“ASEM is embarking on a new level of cooperation. All of the member countries highlight that ASEM is a strategic choice for the two continents, are committed to the ASEM process in general and ASEM 5 in particular”.
Vietnam’s Vice Prime Minister Vu Khoan affirmed this while discussing Vietnam’s preparations for ASEM 5.
The fifth ASEM will take place amid stormy changes in both Asia and Europe. What new opportunities and challenges does this context pose to the ASEM cooperation process?
ASEM 5 will convene when the world is undergoing important and complicated moves, which open up both great opportunities and serious challenges. International terrorism continues to threaten peace, security and development of the world. Disorder and conflicts such as the Iraqi war are happening in many places, creating profound outcomes and impacts on the state of world affairs. Globalisation and regionalisation, closely linked to trade and investment liberalisation, are still developing; competition and trade protectionism is also on the rise. Meanwhile, the world is facing increasingly fierce global issues such as poverty, epidemics, environmental deterioration and transnational crime, all of which cannot be well resolved by an individual state.
The Asia-Europe partnership at various levels has reaped seyeral gains but also had its fair share of challenges. There are differences between Asia and Europe in terms of interest, priority and develơpment. Currently, ASEM cooperation has been limited to policy dialogue, and has not yet been raised to a plane with specific commitments and action plans, especially regarding economic cooperation. However, ASEM has fundamental advantages. Peace and cooperation for development continue to be a dominant trend in international politics, reflecting the common expectation of people in both Asian and European continents and in the world at large. Facing the new challenges, Asia and Europe are two large political and economic centres of the world, and thus become more aware of tapping potential, improving cooperation and contributing to peace, security, order and prosperity in the region and in the world.
In Asia and Europe there have been many remarkable developments, especially the strengthened internal integration: the EU has kept on expanding, recruiting 10 new members; ASEAN includes all 10 South-east Asian countries and has united more (initiatives for establishment of the ASEAN Security Community, ASEAN Economic Community, and ASEAN Socio-cultural Community embodied in the Declaration ofASEAN Concord II - Ball Concord II); and East Asian cooperation has progressed. There are opportunities for both of the continents to fully make use of the potential and bring cooperation to a new height.
The long history of exchange and cooperation between Asia and Europe is the basis for heightening mutual understanding and respect among the nations and peoples of the two continents. Political, econơmic and cultural diversity can become an impetus for development if the two sides maintain dialogue, learn from one another and drive mutual prosperity. ASEM 4 in Copenhagen stressed the idea that with ''diversity of cultures and civilisations, the ASEM process is an invaluable asset in international relations that needs further developing.''
What will be the main topic and contents of ASEM 5? Will Vietnam have any important initiative there?
The above challenges and favourable conditions have been well-recognised and discussed by ASEM members so as to work out efficient cooperation measures.
Grasping the common expectations, Vietnam has initiated and won full agreement for the theme of the Hanoi summit, ''Further Revitalising and Substantiating the Asia-Europe Partnership'' in order to capitalise on the great potentials of the two continents as well as to coordinate in finding out solutions to the global challenges.
To realise this goal, we have proposed ASEM members at ASEM 5 to approve ''Hanoi Statement on Closer ASEM Economic Partnership'' so as to make ASEM economic cooperation more substantial, and ''Statement on dialogue of cultures and civillsations'' to meet the aspiration for more exchanges and cooperation between the countries and peoples in the two continents. To fortify the economic focus, the Asia-Europe Business Forum will be held at the same time as the summit. Businesses will delegate their representatives to report their recommendations to the summit and have a direct dialogue with the members of the ASEM economic taskforce. We hope that with such an arrangement, ASEM 5 will bring many practical and useful results.
At the Hanoi summit, the leaders will have a separate working session on the future of ASEM'' to exchange opinions and directions for medium and long-term developments of the ASEM process, even including the membership expansion issue. Possibly, the Hanoi summit will be the first expanded ASEM associated with recruitment of new members.
As the host country for ASEM5, how have the Vietnamese government and people prepared for the event?
Under the agreement of ASEM members, Vietnam will organise ASEM 5 from October 8-9, 2004. It will be the most important diplomatic event of the year, proving the ever substantial contribution of Vietnam to the ASEM process. Organising the event will not only re-affirm the activẹ international integration policy and contribute to raising the status and prestige - of Vietnam on the world arena, but also reflect the strong commitment of Vietnam with the ASEM process for the sake of all members.
In the run-up to the event, throughout 2004, Vietnam has hosted a series of political, economic, and socio-cultural activities so as to create an atmosphere of cooperation on the threshold of ASEM 5. They included the Asia-Europe Parliamentary Partnership Meeting, Asia-Europe Business Forum, Asia-Europe Youth Forum, Asia-Europe Trade Union Forum, Asia-Europe People's Forum, Asia-Europe cultural conference and Asia-Europe festivals of artistic performance and films. Last April, the Prime Minister set up the ASEM National Committee with five subcommittees in charge of contents, protocol etiquette, material-logistics, security, culture and propaganda that attracted participation of l4 relevant ministries and agencies. With its status and role, Vietnam has tried to closely coordinate with other ASEM members to prepare for the success of ASEM in Hanoi.
ASEM 5 is a great occasion that lures the attention of international and regional public opinions. It is estimated that nearly 2,000 foreign and local correspondents will attend and report news of the event and Vietnam. Reporters of television and radio stations abroad will be able to witness with their own eyes the development achievements of Vietnam, and be able to report on a reformed Vietnam to the outside world. Vietnam will coordinate with ASEM members to hold several special cultural and artistic events to celebrate ASEM 5 and raise the mutual understanding between Vietnamese and other people about ASEM in general and ASEM 5 Hanoi in particular. Domestically, Vietnam has launched a nationwide competition for the emblem of ASEM 5 and a competition for knowledge about ASEM via mass media agencies and Vietnam students' Association.
What is your opinion about the preparations of other ASEM members for ASEM 5? How have they assisted Vietnam in preparations for the event?
First of all, it is necessary to say after nearly 10 years of operation, ASEM is embarking on a new level of operation. All of the member Duntries highlight that ASEM is a strategic choice for the two continents, are committed to the ASEM process in general and ASEM 5 in particular, and agree with the main goal of ASEM, reflected in ASEM 5's theme “Further Revitalising and Substantiating the Asia-Europe Partnership.'' Given the great significance of ASEM 5, leaders of ASEM have all confirmed their participation. On the occasion of ASEM 5, the presidents of France, South Korea and the prime ministers of China, Germany, and Belgium will make bilateral visits to Vietnam.
ASEM members have highly appreciated the preparations of Vietnam for the summit in terms of content, material bases and the success of sideline activities in all of the political, economic and socio-cultural areas. They have stressed that they are ready to provide Vietnam with necessary support and expressed belief that Vietnam will succeed in hosting ASEM 5, contributing to bringing the ASEM process to a new height, more vivid and substantial. To prepare for the event, Vietnam has consulted with other countries and campaigned for their assistance. Delegations have been sent to learn from the countries that organised the former summits such as Denmark, South Korea and Thailand. At the same time, foreign experts experienced in conference organisation have been invited to provide technical consultancy.
As for the content of ASEM 5, as the host country and an Asian coordinator of ASEM, for the past two years Vietnam has coordinated closely with other countries and won useful support from them. At the meetings, particularly the sixth ASEM Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Ireland, representatives held several discussions on preparations fur ASEM 5, reached consensus in stressing the commitment anđ role of ASEM in multilateral cooperation for addressing global threats (ASEM's Declaration on Multilateralism) as well as agreed on documents to improve the ASEM operating manner and the establishment of the ASEM information network so as to raise efficiency of ASEM's operations and to promote the forum's image in the coming time.