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14 - EU and Asia: Sharing Diversity in an Inter-regional Partnership

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 October 2021

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Summary

Mr Romano Prodi, President of the European Commission and former Prime Minister of Italy, gave the 22nd Singapore Lecture on 6 July 2002. He was introduced to the audience by Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. Prodi is optimistic about the EU's ability to deal successfully with the complex challenges that its planned expansion from 15 to 25 or 28 members would pose. It is a worthwhile point of reflection for both for the EU and for ASEAN which itself expanded from 6 to 10 members in the 1990s.

Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen. It is both a pleasure and an honour to be with you today to deliver this Singapore Lecture.

The list of speakers invited to give this series of lectures includes many prestigious names and world leaders. I am happy to join their company and I thank the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies for inviting me.

This is my second visit to Asia this year, but my first to Southeast Asia as President of the European Commission. I welcome this opportunity to discuss issues of mutual concern with the distinguished company present today and in meetings with members of the Singapore Government.

Co-operation between Europe and Asia is going from strength to strength: we have ASEM, the co-operation framework with ASEAN, and a wide range of bilateral and informal contacts.

We have close economic ties and share many concerns. Our relationship now embraces far more than just “trade and aid”.

So why have I chosen diversity as my theme today?

Diversity defines the relations between two entities that are not identical. Diversity in nations and cultures, in interests and objectives, creates the need for an effort towards convergence so that we can work together. It characterizes the regional structures we are building in Europe and Asia, and indeed our interregional partnership.

Integration processes are taking place at the two ends of the Eurasian continent. Indeed, there is a clear trend towards regional co-operation throughout the world.

In fact, regional co-operation, subject to certain principles and conditions, is one of the most effective answers to the challenge of globalization. I will come back to this issue later.

Ladies and gentlemen, we in Europe have been pioneers in regional integration for close on fifty years. Here in Asia it is a more recent process.

In the European Union it has given us tangible returns: peace, stability, and growing prosperity. The greatest reward of all is that we have stopped settling disagreements by armed conflict. But this has taken many years of hard work.

We are now gearing up for the entry in 2004 of 76 million people to our existing Union of 380 million people. The enlarged Union will then account for more than a quarter of world GDP and one fifth of world trade.

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Publisher: ISEAS–Yusof Ishak Institute
Print publication year: 2020

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