Associated France Press 10/9/2006
Asia-Europe summit tackles trade, security and climate change
by Rory Mulholland
HELSINKI (AFP) - Asian and European leaders meeting in Helsinki were set to deliver a strong message to the world on what to do about global warming after the Kyoto Protocol on climate change runs out in 2012.
"The basic idea is to find a platform for work after 2012," the target date for the United Nations' protocol on reducing the world's greenhouse gas emissions, said senior Finnish official Markus Lyra.
A "strong message" on climate change will be included in the final communique on Monday of the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) that has gathered leaders and top officials from 38 Asian and European nations, he said Sunday.
Asian leaders, increasingly confident of their region's economic and political clout, were to tackle issues ranging from trade to security with their European counterparts at the two-day summit in the capital of Finland, which holds the EU's rotating presidency.
The 25-nation European Union, both curious and cautious about Asia's growing role in world affairs, was hosting leaders from China, Korea, Japan and the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
Despite criticism from human rights groups about going soft on Myanmar, Finland made an exception to an EU ban on top officials from the country's military junta entering the bloc so that Foreign Minister U Nyan Win could attend the ASEM summit.
The EU's Finnish presidency on Sunday pressed Myanmar to improve its human rights and democracy record, said Markus Lyra, who is under-secretary of state at the Finnish Foreign Ministry.
He said that U had given a "traditional" reaction, namely that "Myanmar needs more time" to make reforms.
As leaders arrived Saturday on the eve of the summit, some 200 Finnish anarchists clashed with riot police in central Helsinki to protest against the presence of leaders from China and Myanmar.
Critics have said that Europe will avoid strong criticism of China's rights abuses for fear of upsetting the growing economic giant that last year took 52 billion euros (66 billion dollars) worth of imports from the EU.
ASEM is the only forum exclusively dedicated to dialogue between Asia and Europe. But it is widely seen as being long on talk and short on substance and is still trying to prove its relevance despite having 10 years of existence behind it.
While trade discussions at the summit were officially to focus on jumpstarting stalled World Trade Organisation negotiations, improving bilateral trade ties between the EU and ASEAN and between Europe and South Korea were also expected to be hot topics here, officials said.
Security issues ranging from North Korea's missiles and Iran's atomic ambitions to ensuring a steady supply of energy to fuel the two regions' economies, were also on the agenda.
South Korean President Roh Moo-Hyun was expected to use the ASEM summit as an opportunity to sell his idea of multilateral security system for northeast Asia.
He was also expected to lay out Seoul's stance on North Korea's nuclear policy and recent missile tests, which are likely to figure prominently during security discussions.
Equally concerned about North Korea's missile programme, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has lobbied the host, Finnish Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen, to write concerns over Pyonyang's missile development into his chairman's statement at the conclusion of the summit.
North Korea in July test-fired six short and medium-range missiles and one long-range missile-2.
The Helsinki summit marks the 10-year anniversary of ASEM, which started with a meeting in 1996 in Bangkok.
India, Mongolia and Pakistan were invited Sunday to join future gatherings of ASEM.
The addition of the three Asian countries will lessen the imbalance in the forum, where the European Union's 25 members outweigh the 13 Asian countries currently in the club.