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VIENTIANE - Participants in the Seventh Asia- Europe Parliamentary Partnership Meeting in Lao capital Vientiane on Wednesday expressed deep concern towards sustainable development amid the complex and difficult world economy situation.
"Under the heading of sustainable development the agenda of this meeting reflects three interlinked challenges facing the world today, all due to unsustainable practices in the past and also the present, which are the current sovereign debt crisis in Europe; the issue of ensuring food security for the poor in Asia and Africa; and the issue of disaster management," said Dr. Christian Ruck, head of the German delegation at ASEP-7's first plenary session.
The ASEP-7 meeting themed "Asia-Europe Parliamentary Partnership for Sustainable Development" kicked off on Wednesday and runs through Thursday.
ASEP-7 will hold two panel discussions on Thursday, focusing on solutions to the sustainable development.
For the economic matters panel, lead speakers from China, Finland, South Korea and the International Monetary Fund are to present reports on ensuring food security in the current situation of global climate change and on strengthening Asia-Europe cooperation in the field of public debts for sustainable development.
For the social and environmental matters panel, lead speakers from Belgium, Indonesia and the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction will present reports on Asia- Europe partnership in increasing social participation for disaster management.
At the first plenary session, heads of various delegations have expressed worries of the "three interlinked challenges".
"The financing difficulty of our public administrations is currently a very important problem for Spain," said Spanish representative Cervera Soto.
According to him, public debt in Spain as regards GDP doubled in the last years from 36 percent at the end of 2007 to 76 percent in 2012, which has caused considerable stress in financial markets which, in turn, has worsened the serious economic crisis suffered in Spain. Currently, public debt crisis represents one of the greatest problems for the Spanish economy.
"Public debt has become an issue that threatens the world's economic and financial stability. Therefore, the cooperation between the two continents in addressing this issue is vital for ensuring sustainable development," Ms. Pany Yathotou, president of Lao National Assembly and president of ASEP-7, echoed in her opening speech.
Cooperation among countries in food security is vital and a common strategy should be elaborated based on mutual benefits and the balance between the development and environment protection, she added.
She is also of the view that members of parliaments shall enhance the cooperation between Asia and Europe in order to concretely streamline natural disaster risk reduction tasks into all sectors of the socio-economic development plan by assigning the communities as centers of security cultures, thus ensuring the sustainable development and readiness in allocating resources for timely responses to any natural disasters.
ASEP-7 on Wednesday also welcomed four new members, namely Australia, Myanmar, New Zealand and Russia, admitted to the meeting at the first ASEP-7 plenary session, bringing the number of members to 47 which comprise 16 countries in Asia, 28 in Europe, two in Oceania and the European Parliament, as well as the three observers of Bangladesh, Norway and Switzerland.
"The wide participation of the parliamentarians from the old member states and the four new member states in the Seventh ASEP meeting is a clear testimony to the good partnership so happily existed between our parliaments," Lao Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong said in his keynote address to the ASEP-7 meeting.
"Enabling our country to join this unique intercontinental dialogue mechanism obviously confirms the interest of the ASEP member-states to deepen their cooperation with Russia. Russia itself is a natural Eurasian bridge, a fundamental political, cultural and economic interlink between East and West, Asia and Europe," Andrey Klimov, head of the Russian delegation said.
"We consider Russia joining the ASEP as an important step in implementation of the policy set by President Vladimir Putin intended to strengthen the position of our country in the Asian- Pacific region and to broaden Russia's participation in multilateral regional associations."
The ASEP is part of a partnership process between Asia and Europe and serves as a forum for inter-parliamentary contacts, exchanges and diplomacy among parliaments. It aims to promote mutual understanding among the people and countries of Asia and Europe and provide a link between parliaments of Asia and Europe.
The first ASEP meeting was held in Strasbourg, France, in 1996; the second in Manila, capital of the Philippines in 2002; the third in Hue in central Vietnam in 2004; the fourth in Helsinki, capital of Finland in 2006; the fifth in Beijing, capital of China in 2008; and the sixth in Brussels, Belgium in 2010. ASEP meetings are normally convened on a regular bi-annual basis alternately in Asia and in Europe before the ASEM Summit.