Sultan in Brussels for Asem
By Waleed PD Mahdini

His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam yesterday held a bilateral meeting with the Prime Minister of Belgium Yves Leterme at the office of the Prime Minister at Rue Lambermont.

During the meeting, both leaders underlined the warm and friendly relations between Brunei and Belgium and discussed ways to further enhance bilateral cooperation.

Also present at the meeting were Pehin Orang Kaya Laila Setia Dato Seri Setia Awg Hj Abd Rahman Hj Ibrahim, Second Minister of Finance in the Prime Minister's Office; Pehin Orang Kaya Pekerma Dewa Dato Seri Setia Lim Jock Seng, Second Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Dato Paduka Serbini Ali, Ambassador of Brunei Darussalam to Belgium and Head of Mission to the European Union.

After the meeting with Prime Minister Yves Leterme, His Majesty went to the BOZAR, a leading Fine Arts institution in Belgium and viewed the 8th Asem Summit Exhibition. The theme of the exhibition is "A Passage to Asia" and His Majesty is one of the patrons of the exhibition.

Brunei Darussalam's exhibit includes various cannons and earthenware from 15th-16th centuries and artifacts from the Brunei shipwreck discovered 40 kilometres off the coast of Brunei Darussalam in 1997.

Earlier, His Majesty touched down at Brussels Abelag Airport, in Belgium to attend the 8th Summit of the Asia-Europe Meeting (Asem) that will begin today.

Greeting His Majesty at the airport was Mr Jacques de Baenst, Ambassador of His Majesty the King of Belgium and Director-General of the European Commission, Dato Paduka Serbini Ali, Brunei's Ambassador to Belgium and Head of Mission to the European Union, as well as embassy officials.

According to a press release from the Prime Minister's Office yesterday, on the sidelines of the two-day meeting, His Majesty will be having a four-eye meeting with His Majesty King Albert II, King of the Belgians, as well as meetings with Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council and Jose Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission.

Themed 'Quality of Life, Achieving Greater Wellbeing and More Dignity for All Citizens', the 8th meeting of 48 leaders from Asia and Europe will be chaired by the President of the European Council, which is set to be dominated by talks, according to the media, on trade and climate change.

An informal platform for dialogue that was launched in 1996, Asem currently has 48 partners, with Russia, Australia and New Zealand due to join the grouping during this 8th Belgian Summit.

Together with the European Commission and the Asean Secretariat, 28 European countries, including 27 EU member states, and 18 Asian countries represented at the meeting, the leaders will be looking forward to building on centuries-old trade and economic ties between the two continents as it represents about half of the world's economic output, almost 60 per cent of the world's population and 60 per cent of global trade, according to EU statistics.

Hosting more than a dozen Asian leaders in the heart of Europe, the European Union, just like the US, is looking east for more trade to support its fragile recovery whilst warily accepting the rising power of its eastern partners as it tries to reassert itself as a major world player, analysts say, despite the fact that it now lags behind its Asian partners in economic recovery.

On climate change, the Asem leaders are expected to express the "shared goal of reaching a fair, effective and comprehensive legally binding outcome," according to a draft statement obtained by AFP, and that "deep cuts in global emissions are required".

But major emerging Asian nations, such as China and India, have resisted legally binding requirements to cut emissions, maintaining that first-world industrialised countries are historically responsible for global warming and "must take the lead". Hopes are low that any such binding deals on cutting greenhouse gas emissions can be reached in Brussels but are expected to issue "a joint call" for a binding climate change deal.

Aside from these trade concerns, the meeting is also being closely followed due to the simmering tensions following the maritime incident between China and Japan. All eyes are on whether Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Japanese Prime Minister Naota Kan would use the event to meet face-to-face to ease these tensions.

Similarly, Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva also confirmed that he would use the Brussels meet to "consult" with his Cambodian counterpart Hun Sen on the two countries' border dispute over the 900-year-old Hindu Preah Vihear Temple, with soldiers of both countries still facing off each other to be "discussed further". - Borneo Bulletin (4th October 2010)