Ulaanbaatar, July 13, 2016/ Independent Balkan News Agency
By Spiros Sideris
Greece is contributing to dialogue and cooperation between Europe and Asia
The Foreign Minister will visit Asia twice in ten days – and in fact in July – a sign of the importance attached by Athens to a geopolitical area with huge growth potential in the context of a multidimensional foreign policy.
After successful participation in the Prime Minister’s visit to Beijing and the NATO Summit in Warsaw (8-9 July), Mr. Kotzias will attend on 15 and 16 July the 11th Summit of the Asia -Europe Meeting (ASEM) to be held in the capital of Mongolia, Ulan Bator.
ASEM is the leading process of dialogue and cooperation of Asian and European countries. A look at the composition of the Asian group is enough to understand the interest Athens shows in the forum: ASEM is attended by the 10 member-states of ASEAN (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Indonesia, Philippines and Vietnam) as well as China, Mongolia, Japan, N. Korea, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Russia, Australia and New Zealand. Besides countries that are economic superpowers such as China and Russia, the Asian group consists of rapidly emerging countries, both politically and economically, with which Greece is seeking a complete revitalization and intensification of relations.
The 28 EU member states plus Norway and Switzerland make up the European Group.
The forthcoming 11th ASEM Summit is of special importance and has a commemorative character given that its convening coincides with the completion of 20 years of operation. Almost all countries of the Asian Group will be represented at the highest level since it is a Summit. The agenda of talks will be dominated by the evaluation of the twenty-year course of ASEM and the need to further enhance connectivity between Europe and Asia in the near future.
The concept of “connectivity”, which is the reference point of the summit, completely identifies with the strategy of building bridges of cooperation pursued by the modern, energetic, Greek foreign policy in all fora and at all levels.
In this context, Athens will utilize the happy coincidence and the agenda of the Summit to highlight both the importance of intensifying contact between the two continents and the urgent need to improve the current channels of communication and infrastructure between Europe and Asia with the crucial role of maritime routes being highlighted for the realization of unobstructed trade.
In other words, in the framework of ASEM the conditions are created for further – after the very positive momentum of the Greek-Chinese relations – promotion of the geostrategic and geo-economic importance of Greece as a hub of commercial networks, energy, transport between continents and as a bridge for cooperation, education and culture between religions and cultures. Potential positive effects of this modern vision of foreign policy for the economy, trade, tourism and Greece’s position in the international political and cultural scene are obvious.
In the framework of ASEM, the meeting of heads of delegations which traditionally deals with pressing international events is particularly important.
This year is expected to focus – inter alia – on the fight against terrorism, the immigration / refugee issue and the promotion of human rights, interfaith dialogue and tolerance.
It is no coincidence that the two main actions of the Greek Foreign Minister at the recent ASEM Summit at the level of Foreign Ministers held in November 2015 in Luxembourg regarded “connectivity” and the causes of the refugee / immigration crisis.
Mr. Kotzias will hold a series of bilateral meetings at the highest level on the sidelines of the ASEM summit with the leadership of countries such as Singapore, Bangladesh, Mongolia, S. Korea and Australia.
Immediately after the summit Mr. Kotzias will travel to Brussels for the EU Foreign Affairs Council (July 18) and the Ministerial Council of the EU with the Cooperation Council of the Gulf countries (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates).
Photo: Spiros Sideris/IBNA