Accepting joint responsibility
The Ukraine crisis absorbed much of the summit participants’ time. The discussion of the outstanding contentious issues was pursued in a larger group on Friday, following several bilateral meetings, in response to an invitation by Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.
In-depth discussions of Ukraine crisis
Matteo Renzi expressed his "genuine confidence that progress can be made" after the discussion. Chancellor Angela Merkel was more cautious. "There are very different versions" of the course of the conflict, she said. "There has been a commitment to the Minsk peace plan, which has the support of President Putin and President Poroshenko. When we come to the implementation of the individual points, however, the two sides still diverge markedly," she noted. "It is good that we are still talking, but there is no breakthrough in sight."
Apart from Angela Merkel, Petro Poroshenko and Vladimir Putin, the morning meeting was also attended by the Italian Prime Minister who is hosting the summit, French President François Hollande, British Prime Minister David Cameron, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy.
Another meeting was scheduled for lunchtime, in what has come to be known as the Normandy format, with Angela Merkel, François Hollande, Vladimir Putin and Petro Poroshenko. The discussion is a "flowing process", said deputy government spokesperson Christiane Wirtz on Friday in Berlin. "Obviously all participants have an interest in this process."
Core demands not yet met
In spite of the agreed ceasefire, the situation in Ukraine remains extremely difficult, said the Chancellor in the German Bundestag on Thursday. Reports of fighting and new victims are received every day. Russia is called on to act, and must "make the crucial contribution to de-escalating the situation".
"One point of paramount importance is the complete implementation of September’s Minsk Protocol," said the Chancellor. This calls for the withdrawal of Russian weapons, effective border controls under the aegis of the OSCE, and for municipal elections to be held in eastern Ukraine "under Ukrainian law", stipulated the Chancellor.
Separate meetings with Vladimir Putin and Petro Poroshenko
Late on Thursday evening the Chancellor met with the Russian President. They discussed the various aspects of the hitherto unsatisfactory implementation of the Minsk Protocol – for instance a complete ceasefire, control of the Russian-Ukrainian border and the holding of municipal elections in Donetsk and Luhansk under Ukrainian law.
The ASEM (Asia-Europe Meeting) summit marked Vladimir Putin’s first meeting with western heads of state and government since the D-Day memorial events in France in June. In July Chancellor Angela Merkel held bilateral talks with him about Ukraine while both were attending the final of the FIFA World Cup in Rio de Janeiro.
On Thursday Angela Merkel also met Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. They also discussed the implementation status of the Minsk Protocol. Both sides agreed that a great many provisions have not yet been implemented.
High-ranking contacts useful
Gernot Erler, the German government’s Coordinator for Russia declared himself to be cautiously optimistic. He hoped that Milan would be "an important intermediate step" in resolving the crisis, he said. Over recent weeks it has often been asked to what extent the Contact Group can achieve results in the absence of high-ranking representatives. In Gernot Erler’s opinion, genuine results require ongoing contacts at top level, as seen in Milan.
Addressing global matters together
On her arrival in Milan, Chancellor Angela Merkel declared, "We will discuss issues of global importance affecting Europe and Asia." These important talks were to be held under the banner "addressing global matters in an inter-connected world" she added.
The 10th ASEM summit was attended by over 50 heads of state and government from Asia and Europe. Discussions explored sustainability and security, issues that are important for both Europe and Asia. Also on the agenda were financial and economic cooperation, and regional and international issues, as well as cooperation on employment, education, and social and cultural affairs. Alongside the summit, meetings of parliamentarians, business representatives and civil society took place.
Angela Merkel comments on the summit topics
Before leaving Germany for Milan, Chancellor Angela Merkel delivered a government statement in which she stressed that the major global challenges facing the world today can only be tackled together. The ASEM process offers a "great and important forum" at the level of heads of state and government, at which "issues that are of common interest to both Europe and Asia" can be discussed at regular intervals. Angela Merkel cited examples taken from the current global political arena.
Free and safe shipping channels and territorial disputes in Europe and Asia were also on the summit agenda, as were the fight against the terrorist organisation Islamic State, the fight against Ebola, and expectations of Europe. In the final analysis we must establish "how we can further enhance competitiveness, growth and employment in Europe – specifically and sustainably," said Angela Merkel.
ASEM, the Asia-Europe Meeting, was initiated in 1996 by Singapore and the French EU Presidency at that time. ASEM complements APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) adding an Asian-European component. For the EU, ASEM is the only forum where the entire EU has the opportunity to meet important Asian partners.
ASEM summits are now attended by 51 partners. The European group consists of EU member states, the EU (represented by the European External Action Service) and a sub-group of non-EU member states (Switzerland and Norway).
On the Asian side, China, Japan, South Korea, 10 ASEAN states, the ASEAN Secretariat, India, Pakistan, Australia, New Zealand, Russia, Mongolia and Bangladesh are members.
Croatia (European Group) and Kazakhstan (Asian group) were welcomed to ASEM at the summit in October 2014. Turkey and Ukraine have expressed their interest in joining in future, but no in-depth discussions have yet been held.
ASEM ministers of foreign affairs meet between the summits. They met most recently on 11/12 November 2013 in New Delhi. The next meeting is scheduled for 2015 in Luxemburg.