The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Thailand hosted the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) Symposium on the Future Direction of ASEM on 30 March 2015 at the Royal Orchid Sheraton Hotel in Bangkok.
Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister General Tanasak Patimapragorn presided over the opening ceremony of this symposium.
According to a report from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, at the 10th ASEM Summit in Milan in October 2014, ASEM Foreign Ministers and ASEM Senior Officials were tasked to formulate recommendations on the future direction of ASEM. In this regard, Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha expressed Thailand’s readiness to host this symposium.
The suggestions made during this symposium will be reported to the ASEM Senior Officials Meeting, to be held from 31 March - 1 April 2015 in Bangkok. The ASEM SOM will then submit concrete recommendations on the future direction of ASEM to the next ASEM Leaders’ Meeting, to be held in 2016 in Mongolia.
In his opening remarks, General Tanasak offered a "five-point vision” as "food for thought”: (1) close ASEM economic integration through enhanced connectivity and economic contacts; (2) ASEM as an area of peace and stability through increased cooperation to reduce traditional and non – traditional threats to security; (3) respect for cultural and religious diversity, as well as tolerance and moderation, to combat radicalism and extremism; (4) cooperation to raise people’s living standards and promote people - to - people contacts, and (5) a stronger ASEM Process that is more effective and able to promote concrete and tangible collaboration.
The symposium was open to all interested think-tanks, as well as other relevant stakeholders, especially those involved in culture, business, NGOs, education, politics, and the media. Youths and academics also joined the meeting. The symposium was conducted in a panel discussion format and consisted of 5 sessions, namely: (1) Overview session; (2) Political Pillar session; (3) Economic Pillar session; (4) Social and Cultural Pillar session; and (5) Conclusion. The discussions focused on stocktaking of ASEM’s past achievements, future goals of ASEM and ways and means to achieve such goals.
Since the inauguration of the first ASEM Summit in Bangkok in 1996, ASEM has been an informal forum for dialogue and cooperation. Its membership has also expanded from 25 to 53 members from Asia and Europe. This inter-regional group has played a vital role in promoting global peace and stability and contributing to the world economy.
ASEM members account for about half of the world’s GDP, more than 60 percent of the world’s population and around 60 percent of global trade. ASEM is the only dialogue forum where Asian and European Leaders meet biannually to address issues in the three core pillars of ASEM, namely political, economic and socio-cultural pillars, with an aim to strengthen the relationship and enhance cooperation between the two regions.