ASEM brings together 53 members from the European Group – 28 EU states, the EU as an organisation, Norway and Switzerland – and the Asian group – the 10 ASEAN states, the ASEAN secretariat, Russia, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Mongolia, China, South Korea, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. The 51 ASEM member states (without the EU and ASEAN) account for 60% of the world’s current population and close to 60% of world gross domestic product. Switzerland has been a member of ASEM since 2012. The Swiss ambassador to Singapore represents Switzerland on the Asian-Europe Foundation (ASEF) board of governors.
A meeting point for the two regions
Every two years, ASEM heads of state and government meet at a summit to set ASEM's priorities. These summits are held alternately in Asia and Europe. ASEM members also meet around the world in regional groups, at specific levels of representation, including ministerial and senior-official level, and to address different thematic questions. ASEM is not an international organisation and has no secretariat. ASEF is the only permanent organ in the ASEM process.
ASEM was established in 1996 as the follow-up to the view, shared in both Asia and Europe, that the relationship between the two regions needed to be strengthened and that the two regions needed a meeting point to reflect on the new global context of the 1990s and the outlook for the coming century. In November 1994, Singapore and France proposed that an EU-Asia summit meeting be held to consider ways to build a new partnership between the two regions. The first ASEM summit was held in March 1996 in Bangkok, Thailand.