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ASEAN Partners

ASEM performs well in bringing together Asia, Europe: European Expert

Xinhua News Agency | Sun,2016-07-10

Shada Islam, director of policy at the Brussels-based think-tank Friends of Europe, said that the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) has performed well in terms of bringing together the two continents.

"The revitalization of this important forum is to a large extent a consequence of the fact that China is very much engaged into it," said Islam in a recent interview with Xinhua.

Islam explained that ASEM is very flexible but needs to be updated, revitalized with new energy and she thought that a lot of discussions on connectivity are going to provide that kind of new dynamism.

"Considering the challenges of today's world, ASEM is the unique forum where Asia and EU talk very frankly to each other, but I think that if we want to make it flourish then we should invest more time and energy into it," said the expert.

According to Islam, one of the good element is that currently Asian countries and especially China, are more committed to this Eurasian dialogue.

Another important point of discussions between Europe and Asia is the demographic issue, Islam said that "if you don't involve the young people in the discussions on the future, they will feel left out of the society."

"An element that came out from Brexit was the fear of globalization, a challenge we noticed around the world but not so much in China," said Islam.

She praised the Chinese strategy on this issue, explaining that Beijing was very powerful and active on such a movement therefore the population, thanks to the improvement of their living conditions, have seen the benefit of globalization.

"China's prosperity is really a result of a very active participation in the whole globalization while in other Asian countries this issue still a problem," she said.

Islam underlined the key role of connectivity, she said that "research and development, innovation and digitization are a key topic in China's development plan therefore digital connectivity is going to be a very important issue in EU-China and EU-Asia relations."

The expert said that China is a very important player in ASEM and Beijing as a global driver has put connectivity very firmly on the ASEM agenda.

According to Islam, it is important to put in place and integrate multiple inclusive mechanisms and in this framework the Belt and Road initiative, when fully implemented, will be a very good tool for connectivity in ASEM.

"This ambitious Eurasian tool is a good contribution from China that confirm its enthusiasms and commitment," she said.

"I see a lot of parallelism between the EU-China strategies in terms of innovation, connectivity and research which can be reflected in a wider ASEM framework," she concluded.

Mongolia will host the 11th ASEM Summit of Heads of State and Government during July 15-16. This year also marks the 20th anniversary of ASEM since it was inaugurated in 1996 in Bangkok, Thailand.