Who we are and what we do
The Europe – Asia Center is an independent, not-for-profit organization promoting Asia-Europe relations by means of connecting professionals, institutions, organizations and networks across sectors. Through implementation of projects, including conferences, workshops, cultural events, publications, educational and research programs, Europe – Asia Center is connecting people and knowledge across continents.
The center is providing current and comprehensive research, analysis and information on Europe -Asia relations, raising mutual understanding and bridging gaps between social, cultural, business and political spheres in Europe and Asia-Pacific.
Ambassador Piet Steel
Chairman of the Board
H.E. Erik Solheim
Vice-chair of the Board
H.E. Dr. hc. Violeta Bulc
Vice-chair of the Board
Ambassador Jean De Ruyt
Vice-chair of the Board
Ambassador Phạm Sanh Châu
Vice-chair of the Board
Vice-chair of the Board
Dr. Wei Shen
Vice-chair of the Board
Director for Europe
Director China office
Piet Steel – Chairman of the Board
Piet Steel is a Belgian (Ret.) Ambassador, having held between 1975 and 1997 leading diplomatic assignments in Geneva, Hanoi and Hong Kong. Mr Steel retired from the foreign service in 1997 and became Director Public Affairs of the Solvay Group (Belgium), overseeing the chemical and pharmaceutical company’s global government affairs activities.
In 2005 he has joint Toyota Motor Europe as Vice-President of External Affairs, responsible for Government relations in Europe and the EU. The Government of Japan appointed Mr Steel in 2010 Honorary Consul General for the Flanders region.
With his extensive international experience and networks in Europe and Asia, Mr Steel remains to be a trusted advisor of Belgian and international companies. He is furthermore also a Member of the Board of a Belgian real estate company.
Piet Steel is personally engaged in various social and societal organisations. He is Honorary Chairman of the Belgium Hong Kong Society, Co-founder of the Belgium Vietnam Alliance, President of the Board Special Olympics Belgium, President of the Europe Asia Center, Member of the Board of the International Polar Foundation and Vice President of the Strategic Council of the Belgian Polar Secretariat.
He was appointed “Distinguished Visiting Fellow” of the European Business School of Regent’s University in London, Honorary Professor of Xi’an University for International Studies (China), Member of the International Advisory Council of the American European Community Association and Advisor to the Brussels Diplomatic Academy. Piet received the Melvin Jones Fellow Award of the Lions International for dedicated humanitarian services.
He is member of the Warande Club in Brussels, the Hong Kong Club and member of the Ad Hoc Council (London).
Mr. Steel was born in 1950, and is married to Carine Van Leene with two daughters and three grandchildren. He holds a Law Degree from the University of Ghent (Belgium).
Piet is holder of several national and international honorary medals. In 2014, he received the Friendship Medal of the Government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. In his free time, he enjoys long distance cycling, reading and cooking.
H.E. Erik Solheim – Vice-chair of the Board
Former Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).
H.E. Erik Solheim is a Norwegian diplomat and former politician. He served in the Norwegian government from 2005 to 2012 as Minister of International Development and Minister of the Environment, and as Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme from 2016 to 2018.
In 2005, he was appointed Minister of International Development. In 2007, he additionally became the Minister of the Environment, and he held both offices until 2012. This unique portfolio mixture allowed him to bring a coherent approach to development and the environment. During his time as Minister, Norwegian aid reached 1 per cent, the highest in the world. Solheim also put into place the Nature Diversity Act, which many consider to be Norway’s most important piece of environmental legislation in the last 100 years. The Norwegian Climate and Forest Initiative, in which Norway cooperates closely with Brazil, Indonesia, Guyana and other countries to conserve rainforests, was also established under Solheim. This initiative provided critical input to the establishment of UN REDD, the global coalition to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries.
From 2013 to 2016 Solheim was chair of the OECD Development Assistance Committee in Paris. In this capacity, Solheim emphasized the role of private sector and tax in development finance, spearheading the Sustainable Development Investment Partnership and the Addis Tax Initiative. Solheim also focused on the need to channel more aid to least-developed countries, and bring new members and partners to the Development Assistance Committee.
Excellency Solheim served as the Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme between 2016 to 2018.
Solheim is also an experienced peace negotiator, having acted as the main facilitator of the peace process in Sri Lanka from 1998 to 2005. The peace process led to a ceasefire and the Oslo Declaration in 2002, where parties welcomed a federal state in Sri Lanka. He continued to lead peace efforts in Sri Lanka as Minister, and has contributed to peace processes in Sudan, Nepal, Myanmar and Burundi.
Erik Solheim is one of the greater ambassadors for green transition, both in business and politics. He is the Vice-chair of the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development, chairman of the advisory board for Afroz Shah Foundation and the chair of the Developments roundtable at the Green Hydrogen Organization.
H.E. Dr. hc. Violeta Bulc – Vice-chair of the Board
Former EU Commissioner for Transport and Mobility.
H.E. Violeta Bulc, born in 1964 in Novo Mesto, Slovenia, features her life and work with science, technology, innovation, economic participation and political empowerment. Her journey through life covers roles as a business woman, member of her national basketball team, IT engineer in Silicon Valley, Deputy Prime Minister of Slovenia and then EU Commissioner for Transport and Mobility.
Bulc earned a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and Informatics at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia, as well as a master’s degree in Information Technology at the Golden Gate University of San Francisco. She then worked from 1991 to 1994 as an expert for wide area networks performance analyses at DHL Systems of Burlingame, California. In 1994 she returned to the then-independent Slovenia, where she worked as the Manager of Institutional Traffic (until 1997) and then the Director of Carrier Business (till 1999) for Telekom Slovenia.
From 1999 to 2000 she was the vice-president of Telemach Ltd, a major telecommunications provider, and from 2000 to 2014 the CEO of Vibacom Ltd, Sustainable Strategies and Innovation Ecosystems. After holding a post od Deputy-prime Minister of the Republic of Slovenia responsible for development, strategic projects and cohesion, excellency Bulc received nomination for the Transport and Mobility Commissioner post at Junker’s Commission (2014 – 2019). As commissioner, Bulc prioritized digitalisation, decarbonisation and innovation in the transport sector. She is also a current #G100 Global Chair for the Women World Economic Forum, member of the board of Joint European Disruptive Initiative (JEDI) and is the curator of Ecocivilisation initiative.
Ambassador Jean De Ruyt – Vice-chair of the Board
Ambassador Jean De Ruyt is a senior career diplomat specialised in the EU, transatlantic relations and United Nations development policy. Jean De Ruyt is acknowledged as an authority on the system and workings of the European Institutions. His successful management of the Presidency of the Committee of Permanent Representatives of Member States in 2010 highlighted De Ruyt’s depth of knowledge and breadth of relationships within the European institutions (Commission, Parliament and Council).
A former Ambassador of Belgium to NATO, UN and the EU, De Ruyt’s experience ranges from negotiating foreign and security policies to shaping agreements, commercial as well as regulatory. He was closely involved in Europe’s response to the financial crisis and the resulting legislation at the European level. Close to the upper echelons of the EU hierarchy, De Ruyt was instrumental in the creation of the European foreign service. He also facilitated the resolution of a variety of state aid and competition policy disputes.
De Ruyt is a skilled strategist and political analyst, known for his insightful and clear thinking of complex issues. His connections are international and wide-ranging with a focus on Europe, the United States, where he spent 12 years, Central Africa and the Middle East. His published references are extensive. He is fluent in French, English, Italian and Dutch. Currently a Senior Advisor for Covington LLP in Brussels and a former member of the Board of Counselors for McLarty Associates, he is also a member of the Belgian Royal Academy and a Senior Associate Fellow of the Egmont Institute.
Ambassador Phạm Sanh Châu – Vice-chair of the Board
Ambassador Pham Sanh Chau is Vietnamese diplomat and an educator with distinct international experience in multilateral affairs.
Appointed by President of Socialist Republic of Viêt Nam, Pham Sanh Chau was the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Republic of India, the Kingdom of Bhutan, and the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal from 2018 until 2022. Ambassador Pham Sanh Chau also served as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Kingdom of Belgium, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, and the European Union between 2011 and 2014.
As part of his strong dedication to facilitating Cultural dialogue, Ambassador Pham Sanh Chau received the appointment as Viêt Nam’s youngest Ambassador and Permanent Delegate of Viêt Nam to UNESCO and the Personal Representative of the President of Viet Nam to the International Organisation of La Francophonie in Paris in 1999. Pham Sanh Chau served as Secretary-General of the Viêt Nam National Commission for UNESCO and a member of Paris-based UNESCO’s Executive Board between 2014 and 2016. He was appointed the Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs and Special Envoy of the Prime Minister of Viêt Nam on UNESCO Affairs in 2016. As the official candidate of the Vietnamese Government, Ambassador Pham Sanh Chau ran for the post of Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 2017.
Ambassador Pham Sanh Chau also served as Deputy Director-General of the Viêt Nam Secretariat for the APEC Summit Meeting. Combining passion for education and International relations, Pham Sanh Chau served as Vice Rector of the Institute of International Relations, now the Diplomatic Academy of Viêt Nam between 2003 to 2006.
In Brussels, the Ambassador played an instrumental role in concluding the negotiation between the European Union and Viêt Nam on the EU-Viêt Nam Free Trade Agreement. Pham Sanh Chau also advocated for strengthened political and economic cooperation between the EU and Viêt Nam by expediting the ratification of EU-Viêt Nam Framework Cooperation Agreement signed in 2012.
While serving as General Secretary of Viêt Nam’s National Commission for UNESCO, he focused on building an inclusive and sustainable Learning Society, promoting gender equality through intercultural dialogue and international cooperation, and striving to achieve Sustainable Development Goals.
During his last post in India, Ambassador Pham Sanh Chau deepened Indo-Vietnam relations, including in defense industry, commerce, economic exchange, culture and tourism. Despite the global pandemic, the trade value between the two countries reached record high of 15 billion USD during his posting. He played a pivotal role in securing India-made anti Covid 19 drugs for Vietnam’s patients during the peak of the pandemic. He also secured investments of HCL High Tech and Adani Group in Viêt Nam. As a firm believer in the power of people-to-people exchanges, Ambassador Pham Sanh Chau positioned Viêt Nam as the top wedding destination for high-level Indian weddings and facilitated the establishment of numerous direct flight connections between cities in India and Vietnam.
Throughout his distinguished public service career, Pham Sanh Chau has been deeply committed to promoting UN values and ideals through multilateralism, building a strong foundation for sustained peace and understanding among nations.
Born into a diplomatic family, Pham Sanh Chau was raised in an international environment, growing up in the Middle East (Syria and Lebanon), Slavic nations and Southeast Asia. He is married, with two children.
Sheila Arora – Vice-chair of the Board
Sheila Arora is an internationally experienced strategic marketing and communications expert, with over 30 years of experiences in both Europe, Asia and North America. With expertise in leveraging the power of arts in diplomatic projects, she has been developing innovative solutions that have facilitated strengthening of bilateral, multilateral exchanges and corporate partnerships in the field of culture, education and inter-cultural understanding.
With a strong sense of business development, Sheila Arora has worked on initiating and fostering strategic partnerships for leading luxury brands including the re-launch of Piaget in Australia and the China Club in Hong Kong.
As a member of the diplomatic community, Ms Arora managed the cultural programming at the Belgian Mission to the UN in New York between 2001 and 2004, Ms Arora founded the not-for profit organization Europe Society, promoting the EU – US relations. As part of EU-US dialogue she has managed a high-level dialogue series engaging leading European businesses, including LVMH, EasyJet, the Financial Times. During the post in Rome between 2007 and 2011, she managed diplomatic engagement and press relations of the exhibition celebrating 50th Anniversary of the Treaty of Rome.
Mrs Arora is a board member of the Advisory Board of VOLTA Fairs and has previously served as a member of the board of the Belgium Hong Kong Society for 15 years, dedicating her time to cultural engagement and high-level dialogue projects. Bridging high-level exchanges from across the fields, from governance, commercial sector, she has specialised in the development of non-traditional context and forums for engagement.
Sheila Arora is British and Belgian citizen, with German-Indian heritage married to Ambassador Jean de Ruyt.
Dr. Wei Shen – Vice-chair of the Board
Professor Wei SHEN PhD LLM MA FRSA FRGS is the Vice-Chair of Europe-Asia Center, holder of Jean Monnet Chair & Associate Pro Vice-Chancellor (International Relations) at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia.
Prior to Deakin, he was Professor of International Business at Lancaster University (UK), research fellow at Centre Asie of the French Institute of International Relations (IFRI), research assistant at Loughborough and Oxford Universities. Prof Shen is the founding Co-Chair of Alliance of Chinese and European Business Schools (ACE), Yunshan Chair Professor at Guangdong University of Foreign Studies (Guangzhou, China), Board of Directors at Nantien University (Newcastle, Australia) and International Advisory Board member for Beijing Jiaotong University School of Economics and Management, Hong Kong Baptist University Business School, ESC Clermont Business School (France) and Pforzheim University Business School (Germany). He is an elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) and the Royal Geographical Society (RGS) and has been an invited professor at Sciences Po de Paris, Institut des Hautes Etudes Européennes (Strasbourg), Bayreuth University, Antwerp Management School and several leading Chinese universities.
He received PhD in Human Geography from Loughborough University (UK), LLM from Stockholms Universitet, European Master in Law and Economics and MA in Urban Management from Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam, His academic pursuit also led him to CERI/CNRS Sciences Po Paris, Bocconi (Milan), Linkoping, Hamburg and Warwick universities. He has received numerous scholarships and grants from the Royal Society, Universities Committee in London, Foundation for Urban and Regional Studies, European Commission and University Association of Contemporary European Studies (UACES). He has also worked for a number of international organizations including Council of Europe (Strasbourg), Asia-Europe Foundation (Singapore), International Organisation for Migration (Geneva), UNESCO (Hamburg) and International Fund for Agricultural Development (Rome), as well as a foreign-owned enterprise in Shanghai.
Wei Shen has published widely on the topics of Asia-Europe relations, international education, migration, urbanisation / global city network as well as Chinese economy. He is the Editor in Chief: Asia-Europe Journal (AEJ), an SSCI journal published by Springer and the Series Editor of Routledge Handbook on Europe in the World. His articles and interviews have appeared on Environment and Practices, International Journal of Educational Development, Environment and Planning A, Urban Studies, Chinese Journal of European Studies, Le Monde, L’Atlas des civilisations, Asia-Europe Journal, Le Monde, International Herald Tribune/New York Times, China Daily, Le Tribune, Radio France International, Science Career, UK House of Commons and Xinhua News Agency etc. Wei Shen servd on the editorial board for Journal of Contemporary China, Journal of Entrepreneurship in Emerging Economies and has reviewed for the Academy of Management and Cambridge Journal of International Affairs among others.
Professor Shen’s recent research has been funded from the French National Research Agency (ANR), European Science Foundation and European Commission Jean Monnet Programme, and he currently coordinates the UACES-funded Collaborative Research Network on EU-China Relations with colleagues from College of Europe and Free University of Berlin. Wei Shen is an independent academic expert for the European Commission and has been chair/vice-chair/assesor for a number of EU FP7, H2020, Horizon Europe as well as Erasmus+ evaluations. He is part of the peer review college for EFMD accreditations. Wei Shen is the recipient of several awards including the Sir Robert Martin University Medal from Loughborough University, Fellowship of Salzburg Seminar and Our Common Future Fellowship from Volkswagen and Mercator Foundations. He has been invited as keynote and plenary speaker at leading universities around the world and international forums such as China-Europe Forum and BMW Foundation Global Table and gave the Lentecyclus Lecture at the Royal Belgian Academy of Arts and Sciences in Brussels (KVAB) in 2010.
Former Ambassador of the European Union to Lao PDR and Deputy Secretary Genral, Luxembourgish Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Interdisciplinary Light Artist
Chaiman of A8 New Media Group
Funding Partner of Qingsong Fund
David S. Evangelista
President & Managing Director
Special Olympics Europe Eurasia
Đỗ Thị Hải Yến
Internationally acclaimed Actress
Pianist and ECHO
Klassik prize winner
Chief Marketing, Communications & Development Officer Special Olympics International