Events & News


A Panel Discussion on “Europe and Asia – dynamic regions, mutual visions”

Please see below for the full list of speakers.

29 Sep 2010

Orchard Ballroom I, Orchard Hotel, 442 Orchard Road, Singapore 238879

10.15am – 2.00pm


    Dr Yeo Lay Hwee, Director, EU Centre in Singapore (Panel Moderator)

    Ambassador Dominique Girard, Executive Director of the Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF)

    Assoc Prof Simon Tay, Chairman of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA)

    Mr Augustine Anthuvan, Editor of the International Desk, Channel News Asia

    Ambassador Holger Standertskjöld, Head of the EU Delegation to Singapore, opened the event by emphasising the importance of inter-regional fora like the biennial Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), to take place in Brussels in October 2010. Because of the wide range of stakeholders involved in global processes today, government-to-government exchanges are no longer sufficient in themselves, and therefore it is important that besides the official summit, there are also the Asia-Europe Business Forum (AEBF) and Asia-Europe People’s Forum (AEPF) taking place at the same time.

    Ambassador Dominique Girard highlighted the ‘vision aspect’ of EU-Asia relations. While recognising the rich history of civilisations that flourished in the two regions, he also acknowledged the unfortunate periods of aggression. The record of the latter therefore necessitates the existence of structures for dialogue and co-operation such as ASEM. The main problem of European-Asian relations today may no longer that of antagonism, but of indifference towards each other. The agenda of ASEF therefore is to reduce this mutual indifference, and also to dissipate cultural prejudice, and identify grounds for co-operation. He noted that while European ‘traditional’ and ‘pop’ cultures have caught on widely in Asia, the EU’s initiatives on environmental issues, which it prides itself on, and have not been very visible in Asia. This should not be overlooked if the EU prioritises the setting of global norms on sustainability.

    Assoc Prof Simon Tay delivered a cautiously optimistic assessment of Europe-Asia relations as a bloc-to-bloc partnership. The EU’s interest in Asia is still driven primarily by the private sector – as opposed to political channels – and European governments still look mainly to China for trade. Unlike the US, the EU cannot ‘meaningfully engage’ Asia on issues such as the South China Sea disputes, because of the lack of security cooperation. Thorny issues surrounding Burma/Myanmar for instance have been a ‘stumbling block’ for EU-Asia relations. Nonetheless Asia is still ‘not ready to go it alone’ and can learn much from Europe with regards to ideas for global governance and environmental sustainability. What is needed is for a rising Asia to ‘avoid hubris’ and for Europe to ‘avoid condescension’.

    Mr Augustine Anthuvan offered the media’s perspective, noting that ASEM is a tremendous opportunity for global dialogue since it will be one of the largest gatherings of world leaders (after the United Nations General Assembly), particularly with the inclusion of Russia, Australia and New Zealand this year. Because the common criticism of such fora is that they are nothing more than ‘talkshops’, the challenge for ASEM would hence be to deliver tangible results. The danger for such fora to be ‘hijacked’ by political disputes is always likely, and the recent diplomatic row between China and Japan presents one such possibility at the upcoming ASEM summit. Mr Anthuvan also highlighted the need for journalists of both developed and less developed countries in Asia to be further trained to better understand issues pertaining to European-Asian relations, as this would greatly benefit the quality of reporting on these matters.

    The ensuing question-and–answer session proved to be invigorating and thought-provoking, as issues as diverse as the Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) between the EU and individual Asian countries, the exercise of EU foreign policy after the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, and the lingering effects of negative nationalism around the world were raised by the members of the audience. The Belgian Ambassador to Singapore, Roland van Remoortele, concluded the proceedings by upholding the importance of dialogue as a means towards improving mutual understanding between the two regions.


    The Asia-Europe Meeting: Engagement, Enlargement and Expectations

    Edited by Dr Yeo Lay Hwee and Dr Wilhelm Hofmeister, EU Centre in Singapore and Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, 2010


    At the 8th ASEM Summit in Brussels (4-5 October), three new countries are set to become members: Russia, Australia and New Zealand. This book looks at their motivations in joining the ASEM process and also examines how the existing ASEM members view the changing dynamics that enlargement could bring to ASEM. Since its creation in 1996, ASEM has already grown from 26 to 48 members and the expectations about what ASEM could and should achieve inevitably differ: would it be better for it to remain as a place for informal dialogue or to provide concrete deliverables? The book also shows the need to rethink the working methods and the coordination process, in order to better organise the work within such a heterogeneous group of countries, regional groupings (EU and ASEAN), and other actors such as the business community and civil society.

    The book is a collection of the papers presented at the Roundtable organised by the EU Centre in Singapore and the Konrad-Adenauer Stiftung on 6th August 2010. It also includes a summary of the key points that emerged from the discussions about the enlargement, the functions and the future of ASEM.

    You can also download a soft copy of the  publication here.