SIIA Chairman Simon Tay shared his perspectives from the field of Political Affairs at the Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF) 15th Anniversary Panel Discussion ‘Asia and Europe: coming together or drifting apart?’ on 16th May 2012. At the panel, Simon Tay was joined by Professor Martin Holland, Director of the National Centre for Research on Europe at the University of Canterbury, and Professor Arnoud de Meyer, President of the Singapore Management University. Ambassador Karel Kovanda, the ASEF Governor for the European Union, moderated the panel. The panel explored the current state of Asia-Europe relations based on ASEF’s perceptions research and engaged experts from various fields to dissect and provide analysis on topics of major concern.
The keynote speech was given by Professor Tommy Koh, Ambassador-at-Large at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Singapore. Professor Koh pointed out that despite the steady increase in trade, investment, and tourism between Asia and Europe in the past 16 years, the partnership has not lived up to its full potential, due partially to political quarrelling over East Timor and Myanmar. The main hurdle and the most important to overcome is the lack of mutual understanding at the fundamental level between Asia and Europe, and Professor Koh criticised Europe’s lack of understanding that there are multiple perspectives and solutions to a problem and that the European view should not be a universal norm.
To combat this issue, Professor Koh proposed the launching of a new bi-annual forum by ASEF for young political leaders to meet and network, the re-invention of the Asia-Europe Business Forum as the ASEM CEO’s Summit to increase business partnerships, and the introduction of a new internship programme for young journalists partnering European and Asian journalists and media organisations to take advantage of the central role of the media in shaping public perception.