Asia, Europe at a Crossroad

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Asia, Europe at a Crossroad

Friday and Saturday, Seoul hosts the Third Asia-Europe Meeting, with the participation of the leaders of 10 Asian nations and 15 member countries of the European Union as well as the EU''s executive chairman. Under the banner of "Partnership for Prosperity and Stability in the New Millennium," the conference promises to be a watershed in determining what direction cooperative relations between Europe and East Asia will take in the 21st century.

Along with North America, these regions form the triaxial core of the global economy. Last year East Asia accounted for 20.9 percent of the total gross domestic product of all the world''s countries, and the EU for 28 percent. Of world trade, East Asia''s share came to 17.7 percent and the EU''s to 37.5 percent.

Historically, many Asian nations have been colonies of European empires and even in recent times there has been a tendency to neglect each other, with both sides devoting greater attention to their relationship with the United States. The prime motive for creating the Asia-Europe Meeting was to develop cooperative relationships based on equality and reciprocity, but there has been some criticism that, because of the limitations of discussing overall policy without any official agenda, ASEM has so far amounted to just a lot of nice-sounding talk.

The Seoul meeting promises to be a turning point for ASEM, setting it on the right track. The participants are expected to adopt the Asia-Europe Cooperation Framework, a document which will lay out the main points of cooperative projects planned for the coming decade.

Such projects include the establishment of a Trans-Eurasia high-speed information network and a $25-million fund for educational exchange.

This meeting is a summit on scale grander than any that has ever taken place in Korean history, and it is especially significant to our people at this time of North-South rapprochement, for it is also expected to adopt the "Seoul Declaration on Peace on the Korean Peninsula."

by Yoo Jae-sik

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