Global issues at Asia-Europe meeting, but not IMF succession
Jun 7, 2011, 15:19 GMT
Godollo, Hungary - Foreign ministers of 46 Asian and European countries on Tuesday wrapped up a two-day meeting in Hungary at which they stressed the need to strengthen ties between their regions, which are home to well over half the global population.
The official theme of the Asia-Europe (ASEM) meeting was 'non-traditional security challenges,' but the two-day meeting covered a wide range of issues.
Discussions ranged from food and energy security and nuclear safety through the Arab Spring and maritime piracy to nuclear non-proliferation and the search for peace in the Middle East.
The chairs of the meeting issued a 21-page statement on behalf of participants calling for closer cooperation in all areas discussed.
For Janos Martonyi, foreign minister of the host country Hungary, the event was all about 'recognising that we are all interdependent.'
'What is happening in Europe, for instance in the eurozone, has immediate and direct impact on Asian economies,' Martonyi said after the final round of talks.
Conversely, the minister noted, the recent earthquake in Japan resulted in Hungarian factories lowering output due to a shortage of supplies.
One issue that was not on the agenda, however, was the imminent appointment of a replacement for Dominique Strauss Kahn as head of the IMF.
There had been expectations that European ministers would use the opportunity to push their Asian counterparts to support the candidacy of the clear favourite, French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde.
German minister of state for European affairs Werner Hoyer said he had noted a 'legitimate' feeling in some developing markets that the 'game should not be split between Europe and North America.'
However, many Asian countries found it 'difficult to deny' Lagarde's qualifications for the job, Hoyer told the German Press Agency dpa.
Many of the Asian countries themselves were unwilling to voice either support or opposition to Lagarde's candidacy, or the fact that the post traditionally goes to a European.
A Japanese Foreign Ministry press official told reporters that his country's position was 'open' and, as far as Japan was concerned, the right candidate must be 'qualified, knowledgeable and capable.'
The overriding theme of the meeting was the increasing importance of cooperation and strengthening ties in the new economic and political reality of the 21st century.
'To bring to a single meeting in Hungary the foreign ministers of China, Japan, Korea, India, Indonesia, Australia, Vietnam, Thailand and others is a very significant event,' Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd said.
'The 21st century global economy will have a huge emphasis on Asia and the Pacific, so our friends in Europe have a deep interest in the future prosperity and stability of (the region),' Rudd said.
Chinese Foreign Minister Jiechi Yang warned that, despite a gradual recovery, issues such as inflation and commodity prices remained a global concern, and he called for Asian and European countries to 'work in concert' to fight instability.
The countries represented at the meeting in Godollo, near the Hungarian capital Budapest, account for half of global economic output and 60 per cent of world trade as well as being home to 60 per cent of the world's population.
The EU's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton briefed her Asian colleagues on Monday on the situation in North Africa and Europe's involvement in developing events.
The closing statement called for regional actors not to allow uncertainty to derail the Middle East Peace Process.
It expressed 'strong support' for US president Obama's recent call for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian question based on 1967 borders with negotiated land swaps.
ASEM, founded in 1996, now includes the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) plus China, Japan and South Korea (jointly known as ASEAN plus 3).
Europe is represented by all 27 European Union members states, plus Russia. India, Mongolia, Pakistan, Australia and New Zealand complete the inter-regional line up.
Laos will host ASEM's next official summit in 2012.
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