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Toast by President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, on the occasion of the Gala Dinner in honour of the Heads of Delegation of the ASEM Summit

Milan - Palazzo Reale, 16/10/2014

Mister President, Excellences, dear Friends,

I would like to thank President Napolitano for his words and reflections on the significance of European-Asian relations. As one of the Europeans who has been most involved in the process of driving Europe out of its financial and monetary crisis, I cannot but confirm the high level of interdependence between our economies and societies. In fact, trust from Asian nations has greatly contributed to the recovery of the Euro .

Tonight, it is an honour to be hosted tonight in this magnificent palace. Its long history reflects the fluctuations of Europe's balance of power and place in the world over the centuries. When it was first built, back in the Middle Ages, Italian merchants were actively pursuing trade routes that plunged into the heart of Asia.

They were reawakening European interest for a continent of old, rich and profound civilizations, many of them more refined than the prevailing reality in Europe at the time. The names of Marco Polo and Giovanni Da Pian del Carpine, come to mind. And we should not disregard the influence they had in further European ventures. It was, let us not forget, the dream of finding a shorter way to Asia, that led to the discovery of America and further pushed European navigators to travel East. Here again Italy is not alien to the task, and I do not want to detract merit to Spain's role in these discoveries by recalling Cristoph Colombus' Genoan origins.

Dear friends, connectivity is in our genes, ASEM has emphasized it once more. Connectivity is what humanity strives for. Being united in our diversity. Benefitting from the richness of our different cultures, skills and perspectives. Our role is to ensure that our State structures do not become barriers that separate our people, but that we use them to build bridges and roads. To create understanding and cooperation. This is what we are gathered here to promote. This is ASEM's mission.

I want to thank our Italian hosts for the splendid organisation of this meeting. I am conscious of all the efforts invested in the organisation of such a complex event. I wish to acknowledge and applaud these efforts, from the personnel who is attending our tables tonight to Prime Minister Renzi and his staff. You have displayed Italian capacity for action at its best.

Finally, I want to thank particularly President Napolitano. Mr. President, you are Europe's most respected statesman. Your wisdom has guided your country, and also Europe, through many years. You are a convinced European and have pushed forward our project of continental integration with conviction and determination. You are now encouraging us to advance further in our relations with Asian countries.

Mr. President, many thanks on behalf of us all.