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Service for Foreign Policy Instruments
News article20 October 2020Service for Foreign Policy Instruments

Connectivity between Europe and Asia is even more fundamental in times of social distancing

Connectivity brings countries, people, and societies closer together, linking culture and trade. It takes many forms, from digital to financial, to transport and energy.

How can we benefit in a sustainable way from the vast potential of the trade, human, economic, and cultural ties between Europe and Asia? And how can the links and cooperation between Asia and Europe help combat the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic?

These are some of the questions addressed by AESCON, the Asia-Europe Sustainable Connectivity Scientific Conference. Originally scheduled to be held in Singapore last February, AESCON was instead organised online from 22–25 September. It succeeded in bringing together more than 200 researchers and policy makers from the two continents to discuss how to strengthen links between Asia and Europe using research and data. The participants discussed sustainable connectivity in all its forms: transport infrastructure, energy transition, climate change, digital economy, trade and investment flows, security, and people mobility.

Made possible by the Service for Foreign Policy Instruments, and organised jointly by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre, the European External Action Service, the Economic Research institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA), the Center for China and Globalisation (CCG), the conference was an important forum to discuss the topic of connectivity, while allowing researchers and policy makers to forge new links.

The event advanced the work to measure the level of interconnectedness between Asia and Europe initiated by the ASEM Sustainable Connectivity Portal. This portal plays a key role in enhancing the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) agenda on a sustainable connectivity between the two continents.

One thing is clear: COVID-19 has not diminished the need for connectivity, but, on the contrary, it has even emphasised the necessity for more connectedness. Just like other challenges that are global in nature as they don’t know borders, this challenge of a global pandemic necessitates us to come together to find solutions that go beyond individual countries, regions or continents,” said Barbara Plinkert, European Union Ambassador to Singapore, in her opening speech.

To close the conference, Raimondo Bussi, Acting Head of the Partnership Instrument Unit in the European Commission’s Service for Foreign Policy Instruments, picked up on the allegory floated by a participant that connectivity could be seen as the roots that keep expanding and getting stronger to help the tree grow: “Trees can only grow if they get enough water and enough sun. So if we want to nurture the Asia-Europe connectivity tree – if we want it to grow – then we need trust through greater partnership and common standards. These are now more relevant than ever because of the COVID-19 crisis, which calls for a stronger global response and greater sharing of best practices across borders. Trust is what will allow us to connect our connectivity agendas for more resilience.”

Recorded sessions and presentations from the conference can be found here.

The conference Book of Abstracts can be found here.


AESCON (Asia-Europe Sustainable CONnectivity) is the first scientific conference on Asia-Europe sustainable connectivity, bringing together researchers and policy analysts working in the field of international connectivity, globalisation and their impacts on sustainable development, with a particular focus on Asia-Europe connections. The conference aims to provide an academic forum to discuss global challenges on transport infrastructure, energy transition, climate change, digital economy, trade and investment flows, security, and people mobility.

The Partnership Instrument enables the EU to advance its strategic interests, shape global change, and promote its fundamental values. Through the Partnership Instrument, the EU cooperates with partners around the world to address global challenges and find solutions to issues of mutual interest. The Partnership Instrument funds activities that carry forward the EU's priorities, translating political commitments into concrete measures.

More information:


Asia-Europe Meeting

ASEM Info Board

Brochure on Asia-Europe Meeting

Partnership Instrument

Partnership Instrument Map


Publication date
20 October 2020
Service for Foreign Policy Instruments