AKIPRESS.COM - The Foreign Ministers of Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan as well as the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission and the Commissioner for International Partnerships held the 17th EU-Central Asia ministerial meeting on 22 November 2021 in Dushanbe.
The participants reaffirmed their joint commitment to forge a strong, ambitious and forward-looking partnership that builds upon their common values and mutual interests. The participants reaffirmed the importance of progressing on the rule of law, democracy, governance, gender equality and universal human rights, including labour rights, ethnic minorities’ rights and women’s and girl’s full enjoyment of their human rights. The participants underlined the importance of promoting the full, equal and meaningful participation of women in decision-making. They called for stepping up cooperation to create opportunities for youth in the region, including better access to quality education for all, especially girls, and decent work. The European Union proposed to explore the possibility to set up a regional dialogue on the effective implementation of international labour standards.The EU and Central Asian Foreign Ministers emphasised the relevance of the priorities set out in the EU Strategy on Central Asia of 2019 - promoting resilience, prosperity and regional cooperation - for the future development of the region. The EU emphasized that these priorities would guide the programming of its development cooperation under its new multiannual financial framework. The EU indicated that it is currently beginning preparations for two regional Team Europe Initiatives, respectively on Digital Connectivity and on Water, Energy and Climate, both identified in crucial areas for Central Asia’s sustainable economic and human development. The participants stressed the importance of Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreements for advancing bilateral relations between the EU and Central Asian countries.
The Central Asian Ministers expressed strong appreciation for the assistance delivered by the EU to their countries to cope with the socio-economic repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic. They commended in particular the EU’s support to the rapid mobilization of WHO action in the region and the preparation of a follow-on programme for the region, which will focus directly on support to vaccination, which is critical to “build back better”. The participants stressed their determination to work together to promote a green and sustainable post-COVID-19 pandemic recovery, leaving no one behind.
The participants commended the outcomes of the first in-person “EU-Central Asia Economic Forum” held on 5 November 2021 in Bishkek (Kyrgyz Republic) and emphasized the contribution, which EU and Central Asian business can make to post-COVID-19 socio-economic recovery. They stressed the importance of a sound business and investment climate through legal certainty, more transparent and predictable rules and fighting corruption. The participants welcomed Uzbekistan’s proposal to host an “EU-Central Asia Forum on Tourism” in 2022.
The participants stressed the need to intensify cooperation on sustainable connectivity between the EU and Central Asia in the areas of trade, transport, energy, digital and people-to-people contacts. The EU presented its upcoming strategy on Global Gateway Partnerships. The participants commended the successful international conference on Central and South Asia: Regional Connectivity: Challenges and Opportunities held in 15-16 July 2021 in Tashkent (Uzbekistan). Turkmenistan underlined the importance of the 15th Summit of Heads of State of the Economic Cooperation Organisation, which will take place on 28 November 2021 in Ashgabat, and the upcoming Ministerial Transport Conference for Land-locked Developing Countries “Ashgabat Process – Financing for Better Connectivity” to be convened on 5-6 April 2022. The participants welcomed Uzbekistan’s proposal to host in 2022 an EU-Central Asia Ministerial High-Level Conference on Connectivity.
The EU encouraged continued progress in the implementation of the Paris commitments on climate and in the region’s transition towards a green economy, including the integration of increasing shares of renewable energy into the electricity market, aiming for climate neutrality. In this regard, the EU called on the Central Asian countries to join the Global Methane Pledge. The participants acknowledged the need for enhancing interconnectivity of the regional power system and continued efforts to boost energy efficiency. Following the COP26 Summit in Glasgow, the EU emphasised the importance for all parties to the Paris Agreement on Climate to submit ambitious Nationally Determined Contributions. The Ministers welcomed the intention of Tajikistan to host a conference on water, in June 2022, and co-host the UN 2023 Water Conference together with the Netherlands to underpin international efforts in the context of the UN Decade for Water and implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and water-related SDGs. Tajikistan presented its intention to declare 2025 as the International Year for Glaciers Preservation and set a specific date for the World Glaciers’ Day.
The participants underlined that the peaceful resolution of disputes and building trust and good neighbourly relations are essential to economic and social development. They welcomed Turkmenistan’s initiative to host on 12 December 2021 in Ashgabat an International Conference on “Peace and Trust Policy – Basis of International Security, Stability and Development” in the context of the proclamation of 2021 as the International Year of Peace and Trust by the UN General Assembly.
The participants expressed shared concern about the regional repercussions of developments in Afghanistan. They called for the promotion and respect of universal human rights and fundamental freedoms of all Afghans, in particular of women and girls as well as children and persons belonging to ethnic groups and minorities, and the establishment of an inclusive and representative government.
The participants looked forward to intensifying EU-Central Asia cooperation in security and border management, as well as in the joint fight against terrorism, transnational organised crime, human trafficking, migrant smuggling, trafficking of small arms and light weapons, transnational drug trafficking and cybersecurity threats, while also acting in accordance with commitments on universal human rights and the rule of law.
The participants welcomed cooperation in education, vocational training and skills development, as a key factor in ensuring the sustainable and inclusive socio-economic development of the region. They underlined the key role that science, technology and innovation play in accelerating economic diversification and transformation, improving productivity and competitiveness, as well as enabling the integration of countries of Central Asia in the global economy. In this regard, participants took note of the proposal by the Kyrgyz Republic to establish a European University in Central Asia. The EU and Central Asia recognized the value of international research and innovation cooperation between their two regions, in particular through the scientific collaboration and funding opportunities offered by the EU’s Framework Programme for Research and Innovation Horizon Europe. The Foreign Ministers of Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan proposed that the European Union launches a new regional programme for Central Asia on cooperation in science, technology and innovation.
The participants agreed to meet in 2022 in Brussels.