It is with this simple premise in mind that the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) was created in 1996 and why it has since become a key forum for dialogue and cooperation between Europe and Asia, with an ever-growing number of partners involved. ASEM currently has 51 partners (almost double from the original 26 in 1996 – and soon to expand to 53) and is representing half of the world’s GDP, more than 60% of the world’s population and around 60% of global trade (see also Facts and Figures).
For the next two years, the European Union and its Member States – as the chairs and hosts of the 2014 ASEM Summit and the 2015 ASEM Foreign Ministers' Meeting – will have a special responsibility in moving the ASEM process forward and thus further contributing to strengthened cooperation between Europe and Asia. ASEM provides a unique platform to bring Europe and Asia closer together on a number of issues of global importance, be it revival of economic growth worldwide, climate change, or the post-2015 development agenda.
Every two years, ASEM Heads of State and Government meet at a summit to set ASEM's priorities. These Summits are held alternatively in Asia and Europe. The last, 9th ASEM Summit was held in Vientiane, the capital of Laos, in November 2012.
The next, 10th ASEM Summit will be held in the Italian city of Milan on 16-17 October 2014 under the theme of 'Responsible Partnership for Sustainable Growth and Security'. Preparations for the summit, which will be chaired by the President of the European Council and hosted by the Government of Italy, are already well under way (see also report from the ASEM Senior Official's Meeting in April 2014 ). A number of events will take place in the run-up to the summit as well as in its margins, including the 8th Asia-Europe Parliamentary Partnership (ASEP) meeting in Rome on 6-7 October, the 10thAsia-Europe People's Forum (AEPF) in Milan on 10-12 October, and the 14th Asia-Europe Business Forum (AEBF) in Milan on 15-16 October.
In the years between the summits, a meeting of the ASEM Ministers of Foreign Affairs (ASEM FMM) traditionally takes place to provide further momentum to ASEM cooperation and dialogue. The 11th ASEM FMM was held in New Delhi, India, in November 2013, and the next one will be held in Luxembourg in November 2015.
In addition to the summits and foreign ministers' meetings, numerous other meetings of ministers, officials and experts are held regularly to address political, economic, cultural, social and education-related issues. Dialogue topics cover a wide range of issues, including finance, trade, culture, education, human rights, disaster preparedness, transport, immigration, climate change, piracy at sea, information technology, food security, development, employment, energy security and global governance. In 2014, ministerial-level meetings will include the 11thASEM Finance Ministers' Meeting in Milan, Italy, and the 6thASEM Culture Ministers' Meeting in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Beyond government-level meetings, ASEM also brings together members of parliament, the business sector, civil society, academia and the media.
As ASEM has no permanent secretariat, the Foreign Ministers and their senior officials (SOM) 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). Currently, Malaysia (ASEAN) and Mongolia (non-ASEAN countries) are the Asian coordinators and the European Union (EEAS) and Italy are the European coordinators.
The Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF) was established within ASEM in order to promote greater mutual understanding between Asia and Europe through intellectual, cultural and people-to-people exchanges.
The European Commission is one of the founding ASEM partners. In 2014, following a decision on aligning the status of the European Union in the ASEM process with the provisions of the Lisbon Treaty, a conversion was made from the 'European Commission' to the 'European Union' (EU). The permanent coordinator for the European Union is the European External Action Service.
The ASEM Dialogue Facility was created by the European Commission in 2008 (currently in its 4th phase) to enhance support for the established ASEM process, to strengthen the ASEM coordination and provide a solid platform for a sustainable ASEM cooperation. The ASEM Dialogue Facility aims to ensure balanced participation of less developed ASEM partner countries in the ASEM dialogue.