Europe sees Asia as both threat, opportunity, says global anti-poverty advocate

14 October 2014

Source: Philippine Daily Inquirer (Philippines)
Source type: Others
Published on: 04 Oct 2010

BRUSSELS, Belgium - Europe sees Asia as both threat and opportunity, and this perspective characterizes the relationship between the two continents as the global economic crisis still rages, an international anti-poverty advocate said at the Eighth Asia-Europe People's Forum (AEPF-8). "With Asia coming to the fore in a multi-polar world, Europe is veering toward Asia. EU (European Union) leaders see Asia as both threat and opportunity," said John Hilary, executive director of the London-based War on Want, at the first plenary of AEPF-8.

From the EU's point of view, Asia offers not only new huge markets and source of raw materials, it is also bound to be a major competition for its existing markets and the world's natural resources. This is why EU sees the leaders' Asia-Europe Meeting (Asem) as an arena for Europe to engage Asia, Hilary said.

He said the Global Europe agenda, issued by the European Commission several years back, detailed the plan to force new opportunities for European companies in Asia so that they can have access to the region's natural resources and government contracts, with European capital free from limitations.

At the first plenary of AEPF-8, Marica Frangakis of Attac Greece said the parallel leaders' forum of the Asia Europe Meeting (Asem) will focus on "the crisis of crisis." She said European leaders recognize that there is a "migration of crisis" coming full force to Europe, affecting first Iceland and Greece, and lately Ireland.

Frangakis criticized the "neo-liberal nonsense" policies that crisis-stricken Europe is adopting—primarily cutting budgets for social services, as well as government jobs.

In this sense, she said, Europe "is ahead (of Asia) in terms of catastrophe."

At the same forum, Akbayan party-list Representative Walden Bello noted that Asem began as Europe's expressed interest on Asia following the creation of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec), which was the United States' way of "lassoing countries into a trans-Pacific free trade area."

"The European Union thus opened this dialogue (venue) with Asian countries hoping to counteract the forces of Apec," he said.

Now, he said, Europe's interest is how to pull out of the crisis.

More than 400 representatives of civil society groups from across Asia and Europe have come together for the AEPF-8 here to confront the global financial "crisis of crisis" and its "brothers and sisters" of crises on food, climate change, trade and investment, and job losses. Civil society groups from Asia and Europe noted how the global financial crisis has impacted on Asia and Europe and their relationship with each other.

Asem is a forum for dialogue between European and Asian partners about major political, economic, financial, and socio-cultural issues, according to an Asem briefer.

Both AEPF and Asem represent more than half of the world's population, trade, and GDP. Both forums are seen as more than "talk shops" because it is where the tone and direction of EU-Asia relations are determined.

-By Veronica Uy, The Philippine Daily Inquirer Global Nation