What is ASEM?
The Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) is a process of dialogue and cooperation involving 19 Asian countries and the ASEAN Secretariat along with the 28 European Union (EU) member states, Norway and Switzerland and the European Commission (EC). ASEM links Asia and Europe by facilitating discussion on political, economic and cultural relations.
ASEM was conceived by Singapore and France in 1994 and the first Summit meeting was held in Bangkok in March 1996. The process was created to connect Asia and Europe and help raise awareness between the two regions, coordinate multilateral policies where possible, generate initiatives, open up opportunities for trade and investment and promote the development of civil society networks.
Initially consisting of the 15 EU member states, 10 ASEAN member states, plus China, Japan, Korea, and the European Commission, ASEM has gradually broadened its membership and today includes a total of 52 partners.
Australia and ASEM
Australia formally joined ASEM at the 8th ASEM Summit in Brussels, 4-5 October 2010, attended by former Prime Minister Gillard. Leaders had constructive discussions on a range of international and regional issues including sustainable development, climate change, non-proliferation, transnational organised crime and irregular migration. Former Prime Minister Gillard addressed the Summit on the challenge of creating effective global economic governance.
Former Prime Minister Gillard also attended the 9th ASEM Summit in Vientiane, 5-6 November 2012. The Vientiane Summit was attended by 49 Heads of State or Government from ASEM member countries. During her interventions the Prime Minister addressed the need for higher growth in Europe and continued structural reform in Asia. The Summit produced two outcomes documents, the Vientiane Declaration on Strengthening Partnership for Peace and Development, and the Chair’s Statement on the 9th Asia Europe Meeting.
The next ASEM Summit is scheduled for Milan in the latter half of 2014. Australia also attends ASEM Foreign Ministers’ Meetings and participates in a range of ASEM activities at officials level.
Participation in ASEM enables Australia to coordinate responses to global challenges, strengthens our engagement and integration with Asia, and aligns with Australia's commitment to a new era of engagement with Europe, including through increased cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region.
Australia is also a member of the Asia Europe Foundation (ASEF) – an institution established by ASEM with headquarters in Singapore. ASEF promotes greater mutual understanding between Asia and Europe through intellectual, cultural and people-to-people exchanges. Through ASEF, civil society concerns are included as a vital component of deliberations of ASEM. In the past 15 years, ASEF has implemented over 600 projects, bringing together more than 17,000 direct participants and reaching out to an even wider audience in Asia and Europe.
ASEF projects cover seven broad themes -environment, arts and culture, human rights and governance, economy, public health, education and intercommunal dialogue. Activities take the form of conferences, lecture tours, workshops, seminars, web-based platforms and book, CD and DVD publications.
Australian individuals and organisations with an interest in learning more about ASEF activities can obtain more information from the ASEF website.