Asia matters for Europe and Europe matters for Asia. With both regions facing the challenge of an increasingly interdependent world, the need for closer and deeper cooperation is ever more pressing. “The Asia Europe Meeting (ASEM) is just as relevant today as it was during the first Summit held in Bangkok in 1996 and even more so,” said European Council President Herman Van Rompuy in a special video message to the high-level conference “ASEM: A partnership for the 21st Century”. Together the 51 ASEM partners, set to rise to 52 with Croatia joining in October, represent 60% of world’s trade, GDP and population, Van Rompuy said. “We are more linked and interdependent than ever before. And this also translates into increased solidarity when facing common challenges of development, governance, environment or security,” he added. ASEM provides an exceptional forum to debate key issues of concern in a transparent and open manner.

The high-level conference came amid preparations for the 10th Asia Europe Meeting (ASEM) Summit this autumn, when delegates will meet in Milan to discuss topics such as economic growth, jobs and inequality. ASEM does not always attract much attention, but it has potential to play important roles for Europe and Asia. Shada Islam, Director of Policy at Friends of Europe, who moderated the discussions, said the debate was aimed at injecting new ideas into ASEM, especially ahead of ASEM’s 20th anniversary in 2016.

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