Nov 7, 2012

Laos - Summit calls for tighter Asia-Europe ties to face challenges

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European and Asian leaders kicked off on Monday the ninth Asia Europe Summit (Asem) in Vientiane, Laos, stressing that tighter partnership between both regions would be necessary to face myriad global challenges.

During the opening ceremony on Monday afternoon, Lao President Choummaly Sayasone emphasised that while some parts of the world struggled with complex political and security challenges, humankind also had to cope with new threats such as food and energy insecurity, climate change and natural disasters.

“Therefore it is more critical than ever to broaden the dialogue and enhance coordination in view of adopting new approaches for attaining sustainable development, taking into account the current global environment, ensuring that our people can live in peace and prosperity, while avoiding the vicious circle of the economic and financial crisis,” he said in his address.

European Commission president Jose Manuel Durao Barroso underlined the growing importance of Asia for Europe as Asia had witnessed tremendous economic growth from 6 per cent to above 10 per cent in the last two decades.

“We believe this can be a win-win situation for Europe and Asia and, indeed, a very important contribution to global sustainable growth, and the responsibility of the success lies in the region, in Asian leadership and the people of Asia,” he said.

Among the representatives of 51 Asem members, which included the Asean Secretariat, the European Commission and the European Council, were Australia Prime Minister Julia Gillard and French President Francois Hollande.

The summit will feature several plenary sessions ranging from economic and financial issues to global security and regional issues.

Some Asian participants, including the Philippines, are expected to raise concerns over Asia’s maritime sovereignty disputes during the discussion. China claims sovereignty over the entire South China Sea, but several Asean nations like Brunei, the Philippines and Vietnam have also claimed parts of the sea.

Separately, China, Japan and South Korea have also engaged in several territorial disputes that have raised tensions in the region. Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said that the summit would not address issues present in other forums.

“We don’t wish to reinvent and replicate or duplicate debates taking place elsewhere. It’s a matter of addressing problems, challenges, opportunities and asking ourselves what roles Asia and Europe can play,” he told The Jakarta Post.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who attended the meeting after a visit to United Kingdom, shared Indonesia’s experience in tackling the financial crisis that devastated the country in 1997/98 with leaders and senior officials in a closed-door plenary session.

During the day, Yudhoyono also held several bilateral meetings, including with Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and French President Hollande, reaffirming commitments to boost cooperation in a wide array of areas, including the economy and education.

Trade Minister Gita Wirjawan said that Norway expressed a commitment to continue collaboration in fighting against climate change, as well as to engage more in trade and investment.

Norway’s oil and gas company Statoil, which established its presence in Indonesia in 2007, would pour billions of US dollars in new investments into the oil and gas sector immediately, Gita said, without specifying a particular location.

Industry Minister MS Hidayat said that France also expressed an interest in a stronger presence in Indonesian industry.

According to Hidayat, Indonesia invited the French to invest particularly in the local defense industry.

Linda Yulisman

The Jakarta Post

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