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13 new members join Asia-Europe Meeting
By Hu Qihua (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-10-07 23:01

Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), an informal dialogue between the two continents, Thursday embraced 13 new members.

Among the new members are three ASEAN countries -- Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar, and 10 new EU state members, namely Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Slovenia, Malta and Cyprus.

It is also ASEM largest enlargement since it was founded in 1996.

"The enlargement is an eloquent testimony to the success and attractiveness of the process," said Viet Nam Prime Minister Phan Van Khai.

"It is our expectation and conviction that the new members will make active and concrete contributions to our common endeavour of deepening and expanding the process, and revitalizing and substantiating the Asia-Europe partnership as well as heightening ASEM's role and position in the world arena," he said.

Friday, The Fifth ASEM's opening ceremony will be held at the Ba Dinh Hall with the participation of 39 delegations, including 25 EU state members, the European Commission, 10 members of the ASEAN and three Northeast Asian countries --China, Japan and Republic of Korea.

The enlarged ASEM covers 40 per cent of world population and 50 per cent of world GDP.

However, some observers have pointed to the different agendas of the two regions as a stumbling block in terms of achieving concrete results.

"Europe hopes to increase its influence in Asia and focuses more on political issues while Asia pays more attention on how to expand its economic growth," said a former Chinese diplomat in Europe.

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