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Meaning and purpose of ASEM in Seoul

Posted October. 18, 2000 21:07,   


The Asia-Europe Meeting is a venue where countries from the two continents gather together in order to work out comprehensive cooperation in a variety of issues ranging from politics and economy to society and culture. Since the start of the post-cold war era, North America and Asia have developed their relations through the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), while Europe and the North America have been traditionally linked with a profound bond. By comparison, relations between Europe and Asia have been minute. Amidst this backdrop, the ASEM was started in a bid to consolidate the ties between Asia and Europe and establish a practical cooperative body for this purpose. The Third ASEM in Seoul is expected to set the organization on its way.

Mechanism of ASEM: A Korean government official said that if the summit talks were a swan elegantly swimming on the water, the variety of working-level talks would be the swan¡¯s feet constantly moving under the surface. Unlike APEC, the ASEM summit discusses cooperative measures for a wide range of issues, including politics and security, economic cooperation and culture and society. That explains why the ASEM summit is so complicated and why there are so many talks by sector.

ASEM starts from the meeting of four coordinator countries -- one Northeast Asian country, one Southeast Asian country, Executive Committee of the European Union and EU chair country. The coordinator countries¡¯ meeting receives plans for various new projects and collects opinions from each member country, and divides them in three sectors of finance, economy and diplomacy. The projects and opinions are bought up for the summit as agenda items after they are deliberated on at the high-ranking officials meeting held three or four times a year and ministers¡¯ meeting held in the year with no summit.

Documents of Seoul ASEM: ASEM is an unofficial cooperative body for dialogue among regions. Unlike the institutional international apparatus like the United Nations, it is a meeting of ``Three Nothings¡¯¡¯ as there is no regulations on proceedings -- official agenda, official record and decision by majority. The chairman¡¯s statement to be announced on Oct. 21 only sums up the result of the Seoul ASEM. It is not a document with binding force.

Documents attracting attention in the Seoul ASEM summit include the Asia-Europe Cooperation Framework (AECF) 2000, which will stipulate the course of ASEM for the next 10 years and core cooperative issues; and the Seoul Declaration on peace on the Korean Peninsula, which will include ASEM¡¯s support for the implementation of the June 15th South-North Joint Declaration. With regard to the AECF 2000, disputes among Europe and Asian countries are likely over the procedure and range of new entrants. On the Seoul Declaration front, there is a contention that the Seoul Declaration should include economic support for North Korea, while European countries assert that the declaration should include a provision demanding a shift in North Korea¡¯s attitude. Therefore, how the two opinions will be reconciled is drawing keen interest.

New projects of Seoul ASEM: The upcoming Seoul ASEM summit is expected to adopt 12 new projects, including the high-speed information-communications network project linking Asia and Europe; a project to narrow the information gap; ASEM scholarship project; and the establishment of ASEM roundtable for globalization. In particular, the South Korean government plans to propose the establishment of an ASEM scholarship foundation with seed money of US$25 million, of which the steering office will be located in Seoul, and the exchange of 500 professors, teachers and students from Asia and Europe.