The foreign ministers of the 45 ASEM member countries are currently gathered in Hamburg Town Hall for the 8th ASEM Foreign Ministers Meeting (28 - 29 May). The meeting is hosted by Federal Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who opened the conference on Whit Monday (28 May) during an informal dinner in the Hotel Kempinski Atlantic.
Dr Steinmeier made it clear that together the ASEM members now represented 60% of international trade, 58% of the global population and around 50% of world GDP. At the same time, he went on, this globalized world would necessarily cause national influence on economic governance to diminish. "We therefore intend to draw on regional fora such as ASEM to reach common solutions for the problems that confront us."
For this reason, too, the ASEM subject spectrum had today markedly shifted. "Our topics now range from current foreign policy and security issues such as the situation in the Middle East and Afghanistan, through energy and climate change and socio-political subjects such as work, employment and education, right up to intercultural and interfaith dialogue." Dr Steinmeier added that "that is a level of influence we can and should use to an even greater degree in international politics."
In his welcoming address the Minister emphasized the unique quality of ASEM cooperation. An informal body, for over ten years now it had successfully been bringing Europe and Asia together using a practice-oriented approach and without separate organizational structures.
Dr Steinmeier especially welcomed the six new ASEM members – India, Pakistan, Mongolia, Bulgaria, Romania and the ASEAN General Secretariat - taking part in an ASEM Foreign Ministers Meeting for the first time. The number of ASEM members has therefore practically doubled within two years, from 26 to 45.
During that informal dinner at the start of the meeting the participants discussed current international crisis and conflict regions such as Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, the Middle East, as well as the situation on the Korean peninsula and nuclear non-proliferation issues. The second day's draft agenda includes urgent global issues such as measures to combat climate change and safeguard world energy supply, as well as discussions on how to jointly fight international terrorism.
The 45 members of the ASEM cooperation are Japan, China, India, Mongolia, Pakistan, South Korea, the 10 members of ASEAN (Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei Darussalam, Vietnam, Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia), the ASEAN General Secretariat, the 27 EU Member States and European Commission. The four ASEM Coordinators are the German EU Presidency, the Commission, China and Brunei Darussalam. For the first time in Hamburg the EU High Representative for the CFSP, Dr Javier Solana, is taking part in an ASEM Foreign Ministers Meeting as a guest, thus underlining ASEM's growing security-policy dimension.
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