European Commission president Romano Prodi and commissioner Pascal Lamy are attending this week's ASEM 5 Summit in Vietnam, which represents a landmark in Asia-Europe relations.
The summit marks the enlargement of ASEM to include 39 partners, including the 10 new members of the EU, and 3 new members on the Asian side: Cambodia, Laos and Burma/Myanmar.
Discussions will cover political, economic and cultural issues of interest to both sides. In parallel with the Summit, Lamy will discuss with his Vietnamese counterpart the EU-Vietnam bilateral deal for Vietnam's accession to the WTO, where significant progress has been made in recent months.
ASEM Leaders are scheduled to address international developments, global challenges and regional developments in Europe and Asia. A particular theme will be how to deepen a common commitment to a multilateral approach to international relations and to reform of the United Nations system.
The Asia-Europe economic partnership and recent developments at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) will also be discussed. A retreat session scheduled for tomorrow will consider how to make ASEM enlargement a success, and the need the preserve ASEM's key-characteristics of informality and multi-dimensionality by reforming working methods for the future.
On the last morning of the Summit on 9th October, there will be a discussion of ways to take forward the Dialogue of Cultures and Civilisations initiated successfully at the 2002 ASEM 4 Summit in Copenhagen.
The European Union (EU) has accepted the participation of Burma/Myanmar in the expectation that the participation of the Burmese government at the ASEM Summit will be lower than at Head of State/Government level.
At the same time, the EU has made clear that if there has been no movement by the authorities in Burma/Myanmar by the time of the summit, to release Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and to allow a genuine and open National Convention, the EU will strengthen the existing targeted sanctions against the Burmese regime.
In addition, the Europeans with take the opportunity at the Summit, to discuss the human rights situation and the need for democratic reforms in Burma/Myanmar with Asian partners as well as making the European position clear to the Burmese representative present.
Launched in Bangkok in 1996 between the then 15 member countries of the European Union (EU), the European Commission, and 10 Asian countries (Brunei, China, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam), the ASEM process has developed into a wide-ranging strategic dialogue between the two continental partners, Asia and Europe.
Supported by specific working procedures, ASEM has created a new dynamic between the two regions. The next ASEM 6 Summit is programmed to occur in 2006 in Helsinki.