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Asia-Europe Ministers Meet in Beijing on Environmental Issues
Amid calls for dialogue and cooperation between developed and developing countries, environment ministers from 25 members of the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) met in Beijing Thursday to discuss global issues concerning the environment and development.

Key issues raised at the environmental ministerial meeting, the first of its kind, include energy supply, climate changes, bio-diversity conservation, desertification prevention and the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol, as well as promotion of environmental partnerships among 15 member states of the European Union, 10 Asian countries and the European Commission, which launched the ASEM in 1996 aiming to enhance contact and cooperation between the two continents.

Many participants agreed that environmental issues have become increasingly important on the international agenda, and the meeting would bring cooperation on environmental issues and sustainable development the key topics of the Asian-European dialogue.

"Protecting the environment while ensuring sustainable development is a priority not only for the European Union, but also for many developed and developing nations across the world," said a press release provided by the EU.

"Asia and Europe both play important roles in economic development and environmental protection in the new millennium," Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji said in a message to the meeting, calling for a "hand-in-hand" effort between the two continents to create a better environment.

However the reality of unbalanced development in the Eurasian region has aroused concerns over equity and fairness in the fulfillment of the environmental obligations of developed and developing countries.

The developed countries should take more responsibility for environmental protection and should help developing countries to find solutions for their environmental problems because "the developed countries have made a great impact on the global environment in their long development process and now have great technical and economic advantages," Chinese Vice-Premier Wen Jiabao told the meeting.

He also urged the developing countries to strengthen environmental protection together with economic development and make more effort to reduce harmful impact on the environment.

"It is necessary to formulate an overall Cooperation Program in which members from developed countries provide assistance to members from developing countries in order to implement strategies, policies and projects on the environment," said Chu Tuan Nha, Vietnamese Minister of Science, Technology and Environment.

The minister suggested the developed ASEM members play an important role in transferring technology and giving financial assistance to developing partners to overcome poverty and environmental degradation.

Environmental protection has topped the agenda since the first ASEM meeting was held in Thailand in 1996, when the members agreed to carry out technological cooperation on the basis of equity and mutual benefit.

In the third ASEM meeting, China and Germany co-sponsored a proposal to hold the Environment Ministers' Meeting.

Chinese leaders have noted that as a big developing country, China would make a great contribution to global environmental protection by solving its own environmental problems.

"China is a big country with a strong sense of responsibility, and has always actively participated in the solution of global environmental problems," Wen Jiabao said.

China has ratified a series of important international environmental treaties, and has been exemplary in its strict and responsible implementation of its international obligations, he said.

In the one-day meeting, the ministers gave attention to and made suggestions for the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) to be held in Johannesburg, South Africa, this year.

The Asia-Europe Meeting comprises 15 European countries - Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom, representatives from the European Commission, and 10 Asian nations - Brunei, China, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, the Republic of Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam.

(Xinhua News Agency January 17, 2002)

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