The Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) is an intergovernmental process established in 1996 to foster dialogue and cooperation between Asia and Europe. It comprises of 53 partners, i.e., 30 European and 21 Asian countries, the European Union and the ASEAN Secretariat. ASEM addresses political, economic, financial, social, cultural, and educational issues of common interest, in a spirit of mutual respect and equal partnership.

The initial ASEM partnership in 1996 consisted of 15 EU member states and 7 ASEAN member states plus China, Japan, Korea and the European Commission.

The ASEM Summit is a biennial meeting between the Heads of State and Government, the President of the European Council, the President of the European Commission, and the Secretary-General of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

As an informal process of dialogue and cooperation, based on equal partnership and enhancing mutual understanding, ASEM works to facilitate and stimulate progress in other fora, and does not seek to duplicate what is being done within bilateral and other multilateral relationships with Asia.

ASEM provides an open forum for policy makers and officials to discuss any political, economic and socio-cultural issues of common interest. It covers the full spectrum of relations between the two regions and devotes equal weight to political, economic and socio-cultural dimensions. It eschews any “aid-based” relationship taken forward under bilateral relations in favour of a more general process of dialogue and co-operation based on mutual respect and mutual benefit.

The ASEM grouping represent 55% of global trade, 60% global population, 65% of global GDP and 75% of global tourism. The 12th ASEM Summit was held in the EU and Belgium capital Brussels. During the Summit, discussions were held on the theme “Europe and Asia: global partners for global challenges”. Leaders sought to strengthen dialogue and cooperation between the two continents on a wide range of areas, including; trade and investment, connectivity, sustainable development and climate, security challenges such as terrorism, non-proliferation, cyber-security, irregular migration. The ASEM summit was followed by the EU-Korea summit and the EU-ASEAN leaders’ meeting.

European Council PresidentDonald Tusk chaied the ASEM summit and European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker also represented the EU at the summit. Indian Vice President Mr. M Venkaiah Naidu led the Indian delegation to attend at the 12th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) Summit. This was also the first multilateral summit that the Indian Vice President attended after taking office in August 2017.A number of Heads of States / Heads of Government participated in the Summit. ASEM Agenda for 2018 prioritized issues related to connectivity, trade and investment, sustainable development, climate change terrorism, migration, maritime security and cyberspace. In all these areas India is closely working with both the EU and ASEAN member countries.

Apart from the Opening Ceremony of the Summit; Vice President Naidu participated in the Plenary Session of the event and had interactions with the various stakeholders. Mr. Venkaiah Naidu also called on the King of Belgium King Philippe. He had bilateral meetings with the Heads of State / Government from Austria, Portugal, Switzerland and other countries on the sidelines of the Summit. The Vice President of India addressed the Indian Diaspora too, at the Jain Culture Centre in Wilrijk, Antwerp. He paid respects and offered floral tributes at a sculpture of Mahatma Gandhi located in the Governorate of Antwerp.

Many side events were also been organized over the course of the last one month in Brussels in connection with 12th ASEM Summit. At the ASEM cultural festival, India’s rich heritage in the performing arts was showcased in a Kathakali presentation of the Spanish masterpiece, ‘Don Quixote’ in collaboration with the Spanish Cultural Institute, Cervantes.

Script: PADAM SINGH, AIR: News Analyst