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Foreign Minister Kotzias’ intervention at the opening session of the 11th ASEM Summit (Ulaanbaatar, 15 July 2016)

Friday, 15 July 2016

First of all, I would like to express my solidarity with the people of France. We are together in the fight against terrorism.

I am very grateful to the government and the people of Mongolia for their hospitality. It is a very deep feeling to behold the spirit of the people of Mongolia.

For me, since its establishment in 1994, ASEM has played a key role as a forum for cooperation, for linking Asia with Europe, especially in promoting political dialogue, deepening economic relations, and strengthening cultural ties.

My country, Greece, is extremely proud to be closely linked, as the European Union Presidency, with the establishment of the ASEM initiative back in 1994, while during our fourth Presidency of the European Union, in 2003, we were active in giving more impetus to the process, having the position that we had to keep ASEM as an informal forum.

I would like to make two proposals on the topic of our thoughts about the future of ASEM. First, for us it would be meaningful to try to work on a more structured agenda for ASEM meetings, making them more productive, result-oriented, while placing particular emphasis on central issues.

My and our experience from international forum organization is that we have a tendency towards bureaucratization, speaking but not having a real discussion about real topics. Very specific time, very specific topics.

The second, I would like at this point to stress that, in order for ASEM to provide more added value, strengthening its coordination mechanisms, and placing more emphasis on sectorial issues of common interest, such as mobility and connectivity.

Taking this into account, it could be, in my opinion, very useful to prepare for ASEM and action plan which would outline the key issues dialogue and joint initiatives in the years ahead.

I thing we have to have more structured discussion. I think we need an action plan. And I will give an example in the session on politics, in the second section of our discussion.

Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you, Mongolia, for the very nice and very warm hospitality.

Second Intervention

Culture unifies peoples. And at the same time culture is a smart and soft power, as well as an economic power. We shouldn’t insist on only the economic aspect of Connectivity. We should also bear in mind the cultural aspect. I believe that, within the ASEM framework, we should take decisions that promote culture: actions like organized youth meetings, Asian culture weeks in European cities, European culture weeks in Asian cities, and meetings of artists. On the model originated by Melina Mercouri, who proposed the declaration, each year, of a “Cultural Capital of Europe”, we should annually declare, together in ASEM, a Cultural Capital in Asia and one in Europe. All together, we should protect our cultural heritage, while also promoting the intercultural and inter-regional dialogue.