Speech

The Danish Prime Minister's opening speech ASEM 4 Summit, 23 September 2002

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Your Majesty, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great honour for me to welcome you to Copenhagen on the occasion of the fourth Asia-Europe Meeting. The Danish EU Presidency has been looking very much forward to hosting this important Summit.

ASEM 4 will provide an ideal opportunity for Asia and Europe to address a variety of key issues of common concern and interest in the political, economic, environmental, cultural, social and educational spheres.

In the light of the new challenges we face, the relationship between our two regions has never been more important. It is imperative that we seize this opportunity to work together to ensure a continuing and ever more beneficial cooperation for future generations. Asia and Europe are interdependent, as our regions have steadily become closely interrelated over the years.

ASEM is a unique process by any standard. It unifies more than two billion people from different civilizations and cultures across geographical, ethnic, religious and socio-economic boundaries. It thus contributes to turning variety into an asset.

In the light of the tragic events of 11 September, the bridge-building role of ASEM is even more called for. We must firmly reject any attempt by extremist forces to divide the International Community on the basis of race, ethnic background or religious persuasion. The retreat session at the Summit will provide an opportunity to deal with this extremely important issue informally. I hope this will be an ongoing effort for ASEM at all levels.

During the Summit we will address, for the first time, the new common challenges Asia and Europe are facing at the beginning of the 21st century. A constructive and forward-looking dialogue on the international security situation can pave the way for effective ASEM cooperation in the common fight against international terrorism and transnational organized crime.

The global economic situation, and regional economic and financial priorities in that context, are also issues of crucial importance to our discussions. This is true not only because one of the challenges posed by enhanced globalisation is the need for better coordination to fight abuses of the global financial system. We must also strive to achieve an even better framework for cooperation to improve market access and investment conditions. This is necessary for the attainment of a closer economic partnership between our two regions.

I firmly believe that economic growth can result in overall progress in the social sphere and thus help us to achieve social cohesion. This in turn might help counter some of the root causes of intolerance and extremism.

Not only are the regions of Asia and Europe themselves interdependent. The issues we are dealing with are intertwined as well. This is an essential factor to bear in mind throughout our discussions, irrespective of the specific subject at hand: be it cooperation in the struggle against terrorism; improving the conditions for trade and investments; or discussing how human resources development, educational exchange and lifelong learning can be utilized to reap the benefits of globalisation while also addressing its adverse consequences.

Your Majesty, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Your might ask: What does ASEM mean for people in everyday life? I would like to mention just a few examples of ASEM-initiatives.

One of the best examples is the ASEM-DUO Fellowship Programme, which aims at exchanging up to 5,000 students, scholars and professors between Asia and Europe. Exchanging of students is a brilliant way to ensure greater understanding between our regions across cultural, social, historic and religious differences.

The ASEM-countries not only exchange students and professors, they also have a cultural cooperation. Since 1997 more than 6,000 persons have been directly involved in such activities – many more have benefited indirectly.

People-to-People Exchange Programmes enable individuals from Asia and Europe to learn about each other’s regions.

I would also like to draw attention to the ASEM Trust Fund which in cooperation with the World Bank helps to finance technical assistance and advice both on restructuring the financial sector and on finding effective ways to redress poverty, drawing on European and Asian expertise.

Distinguished ASEM Colleagues,

ASEM has already demonstrated its capabilities to a great extent. Asia and Europe have achieved much together during the course of ASEM’s brief existence. However, we must not let our impressive track record slow our pace. Much work remains to be done.

Let us therefore embark on the next stretch of our common journey by ensuring that this fourth Asia-Europe Meeting can provide guidelines for enhanced fruitful cooperation between our two regions at the beginning of the new Millennium.

I wish us all luck in our common endeavour.

Thank you.