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9th ASEM Summit

9th ASEM Summit in Laos

6 November 2012

The 9th ASEM summit was held in Vientiane, Laos on 5-6 November. This biannual meeting brings together all heads of state and government from Europe and Asia to discuss contemporary international issues and how to deepen cooperation between the two regions.

The main focus of the ASEM summit under the theme “Friends for Peace, Partners for Prosperity” was economic and financial issues. The EU’s measures undertaken to ensure financial stability and economic growth were also discussed. In his closing remarks, EU Council President van Rompuy stated: “The Eurozone is on the right track. The euro is an irreversible project. It is expected that growth will start picking up in the course of 2013.” However, he stressed the interdependence between Europe and Asia and the possibilities to learn from each other.

Both van Rumpoy and Commission President Barroso expressed their general satisfaction with the outcomes of the summit. Barroso said in his statement at the following press conference that “Europe is a committed Asian partner and we want to be even more present in this part of the world.”

The second day focused on cooperation on global challenges such as climate change and the Millennium Development Goals. Other issues discussed were the Iranian nuclear issue, and the situation in Syria. All of the participants expressed support for a peaceful solution of the crisis. The last session enabled discussion about social and cultural cooperation, educational exchange, migration, and the promotion of human rights.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda brought up the issue of the disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands and requested the settlement of the dispute under provisions of international law. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao had already left the meeting before the discussion on regional affairs.


Regional visits

EU Council President van Rompuy and Commission President Barroso visited a number of Southeast Asian countries before the summit. Van Rompuy met with Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang where he stressed the importance of the relationship between Vietnam and the EU, but also stressed the need for governance reforms and the reduction of corruption. Regarding Vietnam’s market economy status, van Rompuy acknowledged the success of reforms but said they were not yet there. In Cambodia, he met Prime Minister Hun Sen. The main issues discussed were the land management issue, that of human rights, and the parliamentary elections taking place in 2013.

In Laos, van Rompuy met with Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong. They discussed both bilateral and regional issues, focusing on the implementation of the terms of Laos’ WTO accession, the commitment to the bilateral Human Rights Dialogue, and the common interest in regional stability, prosperity, and security.

Commission President Barroso met with Myanmar’s President Thein Sein and signed a Joint Declaration at the Myanmar Peace Centre (MPC) in Yangon. He further promised 4 million Euros for immediate humanitarian needs following the intra-communal violence in the Rakhine State. Barroso highlighted the historic chance in the new political environment to secure peace.

In Thailand, Barroso met with Yingluck Shinawatra, Prime Minister of Thailand. Prospects of an EU-Thailand Bilateral Partnership Cooperation Agreement and Free Trade Agreement were central topics of the discussions. Negotiations on the FTA will be launched in early 2013. Possible cooperation in supporting the political reforms and ethnic reconciliation in Myanmar were also discussed.

These visits reflect the EU’s increased attention to Asia this year. Not only has the number of visits of high-ranking EU officials to Asia increased, but progress has also been made on several policy areas and on partnership agreements.

Two summits with China and one each with India and Korea have been held this year. The EU has acceded to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation as a first step toward closer cooperation with ASEAN and possible membership of the East Asia Summit. Partnership and Cooperation agreements (PCA) have been signed with Vietnam, the Philippines, and Indonesia. The PCA with Mongolia has been completed and awaits signing, whilst PCA negotiations with Malaysia, Singapore, and Brunei Darussalam are ongoing. The EU-Korea FTA already entered into force in 2011. Progress has also been made on development cooperation, for which the EU committed EUR 1400 million in 2011, and on cooperation on disaster prevention and response.

“At the end of ASEM 9 there is certainly an improved partnership”, President van Rompuy said at the press conference following the closing ceremony. However, it remains to be seen whether the EU will be able to continue its path of heightened engagement in Asia over the next years. The 10th ASEM summit will take place in Brussels in 2014.


The Chair's Statement of the 9th ASEM Summit and the Chairman's Statement of the 13th Asia-Europe Business Forum (AEBF 13) can be consulted in pdf below.

ASEM 9 Chair's Statement
AEBF 13 Chairman's Statement