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Europe, Asia must translate their power into a real partnership

By Josep Borrell | China Daily Global | Updated: 2019-12-17 10:05

On Sunday and Monday, I chaired ASEM, the Asia-Europe Meeting, a forum to enhance relations and various forms of cooperation between its partners. What might seem to be a rather bureaucratic acronym is a politically highly relevant event for our continents.

I had offered to host the meeting in Madrid when I was still foreign minister of Spain, and now I chaired it as the European Union's high representative for foreign affairs and security policy. It underlines my personal interest in the fast-moving continent that Asia is today.

ASEM brings together 53 partners-28 EU member states, Norway, Switzerland and the EU, and on the Asia side, 21 countries and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Secretariat. Together, these countries represent 55 percent of global trade, 60 percent of global GDP, 60 percent of global population and 75 percent of global tourism.

Simply bringing countries together does not guarantee any results. But it creates opportunities. In recent years, ASEM has become increasingly relevant. This ASEM gathering is an important opportunity to further strengthen cooperation between Europe and Asia.

There is a clear willingness from ASEM countries to engage on global issues and take on more responsibilities-from supporting sustainable development to rules-based global trade, and from information sharing on cross-border threats to the prevention or peaceful resolution of conflicts. ASEM has acquired new momentum as a key platform for upholding and promoting rules-based, multilateral approaches. In today's challenging world, this kind of cooperation and leadership is imperative.

In recent years, sustainable connectivity has been a key theme of our discussions-and will continue to be so. The same goes for combating climate change. We just adopted the EU Green Deal and made the groundbreaking commitment to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. But our ambition must be global, and we need collective action. To safeguard our planet and to promote sustainable development, cooperation with our Asian partners is key.

In addition, we cooperate on the most pressing issues on the international agenda, including the situation on the Korean Peninsula and in Myanmar, the Middle East peace process, Iran and the wider region, and efforts to bring peace to Afghanistan. We also work on the need to uphold multilateralism, address security challenges and promote gender equality and women's empowerment.

During my mandate as high representative, I will conduct EU foreign policy with realism and a strong sense of partnership. And I want to work more closely with our Asian partners on key priorities such as our partnership with Africa, the Western Balkans, finding a solution to the situation in Libya, and a peaceful resolution of the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

All of these issues were discussed at our political meeting. But the real Asia-Europe meeting happens every day: when students from our respective continents swap Europe for Asia, or vice versa, to study in universities; when business transactions take place between European and Asian companies-big or small; when we visit each others' continents, either as tourists or as friends, to take in the best that Asia and Europe have to offer; and when researchers from our two continents put their minds together to work toward groundbreaking innovation.

At meetings like the ASEM, we create the conditions to enhance connections we have between our societies and our citizens. This is the real goal of frameworks such as the ASEM. It's time to translate Europe's and Asia's power into a real partnership.

The author is high representative of the EU for foreign affairs and security policy and vice-president of the EU Commission. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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