The 10th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) opened in Milan, Italy, on Thursday under the theme of "Responsible Partnership for Growth and Security."
The ASEM, founded in 1996, is a high-level and large-scale inter-governmental platform of dialogues and cooperation between the two continents.
The summit in Milan, running on Oct. 16-17, focused on enhancement of financial and economic cooperation between Asia and Europe as trade and investments are key for further growth and jobs.
Moreover, matters of global concern would be discussed at the summit such as climate change, natural disasters, health, epidemics, international crime and terrorism, issues that affect all and require national efforts and broad international cooperation.
The ASEM leaders will convene in a retreat session for the first time on the second day of the summit to discuss current international and regional affairs.
The summit will also steer the future direction of the ASEM in view of the ASEM 20th anniversary in 2016.
European Council President Herman Van Rompuy said at the opening ceremony that Asia and Europe need each other both economically and politically, and security is also inter-linked, "or one could even consider it a single, united Eurasian continent."
"In the 21st century, no country can remain in isolation. We need to effectively connect our regions, in physical, digital, institutional and human terms, to make our partnership truly beneficial," he said.
Countries brought together by the ASEM represent more than 60 percent of the world's population, half of the world's gross domestic product and 60 percent of global trade, according to Van Rompuy.
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said at the opening ceremony that wealth, competitiveness and creativity all depend on openness to each other, and both Europe and Asia must be willing to adapt, connect and open up to global opportunities.
"Regional integration and cooperation can be key drivers for shared stability and prosperity. And, that is also why we, Europeans and Asians have to connect better our two continents in order to reflect better this growing interdependence," he said.
He also emphasized that "any open economy depends not only on an open market but also on adequate global governance," and that's why Europe and Asia should play by the rules of a multilateral global order, within a fair and rules-based international framework.
Both Van Rompuy and Barroso welcomed that the ASEM accepted Kazakhstan and Croatia as its members, making it a 53-member forum. They also stressed that the ASEM will continue to enlarge and attract new members.
According to a research titled "Does ASEM work?" by the Centre for European Policy Studies released in October, a Brussels-based think-tank, the ASEM summit underlined once again that "ASEM countries regard a regular and wide-ranging dialogue between Asia and Europe as being of value in itself."
The research also pointed out the ASEM, which has not institutionalized, has no funding and is not based on "hard commitments" does work.
Better understanding and direct contact between government leaders, combined with the numerous other ASEM activities which attract much less attention, has resulted in far better and more intense relations between Asian and European governments (and of course the EU) than when ASEM began, 18 years ago.
This is an "invaluable result," said the research.