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History of the Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF)

On 1-2 March 1996, the Heads of State and Government from 10 Asian nations and 15 European nations, the President of the Council of the European Union, and the President of the  European Commission, convened in Bangkok, Thailand, for the inauguration of the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM)  - an intergovernmental process established to foster dialogue and cooperation between Asia and Europe. This was the 1st ASEM Summit, which paved the way for the establishment of the Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF).



On 15 February 1997, the 1st ASEM Foreign Ministers' Meeting (ASEMFMM1) was held in Singapore. The Ministers adopted a Declaration welcoming the establishment of ASEF. 

Based in Singapore, ASEF is the only permanent institution of ASEM. ASEF is funded by voluntary contributions from ASEM's partner governments and shares the financing of its projects with its civil society partners across the 2 regions.     


Our mandate

ASEF's mandate is to promote better mutual understanding between Asia and Europe through greater intellectual, cultural, and people-to-people exchanges, in line with the vision for Asia-Europe cooperation laid down by ASEM leaders at the 1st ASEM Summit in Bangkok in 1996 as well as subsequent meetings. Our purpose has been reiterated at the 5th ASEM Summit (ASEM5) in Hanoi, Vietnam on 8-9 October 2004 through the Dublin Agreed Principles of the Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF).



ASEM & ASEF: A growing family

At the 5th ASEM Summit (ASEM5) in October 2004 in Hanoi, Viet Nam, the ASEM process expanded from 26 to 39 countries, including the 10 new members of the European Union, as well as Cambodia, Lao PDR and Myanmar. The second round of enlargement happened in October 2007, when India, Pakistan, Mongolia, Romania, Bulgaria and the ASEAN Secretariat were officially welcomed into ASEM.

During the 8th ASEM Summit (ASEM8) held on 4-5 October 2010 in Brussels, Belgium, 3 new members joined the ASEM process: Australia, New Zealand and the Russian Federation. This third round of enlargement increased the membership to 48 partners.


During the 9th ASEM Summit (ASEM9) in November 2012 in Vientiane, Lao PDR, ASEM was officially joined by Bangladesh, Norway, and Switzerland. Another round of enlargement took place during the 10th ASEM Summit (ASEM10) in October 2014 in Milan, Italy, when Croatia and Kazakhstan formally joined ASEM, bringing the total number of ASEM and ASEF partners to 53. See full list of the 53 ASEM partners.


Learn more about our work

To learn more about our areas of work in bringing Asia and Europe together, see what we do.