­op­er­a­tion between Asia and Europe in push­ing a trad­ing agenda, pos­si­bly against Pres­i­dent Trump or Amer­i­can ‘all-that-mat­ters-is-us’ agenda.

“We will see a lot of dis­cus­sions on the vac­uum that Amer­ica has left in terms of lob­by­ing for glob­al­i­sa­tion, trade and en­vi­ron­ment. We hope the con­fer­ence will spark mean­ing­ful con­ver­sa­tions that con­trib­ute to a stronger Asia-Europe di­a­logue as well as re­cip­ro­cal ac­tions.”

(From left) Raja Nushir­wan Zainal Abidin, Tan Sri Mo­hamed Jawhar Has­san and Dr Makio Miya­gawa

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