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Europe – Asia Center

The Europe – Asia Center in 2024: Bridging Horizons – Embracing Dialogue for a Sustainable Future

Positioning paper on the vision of the Europe – Asia Center, written by Ambassador Jean De Ruyt and H.E. Erik Solheim

Ambassador Jean De Ruyt and H.E. Erik Solheim, the Co-Chairs of the Europe – Asia Center

With recent developments around the globe, it has become virtually impossible to anticipate with precision what will happen in 2024. From the war in Ukraine and Gaza, the ‘super-election’ year in so many countries involving nearly half of the world’s population, it is yet to be seen who will be at the steering wheel to navigate nations through such turbulent times.

In Asia, the election year started with the elections in Bangladesh and Taiwan, to be followed by India, Indonesia, South Korea, and Pakistan. As an international non-profit organization based at the heart of Europe, we will continue to follow the election developments on both the national level and European elections, resulting in the appointment of a new European Commission leadership at the end of 2024.

Belgium is leading the presidency of the European Council in the first half of 2024, followed by Hungary in the second. The key legislative agenda will need to be concluded in the first months of the year, yet many Directives and Regulations are still in discussion, becoming a pressing issue in reaching agreements due to the European election in early June. The announcement of the European Council president, Charles Michel, to renounce his post mid-year and to compete for a seat in the European Parliament is a sign that the campaign has already begun.

The Belgian Prime Minister, Alexander De Croo, is very conscious of the need to keep active the dialogue with Asia and started his presidency with an official visit to Beijing on January 10. Such high-level visits, including the visit to Beijing by the president of the European Commission in December, are being closely analysed by our Center. Policies, including the ‘de-risking’ of the relationship with China and the imbalance in trade with the EU, are indeed the current hot topics of interest. We at the Europe-Asia Center have resolutely decided that these differences should be approached by dialogue and not by emulating those who, mainly in the United States, seem to be tempted by a new ‘cold war.’

November 5 is a key date in the year with the world following closely the primaries in the US and the election of the new president which will obviously have a significant influence on the world’s stage. Should Donald Trump return to the White House, the agenda will be very different to a US under a second term for Joe Biden. We have to be prepared, in Europe as well as in Asia, for the two alternatives.

Political developments have not been the only concern to the global outlook. In the past year, our wonderful Planet Earth has borne witness to an unprecedented number of natural disasters, ranging from devastating wildfires in Europe and Canada to floods in Pakistan and cyclones in Myanmar. Globally, fossil fuels were endowed with over $7 trillion in subsidies last year alone, translating to a staggering $11 million every minute. 2023 was the hottest year on record.

Despite these disconcerting realities, we need to have hope for the political economy. Change is historically slow until there is a convergence, often with no warning. We are in the early days of the renewable revolution, one that will certainly take place.

Two pivotal shifts in the trajectory of global climate action have emerged since the UN climate talks in Bali in 2007. Firstly, the scale and scope of these conferences have dramatically changed. What started as a gathering of a few thousand diplomats intensely focused on negotiated texts has now grown into a gathering of over 100,000 people in Dubai. Business is now perhaps the main driver of change. With the cost reduction of solar and wind energy by 90% over the last decade it is the ‘political economy, stupid,’ if we paraphrase the quote of President Bill Clinton.

The second notable shift is geopolitical. Where we previously recommended Brussels, Berlin, or Paris for exemplifying environmental practices, the tide has shifted towards Beijing, Delhi, and Jakarta. With China leading in over 60% of all green markets, Prime Minister Modi launching green missions by the day, and Indonesia achieving zero deforestation in 2022, our extensive engagements throughout China, India and the ASEAN region leave us in awe of the great strides being made.

It is a clear demonstration of a shift in emphasis from diplomatic discussions to a focus on the political economy, also from Europe to Asia. But the transition requires active engagement, given the multitude of obstacles on the path to a greener and fairer world.

It’s a no-brainer that if we wish to solve the major issues of our time – climate and environment, poverty and unemployment, wars in Ukraine, the Middle East, and beyond – we need more, not less, global cooperation.

The foundation for a lasting global order in 2024 and beyond rests on two fundamental principles: mutual respect and dialogue. Rejecting a zero-sum worldview is essential; the ascent of China over the last 40 years benefits not only the Chinese but humanity as a whole. Embracing a new global order demands genuine collaboration and respect between major players such as China, the US, India, the European Union, Turkey, Indonesia, Brazil, South Africa and Russia.

To achieve civilisational prosperity, the Europe-Asia Center is committed to empowering relationships between the communities of Europe and Asia. We have to work on forward-thinking initiatives that can deliver tangible benefits, contributing to the prosperity of the world, of everyone.


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