ASEF held its 32nd Board of Governors’ Meeting on 4-5 December 2014 in Singapore. The new Chair of the Board for 2015, Ambassador Claude BLANCHEMAISON from France, shared with us his views on the past, present and future of ASEM and ASEF.
How do you see the growing relevance of Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) over the last 19 years?
The idea in the beginning was to provide a platform for political dialogue between leaders of Asian and European countries and to improve their mutual understanding. Then ASEM also appeared to be the right forum for Asian leaders to exchange views on economic matters with their European counterparts, as they were doing already with countries of the Pacific Rim. Nowadays, we need to have a strong political dialogue between the 2 regions to face new world challenges such as the fight against terrorism, conventional and non-conventional security issues, the eradication of poverty, the prevention and mitigation of disasters and above all, good governance. One of the biggest achievements of ASEM is probably the informal ASEM Seminar on Human Rights, organised each year by ASEF. And I would also highlight ASEM’s success in managing to enlarge its membership, bringing on-board new countries from Asia and Europe.
As the new Chair of the Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF) what do you think should be the organisation’s priority activities in 2015?
First of all, it is a great privilege for me to have been elected as the Chair of the ASEF Board of Governors for 2015. It is also a great honour to be the successor of my friend, H.E. Ambassador Prof. Rosario Manalo from the Philippines. I will do my best to follow her example, as well as to listen carefully to my colleagues and to ASEF’s Executive Director, Ambassador ZHANG Yan, to help design the future orientation of the organisation. ASEF has been created to promote projects in the fields of education, culture and good governance, and to strengthen intellectual exchanges between Asian and European civil societies. To be consistent with the orientation of ASEM, I think ASEF should focus more on new challenges and issues such as climate change and sustainable development, urbanisation, energy, creative industries, e-learning and good governance. It is, therefore, important to exchange good practices in these fields.
What do you think is ASEF’s biggest contribution till date?
ASEF has been fulfilling its mandate quite well. It has been building networks with relevant segments of the civil societies in Asia and Europe, as well as organising contacts between journalists, universities, think-tanks, cultural institutions, and non-governmental organisations from both regions. ASEF can be proud of organising numerous meetings to exchange best practices in different fields between Asia and Europe, especially with regard to good governance.