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Hong Kong Elections

Hong Kong Elections

11 September 2012

The results of the legislative elections in Hong Kong last week revealed the poisoned chalice of the British colonial inheritance. Making money was always more important than cementing democracy in the tiny island. But the democratic will of the people was plain to see in the elections. Voter turn-out among the 3.5m electorate was over 50%, higher than the previous legislative poll in 2008.

For the first time, 40 of the 70 seats on Hong Kong\'s governing legislative council were directly elected. Under the current laws, the rest were chosen by small groups of electors selected along economic and professional lines, a system typical of British ‘democracy’ in the 19th century.

In winning almost 60% of the votes the democratic camp was able to maintain its ability to block legislation. But winning 60% of the votes did not translate into 60% of the seats. Due to the blatantly unfair electoral system, the democratic camp won only 27 seats, while the ‘business camp’ won 43 seats.

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EU-Asia Centre Wins Awards

21 August 2012

The EU-Asia Centre has recently won a number of awards and tenders for studies, research and moderating conferences. These include the ASEM Business Forum, a tender on EU-Korea relations, another on EU-China relations and a grant from the Belgian MFA to organise a think tank meeting on EU-Asia relations.

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Island dispute

South Korea-Japan Islands Dispute

10 August 2012

The dispute between Japan and South Korea over the Dokdo/Takeshima islands has flared up again with the surprise visit of South Korea\'s president, Lee Myung-bak, to the islands. Mr Lee is the first South Korean president to visit them although the then Prime Minister Han Seung-soo visited in 2008, sparking a row with Japan. There is some speculation that President Lee visited the islands to divert attention from domestic problems.

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FTA talks with Japan

Commission Proposes FTA Talks with Japan

21 July 2012

On 18 July, the European Commission agreed to ask Member States for the green light to open free trade negotiations with Japan. At a press conference announcing the decision, Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht said that Japan was the EU’s second biggest trading partner in Asia and together both partners accounted for more than a third of world GDP. Opening up the Japanese market even further could increase the EU\'s GDP by almost one percent and boost EU exports to Japan by one third. De Gucht added that 400,000 additional jobs in Europe could be expected as a result of an FTA with Japan.

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Ashton in Asia

Ashton in Asia - Again

13 July 2012

Cathy Ashton seems to get it now. Her current visit to China and the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) meeting in Phnom Penh is her fifth trip to Asia this year. The increased attention is also bringing results. ASEAN ministers agreed that the EU could join a regional treaty paving the way for the EU to take part in the East Asia summit. The PCA with the Philippines was signed in the margins. A first EU-US dialogue on Asia with Hillary Clinton was held. And en route to the ARF Ashton had a series of useful meetings in China.


Ashton’s first stop was Beijing for the third EU-China Strategic Dialogue. The EU’s foreign policy chief had already established a good relationship with her main Chinese counterpart, State Councillor Dai Bingguo. On this occasion the nine hours of talks were cemented with a boat trip that allowed a number of sensitive issues to be discussed. She also met premier Wen Jiabao and Defence Minister Liang Guanglie.

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eu army

Should the EU be involved in Asian security?

13 July 2012

Asia is certainly capturing the interest of the EU. Just as Cathy Ashton completes her fifth visit to Asia a debate has started in the policy community about whether the EU should be more involved in Asian security.

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EU-Vietnam PCA

EU and Vietnam sign PCA

28 June 2012

In an exclusive interview with the EU-Asia Centre, Pham Binh Minh, Vietnamese Foreign Minister, welcomed the signing of the partnership and cooperation agreement (PCA) in Brussels on 27 June.

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Aung San Suu Kyi

The Lady in Europe

23 June 2012

Aunf San Suu Kyi\'s European tour has drawn as much attention as previous overseas visits by icons such as Nelson Mandela or Pope John Paul II. The adulation she received at every stage of her tour was justified. But now comes the hard part; helping to reform the political and economic situation in Myanmar.

The highlight of her visit was receiving the Nobel Peace prize in Oslo, more than two decades after she was awarded the coveted award. She also addressed the ILO in Geneva, received honorary degrees from Dublin and Oxford universities, addressed both houses of parliament in London, and ended her tour dining with President Hollande in Paris.

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Caution on Japan FTA

European Parliament cautions on Japan FTA

14 June 2012

This week the European Parliament voted by 517 votes to 74, with 89 abstentions, to request the Council not to authorise the opening of trade negotiations until Parliament has stated its position. The motion, following a debate opened by Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht, is not binding but a signal to the Commission that any deal will be carefully scrutinised by the Parliament which, under the Lisbon Treaty, has the right to approve all agreements with third countries.

This vote was not unexpected as most MEPs in the debate had been critical of what they described as unfair practices by Japan. Two EPP spokesmen, Daniel Caspary and Jarosław Leszek Wałęsa, said in a statement:‘As long as Japan keeps its market closed and makes life difficult for European businesses, the planned free-trade agreement with the EU must be put on hold. Before Europe sits down at the negotiating table, we want to see action on behalf of Japan. This is particularly necessary in the area of public procurement. While Japanese businesses can bid for public tenders in Europe, Japan has all but closed off its public tendering procedures to foreign companies. This is not a basis for negotiations. Europe needs a clear signal until autumn that Japan is willing to open up its market.’

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Ashton visits Pakistan

Ashton visits Pakistan to launch strategic dialogue

7 June 2012

EU High Representative, Catherine Ashton visited Islamabad on 5 June to launch the first EU-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue. After her meeting with Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, Ashton said that both sides had agreed a five year plan designed to cover a wide range of issues. She stressed that her visit was a demonstration of the importance the EU attaches to Pakistan. The EU would be a ‘strong and reliable partner’ now and in the future.


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