The Rise of Asia – A Perspective from Eastern Europe
Thursday, 8 December 2011 14:30 – 18:30
Venue: European Parliament, Room P7C050, Paul-Henri Spaak Building, Rue Wiertz 60, Brussels
On the occasion of the conclusion of the Polish Presidency of the European Union Council, the Poland Asia Research Centre and the European Institute for Asian Studies (EIAS), in cooperation with the Permanent Representation of Poland to the European Union, held a Conference, on December 8ł 2011, on „The Rise of Asia: A perspective from Eastern Europe”. H.E. Jan Tombinski, the Ambassador to the Polish Permanent Representation, to the EU gave the welcoming and keynote remarks.
The first panel focused on discussing the political perspective of Eastern Europe on Asia and was presented by Michal Lubina and Nicolas Levy from the Centrum Studiów Polska Azja (CSPA). H.E. Mr. Arif Havas Oegroseno, Ambassador of the Republic of Indonesia to the EU, and H.E. Mr Ali Hussain Didi, Ambassador of the Maldives to Belgium and Mission to the European Union. The second panel, pointing to the socio-economic field, was composed of the following speakers; Radek Pyffel, Centrum Studiów Polska Azja, Dr.Grażyna Szymańska- Matusiewicz, Centrum Studiów Polska Azja, Arkadiusz Tarnowski, Centrum Studiów Polska Azja, and H.E. Ambassador Norio Maruyama, Mission of Japan to the European Union. The introductory and the concluding remarks were made by Mr. David Fouquet, senior associate of EIAS, and Mr. Glyn Ford, board member and Director of Polint.
With the ongoing global crisis that severely impacted western economies, Asia is the continent that includes the world’s main developing economies, which are growing much more rapidly than European ones, such as China, India and Vietnam. Furthermore, looking in a broader perspective, Asia accounts for almost 60% of the world’s population with a large number of young people. This particular trend means that the Asian continent will have more potential to grow in the coming years, due to this demographic dynamism.
For some years now, the EU has been monitoring the important role of Asia in the new global order. Almost all European states have tried to gain a foothold in the region through economic and political instruments. In the beginning of 1990s, after the political breakthrough, Eastern European countries have engaged different international strategies. However, in general, there has been no real formulation of an Eastern European policy towards Asia. Nevertheless, we can appreciate several similarities between Eastern Europe and South-East Asia, which might encourage the development of successful future agreements. For instance, there are some similarities in the economy, as well as in their recent history. Both regions have always been in the shadow of other regional actors. Eastern Europe was an area between two big powers, namely Western Europe and the Russian Civilisation, and South Asia had a similar situation experiencing the influence of China. Nowadays, Asia and Europe assist to an emancipation of South-East Asians and Central European states, which are trying to create their own independent identity. Moreover, both regions underwent a series of democratisation and liberalisation processes, thus, they shared the same hopes of maintaining their economic growth, along with keeping their foreign policy independent.
North Korea and the Eastern Countries.
In the past, North Korea has had links with Eastern Europe, considering both areas shared a similar state ideology. These links were greatly debilitated after 1989, with the fall of communism in the Soviet Union. The economic system is now completely different from the communised system in Eastern Europe. Private economy is increasing and North Korea is becoming a market economy, although it is still at the first stage of the process.
The experiences from the transition process in Eastern Europe should provide some useful knowledge to the DPRK in its economic policy. The Polish input has been particularly important from the early beginning. It is necessary to emphasise that Poland is one of the seven European countries, together with United Kingdom, Sweden, Romania, Germany, Czech Republic and Bulgaria, who have a diplomatic representation in the North Korean capital. Furthermore, Polish technicians worked in North Korea on the reconstruction of infrastructures (Polska Akcja Humanitarna participated in the reconstruction of some public buildings). In addition, we can observe an important exchange of students in the last decades. Many North Korean students have come to Eastern Europe since 1940, including some Korean leaders.
Although North Korea is opening to the world step by step, many differences exist in the economic, political and cultural field. North Korea is changing but the country still experiences issues with transparency and inflation. The GDP of the DPRK is declining, the need to answer the humanitarian question is more urgent every day. Western humanitarian organisations are leaving North Korea, thus, it is the responsibility of the Eastern European countries to advise the future leaders in the forthcoming events, due to their extensive economic and political experience in this issue.
In terms of world’s GDP, Eastern European countries are an important piece of the total share between Europe, Asia and the United States. According to the discussions of an ADB (Asian Development Bank) research, all the predictions point at a spectacular growth of the continent in the distribution of GDP. If GDP continues to grow continuously in this region, Asia will contribute 51% of world GDP by 2050.
Development in Asia has been very strong. However, this development is often attributed only to India and China in many academic circles. However, many regions in the South of Asia are becoming more and more prominent each day. ASEAN should take into account that his members are becoming global economic powers.
Indonesia, for instance, is often considered to be the largest emerging country of the region and the biggest economy of South-East Asia. The Archipelago state is located in the Asia- Pacific, one of the areas in the world with major economic growth, along with Latin America. On the economic growth scale, the country is right in-between the economic tigers of the South-East Asia. Indonesia has signed 250 agreements with Eastern European countries and is just one example of all signed agreements with Asian partners.
Moreover, Latin America started to show interest in South Asia as well. For instance, Brazil recently signed an agreement in the region. We can also observe a stronger presence of Russia in the continent. The country is developing a foreign policy towards Asia, by trying to recover his power with its Asian coastline. The USA has a number of traditional allies and strategic partners in the region. So far, President Obama has come to the continent three times and, thus, showing how part of the world’s future will be decided in Asia.
Another illustrative example of development in South Asia is the Maldives, a very small country composed of more than two hundred islands. The country’s main sector of activity is tourism, together with the fishing industry. There is not much trade, apart from fish exportation. The Maldives is changing its tourism partners. Previously, the main origin of tourists was from Western Europe but, in recent years, tourism increasingly comes from other countries. At Present, many tourists are from Russia and Poland and the sector is growing faster, most certainly because of the opening of the Eastern European economies. We can also observe an increase of Eastern European imports to the islands.
In conclusion, trade exchanges in South Asia have traditionally been focused on the former European colonial partners but, after World War II, we have been assisting a diversification of trading partners. An increase of trade opportunities has also taken place between Eastern Europe and South Asia, in recent years. The chances of growth are numerous. According to the World Bank’s predictions, Eastern Europe also has a strong growth. Eastern Europe is an emerging market and the EU’s integrated structures make trade much easier between the regions.
A continued peace, stability and security have not always been present in South Asia for the past few years and, comparatively, Eastern Europe is also still a big „theatre” for geopolitical diversity. Both regions enjoy land accessibility and include rising economic powers and there is no doubt that both regions have a future in common. The solutions to boost the trade between these areas should maybe focus on a deeper integration with the ASEAN. A number of structures are already present at the regional level, they just need to be better utilised. Many FTAs has been signed but it seems to have created an intentional confusion. The main limitation of ASEAN is the lack of political willingness of its ruling elites to integrate more with other regions. This absence of a collective political answer prevents further development and produces incapacity to solve the most essential of common problems, like natural disaster damages.
The Vietnamese Diaspora in Poland
The Vietnamese community in Poland is the largest migrant community from outside Europe. The genesis of this migration dates back to the , comprised between 1950s-1980s, when the first wave of students and workers came to the country through exchange programmes between the Soviet Bloc countries. Behind the second wave of migrants in 1989, however, we found more economic reasons, due to the collapse of communism and the fall of the Berlin wall.
The main business activities of the Vietnamese community focus on textile trade and restaurants. The region of Wólka Kosowska, situated thirty kilometres of Warsaw and managed mostly by Vietnamese represents the largest distribution point for goods from Asia in Eastern Europe. Indeed, bilateral trade between Poland and Vietnam have been increasing, since 2000. This economic cooperation has brought important cultural benefits to the Polish mono-cultural society but also brought risks and challenges, such as the isolation of illegal migrants, as well illegal activities. Different migration policies have been adopted, in order to combat these matters, since July 2011. An Amnesty act for foreigners would also be adopted from 1 January 2012, giving illegal migrants the opportunity to gain a legal status and to integrate into the broader society and preventing a second category of citizens.
Eastern Europe and Japan are facing big challenges and opportunities as emerging regions are pursuing the same interests, shared values and common objectives. Japan has signed an agreement with the Visegrad, also known as the ” Visegrad Four” or simply „V4”. This group is composed of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia and was created to further cooperation in Central and Eastern Europe has been extended to third countries, like Japan. The desire to continue enhancing cooperation between the V4 Group and Japan has contributed to strengthening Japan/EU relations even more. Moreover, it helped materializing Japan’s new pillar in diplomacy. Indeed, the EU is now studying the possibility of an EIA, which also a political agreement to better frame the relations between the two partners. The EU’s efforts towards Asia have to be put into a security dimension as well. The Eastern European Member States should take an active part in the formulation of a European- Asian security policy.
In terms of ODA (Official Development Assistance), the Japanese contribution to Poland has been patent through three major kinds of aid: loans, grants and technical cooperation. Two main achievements have been managed between the countries, the Poland-Japan Energy Conservation Technology Centre and the Polish-Japanese Institute of Information- Technology, set up in 1994. The latter supports the economic transformation of Ukraine and Vietnam and its aim is to foster an entrepreneurship among students and academic staff.
The Japanese Foreign Direct Investment was a latecomer to the Polish market, even though Poland is a host to the largest number of companies with Japanese capital in the CEE region (4th in Europe) with two distinctive areas; the automotive industry and the LCD sector. Furthermore, new areas of cooperation are currently being explored, such us environmental protection, renewable energy sources or transports. Environmental protection dates back to the 1980s, with the first pollution measurements. However, a cooperation agreement on the implementation of the Kyoto Mechanisms between Poland and Japan was signed only in 2008 to run the green investment project. With regard to energy, Poland is part of the Japan New Growth Strategy and both countries signed The Memorandum of Cooperation on the peaceful use of nuclear energy in Poland, in March 2010. Finally, concerning the transport issues in Poland, which mainly focus on the development of a high speed railway network in the country, Poland was assisted by the Japanese and their advanced technology for high speed trains.
The bilateral economic relations between Poland and Japan have increased notably in the last years: Japan is Poland’s main economic partner in Asia and there is a huge potential to further intensify the future cooperation between the two countries. For instance, economic cooperation in 2010 was dominated by activities in the energy sector but the agreements are rising in all fields.
The concept of Europeanization was first conceived in Western Europe and then extended to the states of Eastern Europe. Therefore, this legacy has led the Eastern Europeans to be underrepresented in discussions within the EU institutions and forum. The debates have not sufficiently allowed European Eastern voices to be expressed. Despite all, this developing region is trying to make its demands louder, especially in South Asia, due to the similarities, exchanges and potential for exchanges. EU is negotiating with Singapore and with the Philippines but what about Mongolia who has a booming economy. It is true that there is no Eastern European policy towards Asia but there is no Asian policy towards Eastern Europe either. More importantly, there is little consensus in Europe about a foreign policy towards Asia. Even if the ASEAN is more ruled by informal procedures than the EU is, the cooperation should be reinforced in both fields, economic and politics. Thus, the European Union has yet to integrate the interest and concerns of its new members, which would rejuvenate the European Union sluggish bureaucracy. The European External Action Service has great potential which need to be fully utilise in the construction of an EU-Asia partnership.