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The Future of ASEM and its Vision for the 21st Century

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For two decades ASEM has played a key role as a forum for dialogue and cooperation connecting Asia with Europe. ASEM’s value and continuing importance in today’s politics and inter-regional relations is uncontested. Nevertheless, as an informal forum ASEM is destined to evolve along with a transforming global environment. Since its inception in 1996 the forum has significantly changed. More specifically, it has substantially enlarged, adapting itself to an increasingly multipolar world, a growing European Union and a more interdependent Asian region.

The impressive growth of newly emerging Asian economies and the increasing interdependence between Europe and Asia in the early 1990s, along with the creation of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), constituted the backdrop of the need for Europe to re-think, re-evaluate and hence re-launch its relations with countries from the Asian region. At the same time, economic and political developments in Asia served as the foundation to build stronger and closer relations with European partners.

Following these developments ASEM was launched in 1994 and it was supported by ASEAN and the EU. Once the initiative was endorsed by the European Council in June 1995, European and Asian countries engaged themselves in building a new partnership aiming at promoting political dialogue, deepening economic relations and strengthening cultural ties. Within this framework, further impetus was given to the process, during the Hellenic Presidency of the EU in 2003.

ASEM has so far met many of its objectives by facilitating direct contacts between European and Asian leaders, encouraging people-to-people understanding and exploring new areas of cooperation in the political, economic and social sectors.

Over the last few years ASEM is covering much more ground, reflecting newly emerging global challenges (such as migration and climate change to name a few) that Asia and Europe need to tackle together. It is to be noted that ASEM has gone to great lengths to strengthen coordination and to translate the informal dialogue process into tangible policy. Driven by biennial Summits, ASEM has created a unique platform enabling dialogue on a wide variety of issues between European and Asian partners. We should not lose sight of this achievement, having also in mind that the added value of the forum resides in its informal character which should be preserved. For that reason, it would be meaningful to try to work on a more structured agenda for ASEM Meetings, making them more productive and result-oriented placing particular emphasis on sectoral issues. Just to mention a recent positive paradigm, we are particularly satisfied that the 5th ASEM Education Ministers’ Meeting (ASEM ME5) held in Riga, Latvia, on 27-28 April 2015, stressed the significant role of education in today’s rapidly changing labour market. Taking initiatives and promoting sectoral cooperation in education and vocation can be proven quite beneficial for young people as well. At the same time, we are very pleased that ASEM has paid particular attention to issues such as Science and Technology.

In this context, Greece has constructively engaged in ASEM’s initiative, along with China and Singapore, for establishing the “ASEM Cooperation Centre for Science, Technology and Innovation” (ACCSTI), which was conceived, as a platform for policy dialogue, experience-sharing between Asian and European universities, institutes, agencies and other scientific entities. Greece is willing to play a leading role in the establishment of a Regional Coordination Mechanism, and we are extremely interested in being the European host of this Centre.

With a view to obtaining concrete results and safeguarding this important added value of the process, it is imperative for the Senior Officials, under the Ministers’ guidance, to concentrate their efforts on the following issues: a) regular follow-up, evaluation and monitoring of the progress on a series of initiatives already launched in previous Summits, Ministerial Meetings and Conferences, b) drafting an Action Plan, preferably for a two-year period, to facilitate the monitoring of the initiatives, c) preparing targeted informal meetings towards a better coordination between the Asian and European partners, d) enhancing coordination among various ASEM stakeholders. The positive convergence of these factors could substantially transform ASEM into a more effective and operational forum, providing also the opportunity for further tangible results in the cooperation between the two regions.

In today’s inter connected world, non-state actors are increasingly active and influential. The ASEM process has recognised this and has developed initiatives to foster dialogue and better understanding between the two regions, by enabling strong interaction and effective participation of civil society, business representatives and academia. By taking advantage of its unique characteristics, ASEM can further enhance people-to-people contacts and provide a variety of socio-cultural links. The interaction of several actors undoubtedly sets the groundwork for establishing stronger links and cultivating relations based on confidence between peoples of Europe and Asia.

To this extent “connectivity” could become a flagship for further progressing ASEM function and effectiveness. Both Asian and European partners have decided on a number of concrete projects to covering different aspects of connectivity, either hard connectivity that is physical infrastructures, transport, energy, or soft connectivity, including people-to-people links. Connectivity should be conceived as the engine for growth, trade and inclusive development for Asian and European countries.

Being at the crossroads between East and West Greece provides the natural gateway between Europe and Asia while constituting at the same time a factor of stability in the region. Given its vast experience and know-how acquired by its membership over 35 years in the EU Greece can only play a positive role in connecting Asia with Europe and promoting active cooperation between the two continents in many sectors to the benefit of both sides.

By concluding, I would like to stress that in order for ASEM to be able to provide added value, it has to maintain its informal character, strengthen its coordination mechanisms, increase civil society input, improve the quality of its profile and finally, prepare an Action Plan which would outline the key issues for dialogue and joint initiatives in the years ahead.

First published in Asia-Europe Foundation

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Diplomacy

The evolution of the concept of diplomacy

Sajad Abedi

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Transformation in diplomacy, like the transformation of other international scenes of international relations, has not stopped at a specific point, and whenever the global structure of transformed diplomacy has changed. Throughout history, various forms of diplomacy have been observed between countries and governments. This development is due to the activity of various factors, and as long as the factors of transformation remain, the process of transformation remains. The new age in international relations has been marked by significant developments in diplomacy. In explaining the dimensions of this evolution, we use the term “modern diplomacy” against classical diplomacy. This paper tries to highlight the historical milestones of this evolution and its components.

The increasing role of global awareness, the diminished governance of states, the growth of information and communication technology, and the growth of non-state actors are among the main factors contributing to the development of diplomacy. Diplomacy involves managing relations between governments and government relations with other Actors. With the changes in the international system, the focus and content of diplomacy have also changed and, as in the past, they are not focused on top policy. In the traditional understanding of realism of international relations, the actions of governments are influenced by tangible factors of power and the content of diplomacy is also a matter of war and peace. In the new environment, new issues such as illegal immigration, human rights, terrorism, organized crime, drug trafficking, environmental risks, proliferation of arms, transnational trade, financial, economic, non-proliferation, human rights and aid issues Humanitarian, AIDS, population pressure, the prevention of indigenous and ethnic conflicts, and other crises and challenges beyond the international community that traditional diplomacy alone cannot cope with through the methods available. In other words, diplomacy in the information age includes wider areas of economic, social, cultural, environmental, scientific, legal and traditional political and military factors, and the issues of the underlying policy are more important in the agenda of diplomacy.

The five main tasks that the diplomatic apparatus does is to collect information and data, political advice, representation, negotiation, and consular services in a new international environment. New functions have also been developed: helping to enforce international regulations, representing the interests of various state and private actors, facilitating the establishment of relations between national and transnational entities, coordinating the activities of various actors in the interests of national interests, the importance of the policy of convincing and image More flexibility in foreign policy issues, crisis management in the new international environment, the development of transnational flows and the increasing role of non-state actors. Many of these tasks are withdrawn from the monopoly of the diplomatic apparatus and are carried out by new actors, while governments are still the most important actors in international politics. But at the same time, they have to divide their duties and responsibilities with diverse, broad-based, state-owned, non-state actors, transnational, and sub-national actors in different fields.

Changing the content of diplomacy, its implementation and guidance has also changed. In this new international environment, the existence of complex diplomatic relations between actors with various interests and boundaries is unclear. This undermines the role of governments in monopoly conduct and enforcement Issues and issues of foreign policy. Prior to the departure of information technology, ambassadors and diplomatic representatives had more relative credibility and independence to conduct diplomatic affairs, such as negotiating and representing duties. In traditional diplomacy, the true role of diplomats was, depending on their personal capacity, the power of the government and the powers given to them by the governments. Diplomats were aristocrats from the upper classes of the community. Bilateral relations were important to them. The protocol and procedures were of great importance.

However, as a result of the development of these technologies, the duties and responsibilities of diplomats have been subject to fundamental changes, and the facilitation of extensive and direct contact with governmental and non-governmental entities across national borders has been facilitated. If the main duties of diplomats prior to this change, the delivery of the message Leaders of countries, attending various ceremonies and formalities, sending information and negotiating, and sometimes making decisions when needed, have now changed these tasks for the sake of high-tech messaging. From the aspect of ceremonial ceremonies and diplomatic events, the concepts of these traditions have changed. In terms of sending information, the role of diplomats has lost much of its importance and also because of the natural circumstances of diplomats, diplomats consider that instead of persuading one or more people should be held accountable to public opinion and diplomatic talks It has been outsourced to a multilateral shape. In the current era, governments usually prefer diplomacy by politicians rather than diplomats. Between the heads of high-level media, private and informal relationships have been created, and the private diplomacy of heads of state and meetings, meetings, negotiations and treaties has increased. However, despite all the changes made in the implementation and guidance of diplomacy, the role of diplomats and their diplomatic expertise cannot be denied.

With the telecommunication revolution, the increase in information and the exchange of information between different countries, on the one hand, the world has become smaller and convergence has increased among countries, and on the other hand the international system has become more complex. These transformations have portrayed the role of diplomats in such a way that the existence of communications devices such as radio and television, and diplomats with more delicate tasks. On the other hand, increasing communication has had a great impact on one of the other responsibilities of diplomats, namely the gathering of information, since the spread of a variety of communication tools has made it possible to more accurately aggregate information. The Internet also created virtual communities to engage people in foreign countries that are not limited to geographical boundaries. The rapid transfer of information from mass media and new communication technologies such as satellite and Internet has ultimately led to a change in public opinion and Directions to it are intended to take advantage of new tools.

The use of new technologies in diplomacy plays an important role in facilitating and expediting negotiations, exchanging and accessing information, expediting exchanges, influencing public opinion and increasing global relations, and making the diplomatic apparatus of the countries more efficient. In the past, traditional national security tools, such as diplomacy, have addressed the physical effects of national power, such as military power and economic power, but these are not suited to new challenges and new international environments. As a result, soft power, public diplomacy, thematic, specialized diplomacy are the main elements of new diplomacy that must be met with countless actors with different interests.

Most new tools for dealing with the new challenges come from information, awareness, and out-of-state control of the state and associated with modern communication technologies. The ability of diplomacy to face new challenges and threats requires structural reforms in the use of modern tools and techniques. Today, diplomacy requires communicating with the public media, which requires special attention. “Advertising” and “public opinion” are two of the most influential factors in diplomacy. There is now a close relationship between diplomacy and the press and mass media. The broad range of people’s access to information through satellite and computer networks has flooded the socio-political environment and brought dynamism and transparency into the political literature of the twenty-first century.

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Diplomacy

Potentials of cultural diplomacy in Iran- Belgium relations

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Term ‘Diplomacy’ stands for guiding of relations between individuals, groups, and nations and it is one of political terms used in the field of international ties. Under current conditions in the world, rather than the subjects which have proposed on diplomatic discussion between various countries such as commercial relations and cultural and scientific ties, this concept plays important role in improvement of world peace and international security. Basically, diplomacy is an important tool for realization of national interests within political, economic, and cultural relations between nations and diplomacy requires for adaption of special and professional forms of interaction between agents of nations in various fields e.g. politics, trade, and cultural ties etc. so that it is discussed about political diplomacy, economic diplomacy, cultural diplomacy, and public diplomacy and the like.

The cultural diplomacy is deemed as one of the efficient and important techniques in relations between nations that aim to improve cultural, scientific and educational relations which will be consequently led to enhancement of political and economic relations as well. This type of diplomacy looks for deepening of cultural relations among the countries and improvement of relation and interdependence between them and upgrading of level of recognition and perception of various international environments and it is implemented through different tools such as educational and academic relations and holding of various conferences and academic communications, exchange of teacher and students, educational and researching cooperation, artistic exchanges (cinema and theatre etc.), games and sports, festivals and holding of book fair etc. and currently this type of diplomacy has devoted high capacity at the international arenas.

Principally, Iran and Belgium are two important and influential countries in both Asian and European continents and improvement of communication between these two countries may lead to strengthening of relations among Europe and Asia and the Middle East.

Due to geographic situation, high population (over 75 million), wide economic market, cultural and civilization potentials, and power for influence in Islamic world, Iran enjoys high potential effect in Asia, the Middle East, and Islamic world and at the same time Belgium is a country with approximately 11million peoples is also deemed highly important in Europe for the following reasons: Firstly, the presence of several wide road arteries, great ports and significant airports has converted Belgium into a transit hub at Europe; furthermore, this country enjoys the annual volume of foreign trade up to 700 billion Euros and possesses advanced industries including in the field of transportation etc. secondly, this country is the headquarter of European Union (EU) and the related institutes and for this reason it is called as European capital ‘ therefore, it highly influences in Europe EU. At third place, Belgium is presently the fifth trading partners for Iran among EU countries where the existing potentials can be developed.

The scientific and cultural cooperation is the complementary dimension for these potentials which may have synergic effect on relations between two countries and cultural diplomacy id the foremost tool in such communications. One of important examples of these potentials is the educational and researching relations between two countries as well as holding of joint meetings, conferences and workshops and exchanges of cultural and artistic products for which this diplomacy may prepare the ground for improvement of relations other cooperation fields. Accordingly, in addition to contribution to interests of both countries, such diplomacy can pave the way for more extensive relations among Europe and Iran and even under current conditions when the world suffers from insecurity, extremism, and terrorism, such scientific and cultural relations and interaction and communications between elites of two nations can contribute to creation of common perception of threats to which the world peace and symbiosis is exposed in order to strengthen moderate and peaceful discourses among Islamic world and the west.

First published in our partner Mehr News Agency

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Diplomacy

Using science diplomacy in the South China Sea

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Despite White House efforts to deny well-established climate change reports and U.S. withdrawal from the 2015 Paris Climate Accord, most might question the wisdom of laying down a science — led peace-building plan in the contested South China Sea disputes.

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