MILAN, October 17, 2014 - “Welcome to the 10th ASEM Summit. I would like to thank Prime Minister Renzi and the Italian government for hosting us in the beautiful city of Milan. I am sure that all participants appreciate the well-known Italian hospitality and the excellent organisational arrangements. Before we start, I would like to welcome two new ASEM partners, Kazakhstan and Croatia.
Kazakhstan and Croatia will become the 52nd and 53rd country to join our partnership. Welcome President Nazarbayev, welcome Prime Minister Milanović. We greet you with applause and invite you to take your seats.
ASEM continues to enlarge and attract new members. Our cooperation matters. Asia and Europe need each other. Economically and politically, and also our security is inter-linked. Around this table I see many familiar faces from both continents. Or one could even consider it a single, united Eurasian continent. Countries which together represent more than 60% of the world's population, half of the world's GDP and 60% of global trade. All of you have taken the time in your busy calendars to gather here today. We need to talk to each other and work together to increase prosperity and security for the benefit of all.
In a moment, and for the first time in ASEM, we will meet with representatives of all three ASEM fora: parliamentarians, people and business.
This follows the motto of our Summit: "Responsible Partnership for Sustainable Growth and Security". In the 21st century, no country can remain in isolation. We need to effectively connect our regions - in physical, digital, institutional and human terms - to make our partnership truly beneficial.
At today's meeting, we will focus on three areas:
First, how to enhance financial and economic cooperation. Trade and investments are key for further growth and jobs. Asia has already surpassed the North American free trade area to become the European Union's main trading partner and the European Union is the largest foreign investor in Asia. At the same time, we need to narrow the development gap and address the social challenges that many of our countries are facing. The successful meeting of our Finance Ministers
has paved the way for fruitful deliberations at our level.
Secondly, we will discuss matters of global concern. Climate change, natural disasters, health epidemics, international crime, terrorism - these and other issues affect all of us. Without more determined national efforts and broad international cooperation we will not be successful.
Thirdly, for the first time, the ASEM leaders will convene in a retreat session where we discuss current international and regional affairs. In this context, I look forward to reaffirming our shared commitment to peaceful resolution of conflicts in accordance with international law. The Summit will also steer the future direction of ASEM, in view of the ASEM 20th anniversary in 2016.
Dear colleagues, we meet today in challenging times for Europe. After the financial crisis, Europe is still fighting to regain economic growth and create jobs. The situation in Ukraine is affecting the security of our continent. War and instability in Northern Africa, in the Middle East have led to the spread of terrorism and organized crime from the Sahel down into Nigeria. This has strong implications for both Europe and Asia. Never has it been more urgent and important that we join forces. Under this light, ASEM gains even further relevance as a forum for dialogue and cooperation.
I therefore again reiterate my thanks to all of you for coming. I trust that our discussions will increase our mutual understanding and take us towards a path of enhanced cooperation in facing challenges that are more and more common. Thank you.
European Council/The President/Milan
Photo: (L-to-R) Matteo Renzi, Angela Merkel, Jose Manuel Barroso and Herman Van Rompuy at ASEM Meeting, European Commission