The ASEM process

The ASEM process

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about The ASEM process


These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

External relations > Relations with third countries > Asia

The ASEM process (Asia-Europe meeting)

Document or Iniciative

Commission working document, of 18 April 2000: Perspectives and Priorities for the ASEM Process (Asia-Europe Meeting) into the new decade [COM(2000) 241 final – Not published in the Official Journal].


ASEM is an informal process of dialogue bringing together the Member States, the European Commission and ten Asian countries: Brunei, China, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam.

The dialogue takes place at several levels: there are Summit-level meetings, which are attended by the Asian and European Heads of State or Government and the President of the Commission, and Ministerial-level meetings on foreign affairs, finance, the economy, the environment, or science and technology. Discussions take place under three pillars: the political pillar, the economic and financial pillar, and the cultural and intellectual pillar. The larger meetings are prepared by the group of Coordinators, made up of four representatives: the Presidency, the European Commission and two Asian countries in rotation. To date, there have been four summits: in Bangkok in 1996, in London in 1998, in Seoul in 2000 and in Copenhagen in 2002. There have been many Ministerial-level meetings in the various fields.

In this document, the Commission emphasises the informal character of the process, which it regards as one of its greatest assets, and its pluralistic dimension. The Commission considers that the main comparative advantage of the process is its ability to stimulate and facilitate work in bilateral and multilateral fora, and to promote dialogue and mutual understanding in areas where a consensus can be reached.

In 2000, the Commission was concerned that the process could run out of steam if it failed to show the public and the world of business that it was still relevant to their concerns and interests. At the same time, it stressed the importance of ASEM’s potential, and called on public opinion to support the process and encourage the participation of civil society.


In its working document, the Commission sets out general priorities for the three pillars of ASEM. Their aim is to build on the achievements of the process and deepen relations between the two regions. In the political field, and with a view to focusing on issues of common interest, the Commission proposes:

  • to intensify the high-level dialogue;
  • to strengthen networking and informal dialogue;
  • to provide for an exchange of views in the context of appropriate international institutions;
  • to support human rights, democracy and the rule of law;
  • to make joint efforts in addressing global issues that the partnership could further.

In the economic field: The aim is to strengthen the economic partnership, giving priority to dialogue at different levels: between companies, between the public and private sectors, between Finance and Economic Ministers, as well as maintaining a dialogue on more general socio-economic issues.

The intensification of the dialogue between the Economic Ministers and their Senior Officials should:

  • promote the strengthening of the WTO multilateral trade system;
  • strengthen two-way trade and investment flows;
  • establish an enhanced climate for business cooperation;
  • enhance dialogue and cooperation in key sectors for the future, such as infrastructure, transport, high-technology, services, telecommunications.

In the cultural and intellectual fields, ASEM should focus on promoting enhanced contacts and strengthened mutual awareness between the peoples of the two regions. The Commission calls for enhanced dialogue and cooperation in the fields of science and technology, the environment, social sciences, the arts and humanities, and the promotion of networking and increased contact and exchanges in the field of education. It proposes to continue to lend support to the Asia-Europe Foundation as a catalyst for cultural and intellectual dialogue between the two regions.

The Commission sets five specific priorities for the Seoul Summit:

  • an enhanced exchange of views on regional and global security issues;
  • enhanced dialogue and cooperation on trade, social policy and economic issues;
  • intensified educational exchanges;
  • cooperation in the field of consumer protection;
  • a possible broadening of participation in the ASEM process.

Related Acts

(September 2002)

The Copenhagen Summit approved the Copenhagen Declaration on Cooperation against International Terrorism and the Copenhagen Cooperation Programme on Fighting International Terrorism. The Summit also agreed that ASEM’s priorities would be closer economic cooperation, cooperation in the social, educational and environmental fields and a dialogue on cultures and civilisations. The next summit will take place in Vietnam in 2004.

Seoul Summit (October 2000)

This Summit, which is recognised as a historic milestone in the evolution of the ASEM process, approved the Asia-Europe Cooperation Framework 2000, building on the decisions taken in London. It sets a common vision for the future, as well as the aims, priorities and mechanisms to take the process into the 21st century. The partners agreed to strive for a common goal of maintaining peace and stability, and of promoting conditions conducive to sustainable economic and social development. Other ASEM initiatives were endorsed, relating to globalisation and information technology, the development of human resources, the environment, health, and transnational law enforcement matters.

In addition to coordination mechanisms, the Framework proposes that the Economy, Finance and Foreign Affairs Ministers meet regularly, at least once a year. A group of ASEM contact officials will facilitate exchanges of information.

London Summit (April 1998)

The London Summit adopted an Asia-Europe Cooperation Framework and established an Asia-Europe Vision Group to examine medium and long term perspectives for relations between the two regions. The Heads of State or Government also endorsed an action plan on trade facilitation and another on promoting investment. In response to the economic and financial crisis in Asia, they also agreed to create an ASEM Trust Fund and a European financial expertise network to overcome the effects of the crisis and avert new crises.

The process must be conducted on a basis of equal partnership, mutual respect and mutual benefits. It need not be institutionalised and should be an open and evolutionary process, managing the three pillars in parallel. The priorities set form the basis of those taken up by the Commission in 2000. The summit also refers to the need for increased cooperation in the fields of science and technology, culture, human resources, development, the fight against drug trafficking, money laundering, terrorism and international organised crime.

The Cooperation Framework provides that the Foreign Affairs Ministers and their Senior Officials are responsible for the overall coordination of ASEM activities. Any proposals for new activities must be beneficial to both parties, contribute to the general objectives, propose well-defined goals and actors, avoid duplicating activities and involve a sufficient number of partners.

Bangkok Summit (March 1996)

At the inaugural ASEM in Bangkok, the Heads of State or Government decided to establish an Asia-Europe Environmental Technology Centre in Bangkok. They also decided to set up an Asia-Europe Foundation with headquarters in Singapore, an Asia-Europe university programme and youth exchange programmes to strengthen cultural ties. They also agreed to conduct a study on the integration of the trans-Asian rail network and its possible integration into the trans-European network.

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