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Statement by President von der Leyen at the 13th ASEM Summit via videoconference

Met dank overgenomen van Europese Commissie (EC), gepubliceerd op vrijdag 26 november 2021.

Thank you Prime Minister,

The European Union and Asia are a world apart, but we have never been closer. This proximity concerns the most crucial aspects of our existence: The health of our citizens, severely affected by COVID-19. The health of our economy, which has taken a hit because of the pandemic. And of course, the health of our planet, on which our very lives depend. We must address these issues together.

The EU-Asia Meeting, ASEM, is the best forum for this. As ASEM partners, our global weight is considerable. We represent 55% of global trade, 60% of the global population, and 65% of global wealth. This should be the measure of our ambitions for the EU-Asia partnership. The new EU Strategy for the Indo-Pacific region lives up to this ambition. It will help step up our cooperation across the board. Asia's success will be Europe's success, and vice versa. The Phnom Penh Statement that we have adopted outlines our joint priorities: Recovering together, to grow together.

First, on health. The European Union supports the goal of a 70% global vaccination rate by mid-2022. To make this happen, we will continue exporting vaccines. Europe has already exported over 550 million doses to countries in the Asia-Pacific region. We will continue sharing vaccines with the world. And we will continue being the leading force behind COVAX, the global vaccine solidarity facility. Today, roughly one third of COVAX doses are going to Asia and the Pacific region. Now, global solidarity is vital to end the pandemic. We need to vaccinate. We need to sequence the virus in order to be able to react immediately in face of variants of concern, as in the case of the new variant B.1.1.529, called Nu. And we need to step up the world's vaccine manufacturing capacities. This is why we propose to work together on pharmaceutical supply chains.

Second, on our recovery. The pandemic has highlighted how crucial it is to have open and solid supply chains. For access to vaccines and medical equipment, of course. But also to keep our factories running and our workers employed. This is why it is so important to have a strong, mutual commitment, from the European Union and from Asia, to an open and stable trading environment. Openness, multilateralism and a rules-based trading system will be crucial to a lasting economic recovery.

Going a step further, to boost our joint recovery, we are going to intensify our investments, like never before. We are going to create new links, both physical and digital, between our regions. This is the purpose of Europe's Global Gateway initiative, which we will launch next week. Our strategy for high quality infrastructure that will connect the world. It reflects our values. It will put a strong emphasis on transparency and good governance. And of course, on sustainability. Because the infrastructure we will build together has to be in line with our net-zero goal by 2050.

This is indeed the greatest challenge that the European Union and Asia have to tackle as partners. Turning climate ambition into climate action. We need to do more and we need to do it together. In Europe and in Asia, the transition to a clean, sustainable and circular economy has to happen and it has to be fair. We need to explain to our citizens that the transition is not only necessary, it is also beneficial. This transition is not only important for our well-being and livelihood. Asia, like Europe, is a continent of innovation. Therefore, this transition is a unique time of opportunity for us to build new leadership and to create the jobs of tomorrow together.

Finally, we have decided to strengthen our engagement on issues affecting regional stability. And this brings me to my last point: That is Afghanistan. The European Union does not recognise the new regime, imposed through violence, but we need to prevent the imminent economic and social collapse that the country faces. We need to stand by the people of Afghanistan. This is why, last month, we announced a package worth EUR 1 billion, including EUR 300 million in humanitarian aid. The European Union will keep on engaging with the countries in the region.

To conclude, it was evident during this two-day Summit that Asia matters to Europe. Both our continents draw their strengths from the talents and the diversity of our people. We are both looking towards the future with confidence and determination. And there is so much we can achieve if we work together.

Thank you very much for this Summit. It was of utmost importance.


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