ASEM at a Glance

By | October 9, 2021

SPOTLIGHT: The 12th ASEM Summit (ASEM12) was held on 18./19. October 2018 in Brussels hosted by the European Union. The next summit is scheduled to take place in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, in 2020.

According to ELECTRONICSENCYCLOPEDIA.COM, ASEM stands for Asia-Europe Meeting.


ASEM is an informal forum for political dialogue and a framework for cooperation in various fields between Europe and Asia. ASEM was initiated by Singapore and France and brought into being at the first European-Asian Summit on March 1st, 1996 in Bangkok. When ASEM was founded, it had 26 partners.

Since 1996, summits of the heads of state and government have taken place every two years, alternately in Europe and Asia. Foreign ministers meet regularly in the intervening years. There are also meetings of specialist ministers (economics, finance, culture and environment ministers) to deepen the content of the dialogue and cooperation.

At the 10th ASEM Summit in Milan, Italy in October 2014, two new members were accepted: Croatia and Kazakhstan. The 11th ASEM summit took place in July 2016 in Ulan Bator (Ulaanbaatar), the capital of Mongolia. This was also the 20th anniversary year of the ASEM dialogue. You can find more information under the links below.


Strengthen relations between Asia and Europe in a spirit of mutual respect and partnership; Discussion of political, economic and cultural issues of common interest.

Participants (53)
51 states and 2 organizations

European participants (31)
– 28 EU countries
– European Union (represented by the High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy)
– Norway and Switzerland

Asian participants (22)
– 10 ASEAN countries
– ASEAN Secretariat
– 11 other Asian countries: Australia, Bangladesh, China, India, Japan, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Russia and South Korea

In principle, the process is open to other interested states; an extension is possible with the consensus of all participants.


ASEM is a special form of interregional cooperation: not a “block-to-block” dialogue (as it would be, for example, EU – ASEAN), but an informal dialogue forum of equal partners.

On the European side, ASEM is coordinated by the EU Presidency and the European External Action Service (EEAS). On the Asian side, one ASEAN and one non-ASEAN country take on this role. The foreign ministers and senior officials in the foreign ministries act as overall coordinators of the process.

ASEM provides a framework for political, economic and cultural Asian-European cooperation. Global issues such as the environment and climate change, energy security and non-proliferation are just as much a part of the dialogue as migration, human rights, measures to combat terrorism, work and employment, and economic and financial cooperation. Meetings of specialist ministers, seminars and joint projects are important components of the cooperation.

The “Dialogue of Cultures and Civilizations” includes the regular “Interreligious Dialogue” in which representatives of the religious communities and civil society from the ASEM countries take part. The “Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF)”, based in Singapore, is the only “institution” of ASEM and acts in particular as a coordinator and mediator of cultural and social dialogue. She is also co-organizer of the annual informal human rights seminars.

The ASEM partner countries each account for around 60 percent of the world population, global gross domestic product and world trade.


ASEM wants to achieve a new quality of relations between the regions, which should finally leave the colonial past and the “donor-taker perspective” behind. The aim was and is to further strengthen the European-Asian positions in the triangle of political centers Europe – North America – Asia. not least in view of the dynamic development in the economic sector. In addition, the cultural and social distance between Europe and Asia is to be reduced.

Asia (especially ASEAN) is watching the deepening and enlargement of the EU with great interest. Opportunities and problems in this process are carefully analyzed and the experience gained in Europe can be used for your own cooperation.

However, given the very heterogeneous group of participants, it remains to be seen whether joint positions can actually be developed on important issues such as international financial, economic and environmental policy, the fight against terrorism, migration, environmental protection or cross-border crime – even if no topic is to be excluded from the outset. The informal and thematically open character of the summit should be preserved and formalization avoided.

The inclusion of actors from the non-governmental area (economy, society, parliaments) is intended to strengthen the process. Attempts to give civil society and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) a stronger role in the ASEM process, however, still raise concerns among some Asian participants.

Last but not least and critically questioned: What good is an informal dialogue – even at the highest level – that only takes place every two years? Except for expenses…?

Asia-Europe Meeting