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