Minister Ahern Delivers Key Speech on Asia: Challenges for Ireland and the EU set out in RIA Address

The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Dermot Ahern, T.D., delivered a key speech - “Asia as a Global Player” - at the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin this morning.  He said that the economic rise of Asia is “already having a colossal impact on international political and security questions, and on other vital contemporary issues.”

Referring to Ireland's engagement with Asia and the Government's Asia Strategy, the Minister said:  “While the economic incentive drove the reinvigoration of our engagement with Asia, the Government realized that, to be lasting, our relationships with the region had to be multi-faceted……..We are under no illusions about the challenges we face, not just in securing markets in the ultra-competitive Asian environment, but even in simply ensuring that potential partners know who we are, even where we are.   The response to these challenges has to include a continuation and indeed intensification of awareness-raising and network-building. The Government is determined to do its part in meeting these challenges.”    He also commented that “Ireland's growing aid programme ... will also be making a significant contribution in Asia”

Placing Ireland's relations with Asia within the context of the EU-Asia relationship, the Minister commented:  “The truth today is that the European Union has major challenges to overcome if it is to become – and to be seen in Asia as – a strategic partner of anywhere near the same weight as the United States.   These challenges have to do with our own internal organization and self-confidence:  with the identification of clear objectives; and with the coherence and the persistence with which the Union pursues those objectives.

He set out also the “challenges facing Asia and its partners in this Asian century:   Among the most important, as I see it, are poverty eradication; issues of energy security and environmental protection; governance and human rights; and maintaining regional peace and stability.”

In particular, on human rights, he continued:  The issue of human rights has been very divisive. Many Asians have seen the Western approach as ideological, almost imperialist.  Ireland will never resile from a commitment to the universality of human rights, to which all Asian countries have signed up as members of the United Nations. But I am equally convinced that there can be scope for a more constructive, effective approach. There is enough common ground between us to bridge the divide, if a pragmatic, common sense approach is adopted.”


ENDS +++   24 November 2006

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