PM Hasina goes to Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) in Italy

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina leaves Dhaka for Italian commercial city Milan on Wednesday (15th October) to attend the 10th ASEM Summit of Heads of State and Government. The two-day Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) will be held in Milan on October 16-17.

Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) is an informal process of dialogue and cooperation bringing together the 28 European Union member states, 2 other European countries, and the European Union with 20 Asian countries.

The ASEM dialogue addresses political, economic and cultural issues, with the objective of strengthening the relationship between our two regions, 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. Since 2004, it has now increased 51 member-states including Bangladesh. Bangladesh, Norway, and Switzerland officially joined in November 2012.

ASEM has no Secretariat. Foreign Ministers and their senior officials (SOM) also have an overall coordinating role within the ASEM process, and are assisted in this by an informal group of Coordinators (two from the Asian side and two from the European side).ASEM covers potentially all issues of common interest to Europe and Asia.

ASEM has provided a dialogue platform to address international matters such as United Nations reforms, weapons of mass destruction (WMD) issues, terrorism, migration flows or WTO negotiations.. Asia and Europe have worked together for improving the international security environment.

On the occasion of the 1st meeting of ASEM Foreign Ministers in 1997 in Singapore, Sweden and France had suggested that informal seminars on human rights be held within the ASEM framework. Titled the ‘Informal ASEM Seminar on Human Rights’ series, the aim of this initiative has been to promote mutual understanding and co-operation between Europe and Asia in the area of political dialogue, particularly on human rights issue.

Another suggestion is that participatory democracy should be included in the ASEM process for dialogue which may facilitate democracy in member countries.

Overall, ASEM has become a useful process for managing globalization and its effects, for enhancing interregional and international business frameworks, and promoting the role of Euro in Asia. ASEM is also about people and culture. It has served as a dialogue facilitator and helped increasing mutual understanding through people-to-people contacts.

In that context, ASEM should be considered as a dialogue process as well as a delivery instrument. By promoting an open and inclusive dialogue, ASEM has allowed its participants to develop and test new ideas for future policy-making. By creating a permanent process of consultation, ASEM has helped to streamline the international agenda. As a forum promoting an open and informal dialogue, ASEM provides an opportunity to work towards negotiated solutions, especially in areas of disagreement.

ASEM is not a substitute for other bilateral or multilateral fora between Asia and Europe, and it can best work to facilitate and stimulate progress in other fora. As a new layer of dialogue and cooperation, ASEM has enhanced synergies in Europe-Asia relations. ASEM has also served as catalyst for overall Asia-Europe relations and complements other levels of relations between the two regions.

ASEM has helped Europe and Asia to have a more global vision of the two regions. By remaining an informal dialogue-based process, ASEM aims to promote overall Asia-Europe relations on international and inter-regional issues of common interest. By bringing together different Cultures and Civilisations, ASEM is a unique process to foster common understanding and dialogue

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