Supported by France, which occupied the EC Presidency at the time, and which promoted the idea among European Union member states, an epoch-making "Asia-Europe Meeting" was held in 1996. The leaders from 25 countries of Asia and Europe as well as the European Commission attended the First Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM1). ASEM1 marked the start of a new forum which facilitates discussion between Asia and Europe as two major regions undergoing dynamic changes and development in the post-cold war world.
Nowadays ASEM brings together 53 partners, including the European Union, 30 European countries (28 EU member states, Norway, Switzerland), 21 Asian countries, the ASEAN Secretariat. ASEM partners represent: 55 percent of global trade, 60 percent of world's population, 65 percent of global GDP, 75 percent of global tourism.
Kazakhstan formally joined ASEM at the tenth Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM10) held in Milan, Italy in October 2014.
Analyzing the main themes discussed at past eleven ASEM Summits, mostly the partners exchanged views on political, economic, cultural, and social themes. There were discussions on the ways to deepen dialogue and cooperation between Asia and Europe on the global challenges facing the international community, such as the strengthening of multilateralism, sustainable development, and dialogue among cultures and civilizations.
The theme of ASEM2 (London, 1998) was devoted to the Asian economic situation, the Asian and European responses and cooperation with regard to the Asian financial crisis.
In 2000 in Seoul at ASEM3 the leaders reconfirmed their will to strengthen Asia-Europe dialogue and cooperation toward the 21st century.
Two declarations, the "ASEM Copenhagen Political Declaration for Peace on the Korean Peninsula", and the "ASEM Copenhagen Declaration on Cooperation against International Terrorism" were adopted at ASEM4 held in 2002 in Copenhagen.
Vietnam hosted ASEM5 in Hanoi, in 2004, where the leaders approved the participation of 13 countries (Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar from the Asian side, and 10 new EU member states from the EU side) in ASEM. They held discussions under the theme "Further Revitalizing and Substantiating the Asia-Europe Partnership" and, in addition to the Chairman's Statement, they adopted the "Hanoi Declaration on a Closer ASEM Economic Partnership" and the "ASEM Declaration on Dialogue among Cultures and Civilizations".
At ASEM 6 held in Helsinki, in 2006, the leaders held discussions under the overarching theme of "10 Years of ASEM, Global Challenges - Joint Responses".
ASEM 7 was held in Beijing, China in 2008. The leaders issued the Statement of the Seventh Asia-Europe Meeting on the International Financial Situation as their common message to the international community regarding the international financial crisis that worsened rapidly after the "Lehman Brothers shock" in September.
Australia, New Zealand and Russia formally joined ASEM at ASEM8 held in Brussels, Belgium in 2010. The leaders held discussions under the main theme "Quality of Life".
Bangladesh, Norway, and Switzerland formally joined ASEM at ASEM9 held in Vientiane, Laos in 2012. The leaders held discussions under the main theme "Friends for Peace, Partners for Prosperity".
At ASEM10 in 2014 the leaders held discussions under the main theme “Responsible Partnership for Growth and Security”.
In 2016, ASEM marked its twentieth year since its inception. ASEM11 was held in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia under the main theme “20 Years of ASEM: Partnership for the Future through Connectivity” and issued the Statement of ASEM Leaders on International Terrorism and the Ulaanbaatar Declaration. In this Declaration, it was agreed by the Heads of member States/Organizations to designate 1 March as the “ASEM Day”.
ASEM12 will bring together heads of state or governments of 51 European and Asian countries, representatives of the European Union, the Secretary General of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), European Council President, Donald Tusk, European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker.
Discussions will focus on the theme "Europe and Asia: global partners for global challenges".
In addition, several side events will take place in Brussels in the context of the ASEM summit: the ASEF young leaders, the Asia Europe economic forum, the ASEM business forum.
Kazakhstan is the only state in Central Asia that has received the status of a member of this forum. This certifies President’s Nursultan Nazarbayev foreign policy to strengthen dialogue and cooperation between the two continents on a wide range of areas, including trade and investment, connectivity, sustainable development and climate, security challenges such as terrorism, non-proliferation, cyber-security, irregular migration.