Located on both sides of the Eurasian Continent and sharing fundamental values such as democracy, human rights, and the rule of law, Japan and Europe are partners with leading roles in fostering the stability and prosperity of the international community. It is vitally important for Japan to strengthen its relations with Europe, a region that represents approximately 30% of the world�s GDP and embraces several G8 members including the United Kingdom (UK), France, Germany and Italy, as a means of effectively responding to global issues, including the crises besetting the world economy and finances, climate change, terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The European Union (EU), among other frameworks, is expected to increase its influence in the international community as a result of the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon on December 1st. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which has undergone transformation since the end of the Cold War, has expanded its area of activities for fostering peace and stability beyond Europe-Atlantic region to Afghanistan and other locations. Since Japan shares many fields and regions of concern with the EU and NATO, it is of great significance for Japan to advance cooperation with these entities. In this context, Japan has also been expanding opportunities for dialogue and cooperation in political and economic areas with the countries of Central and Eastern Europe and the Baltic states.
In May 2009, Prime Minister Taro Aso visited the Czech Republic (EU presidency) to attend the summit meeting with the EU. In Germany, the next leg of his tour, the prime minister made a policy speech concerning Japanese diplomacy vis-�-vis Europe, calling for a stronger partnership between Japan and Europe.
Following the inauguration of his government in September, Prime Minister Hatoyama made two visits to Europe in just over three months after taking office. He also held talks with many leading European political figures such as President Napolitano of Italy, Prime Minister Brown of the U.K., Federal President Fischer of Austria, Prime Minister Rasmussen of Denmark, Prime Minister Balkenende of the Netherlands, and President S�lyom of Hungary. Moreover, Prime Minister Hatoyama had a Telephone Talks with Mr. Van Rompuy immediately after his designation as the President of the European Council in November, in which the two leaders reconfirmed the importance of the Japan-EU relationship.