Europe re-orients to engage with Asia

13 October 2014

Source: Sify News (India)
Source type: Newspaper
Published on: 05 Oct 2010

Much exchange of ideas on global governance issue

Europe formally turned its attention today to the dynamic economies of Asia, hoping to deepen its strategic relationship with the region at a time of global geo-political shifts, with the start of a two-day Asia Europe Meeting (Asem) in Brussels.

The meeting, the eighth since Asem's inception in 1996, brings over 40 heads of state and government together to discuss issues ranging from trade to climate change.

Asem partners include the 27 European Union (EU) member-states, the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, China, Japan, South Korea, India, Pakistan and Mongolia. And, from this year, Australia, New Zealand and Russia.

On Monday, the focus was global economic governance. During a late-afternoon session on the topic, Hamid Ansari, India's Vice-President and representative at the meeting, said the big challenge facing the world was ensuring "global growth amidst debt sustainability concerns" in some euro zone countries. He urged against protectionism.

International Monetary Fund reform was also high on the agenda, with the European Union having signalled late last week its willingness to cede some power at the international lender to emerging nations. The EU has been under pressure to offer a deal ahead of the G-20 meeting on November 11 in Seoul. It has now said it is ready to discuss giving up two of its nine seats, while rotating others on the 24-member board.

Underscoring the importance of the issue at Asem this year, a special declaration titled "Towards more effective global economic governance" is expected to be announced, in addition to the standard chairman's statement at the end of the meeting.

Earlier in the day, India's vice president met European Council president Herman Van Rompuy, where both sides made mention of their shared values of "democracy and pluralism". They also alluded to the substantial progress in the ongoing free trade agreement negotiations between India and the EU. An in-principle agreement on the accord is widely expected by the time of the India-EU summit in December.

Ansari also held bilateral meetings with the Prime Minister of Finland Mari Kiviniemi and Latvian President Valdis Zatlers. An informal chat was also expected with the Prime Minister of Malaysia.

China's pull

The real star of the event, however, is Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, who will also attend the EU-China summit on Wednesday. All eyes were on the possibility of a meeting between Wen and his Japanese counterpart, Naoto Kan. The two nations are embroiled in a bitter diplomatic feud, ignited by a ship collision in disputed waters.

Wen made it clear that China was speaking in Europe from a position of strength. In Greece on the eve of his arrival here, he said his country was committed to assisting Europe's post-recession recovery by backing a stable euro and not reducing his country's holdings of bonds from EU countries, despite Europe's sovereign debt crisis.

"We have stood by the European Union's efforts to overcome its difficulties and achieve recovery," he stated. In return, China is pushing the EU to grant China full market economy status and relax the remaining trade barriers with Beijing.

Aside from a slew of bilaterals and parallel visits to the NATO headquarters, also located here, the Asem summit will touch on piracy at sea, terrorism, nuclear weapons, human rights and climate change.