EU Seeks Asian Cooperation on Global Crises, Rights

The European Union will seek cooperation from China and other Asian states on international crises ranging from Kosovo to Iran and Sudan in two days of meetings starting in Hamburg on

Human and labor rights will also feature in talks between EU foreign ministers and Asian counterparts, just three days after Myanmar's military rulers extended the detention of rights icon Aung San Suu Kyi, as well as energy and climate change.

The 45-country Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) follows on from a summit in Helsinki last September at which the two sides vowed to deepen cooperation between regions encompassing 60% of the world's population and 60% of world trade.

The EU's executive Commission intends to announce a plan for a permanent dialogue forum on issues such as the environment, economic and financial matters, employment and social policy.

In Helsinki, both sides called for redoubled efforts on climate change, but Asian powers shied away from firm commitments on cutting emissions. The Europeans, facing stiff competition from cheaper Asian manufacturers, also raised concerns about labor rights.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Europe sought fair competition. "Asia is a region of tremendous economic dynamism, from which German and European business also benefit greatly," he told the Hamburger Abendblatt on the eve of the Hamburg meeting.

"But I also want our competition to be fair ... this means we cannot have jobs being shifted from Europe to Asia simply because we insist on high environmental and social standards here which are not respected in other parts of the world."

Global Crises

On Monday, the Europeans will hold talks with China expected to embrace various world crises as well as Chinese policy while pursuing energy resources in Africa.

In addition to the troubled Sudanese region of Darfur, the EU side will be hoping for cooperation from China over Kosovo, where Brussels wants to see a U.N. Security Council resolution backing a U.N. plan for supervised independence.

This plan has faced opposition from Russia, while China, another veto-wielding member of the Council, also has reservations over any similarities with the Taiwan issue.

Indonesia, with a crucial vote on the Council, is also cautious as it has domestic separatist movements.

China is a key U.N. voice on Iran, where it also has energy interests, and the talks will come just head of an expected midweek meeting between EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and Iranian nuclear Ali Larijani, aimed at restarting negotiations over Tehran's controversial nuclear program.

In Hamburg, Solana is expected to meet the foreign ministers of India and Pakistan and meet leaders from Cambodia, where the EU has been supporting efforts to try Khmer Rouge leaders.

One the sidelines, Hamburg is expected to see a first meeting between Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso and new Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi.