(fa fede solo il testo effettivamente pronunciato)
I am very pleased for this opportunity to open an event which I consider both timely and innovative. The idea of regrouping “Eurasia” from different points of view, such geo-economic framework and development models, investments in Asia and Europe, communication and diplomacy for growth seems in fact particularly appropriate in this time and place.
The Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs supported this initiative since the beginning, contributing to the elaboration of its concept and assuring the full collaboration of its extensive network of Embassies and Consulates in securing the participation of the prestigious guests that are here with us today.
About the timing, Asia-Europe relations is a topic ranking very high in both regions’ agendas in 2014, with the focus on trade, business and investments expected to widen to include a stronger dialogue on security as well as a joint action to tackle 21st century challenges.
As to its venue, Italy, this initiative is in line with the fact that our Semester of Presidency of the European Union is going to start in a few weeks. It will be a very challenging Semester for Italy and for our Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 52 European and Asian leaders will gather in Milano on 16-17 October for the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) Summit, with a view to fostering growth and development in the two regions and to consolidating dialogue on political-economic cooperation and socio-cultural exchanges.
Besides the Summit, another important event, the Asia-Europe Business Forum, is also scheduled to take place in Milano: it is expected it will attract over 300 high-level high business representatives and CEOs, providing a unique opportunity to Asian and European business to network and exchange views on economic and investment relations and to debate how best to meet today’s challenges, while constituting a high level platform to engage with political leaders from Europe and Asia in a concrete and constructive dialogue.
Both the ASEM Summit in 2014 and EXPO Milan in 2015 will address fundamental issues for the Countries of Eurasia, such as sustainable growth, food security, innovative technologies, water management, climate change and energy. We look forward to the high-profile contribution from all our partners to these most important international events Italy is organising.
Over the coming months, European and Asian policymakers, meeting within the ASEM framework, will discuss issues as diverse as sustainable development, green growth, enhancing peace and prosperity, human rights, education and urbanisation. I wish to confirm the Italian increasing attention towards the consolidation of regional architectures in Asia, also in our role as the next EU Presidency. This comes along with intensive contacts between EU and the Association of the South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), which possibly represents in its own region the most dynamic actor in the scenario of regional architectures.
In this context, Italy is working to provide continuity to the ASEAN Awareness Forum held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in March 2012: we are planning to intensify our focus on ASEAN and its member countries in this particular phase of ASEAN evolution towards a single market and a more structured organization.
Working in tandem, Asia and Europe have enhanced strength. Taken together, Asia and Europe represent 58% of the world population and about 60% of world trade.
Increased Asia-Europe engagement is no surprise. For one, economic interdependence between the two regions is growing. As Asia’s share of the global economy increases, Europe has naturally emerged as a leading economic partner, being the biggest source of foreign direct investment in the region.
Both Asia and Europe are bound by their search for strong, job-generating, sustainable and inclusive growth. As such, both sides need to ensure continuing trade liberalisation by fostering domestic demand and avoiding protectionism. The EU drive has coincided with Asian efforts to forge a free trade arrangement known as the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) linking all leading economies in Asia.
Asia and Europe also have a joint commitment to ensuring global stability and security by working to prevent conflict and tackling non-traditional security threats effectively at regional and global level.
Europe can offer its expertise in regional integration, but also crisis management, conflict resolution and preventive diplomacy. In fact, the EU is developing broad security dialogues with many Asian countries focusing on issues like combating piracy, terrorism and cybercrime.
In comparison to any other geopolitical area, Asia is highly heterogeneous in institutional, economic, cultural, linguistic, religious or civil society terms, comprising highly industrialized or post-industrialized states, large emerging developing states with global ambitions and medium-sized countries with growing ambitious projection and increasing potential as well as comprising less developed countries, still struggling in areas of crisis. Hence, the need to take each and every chance to develop increased mutual knowledge and understanding.
In addition, awareness of the opportunities in the Asian region has not yet fully developed in the stakeholders within our national borders. In the light of the above, I wish to thank the organizers of this workshop for their very important effort, which has received the “patronage” of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in recognition of its valuable aim to increase such awareness and offer a presentation of the dynamic evolution of Asian economies.
We intend to inject new dynamism into Italy’s image and role in Asia, and to represent ourselves on the Asian scenario as a driving force. If we wish to interact better and better, all encompassing dialogue is essential and this workshop is a skilful tool for our mutual knowledge and understanding.
In addition, I am particularly pleased about this initiative, since it may be regarded as a best practice of cooperation between civil society and Foreign Affairs in promoting events aimed at raising awareness about the growing importance of Asia. The benefits are significant for us all, in terms of cost effectiveness and far reaching results in the relations with our Asian partners, and last but not least in terms of active support to our trade and business stakeholders in the framework of the strategy of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs of “diplomacy for growth”.
Hence I am happy to wish all participants a fruitful and exciting exchange of views during these two days of workshop.