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Currently, political relations between the EU and Tajikistan are guided by the bilateral 'Partnership and Cooperation Agreement' and the 'European Union and Central Asia: Strategy for a New Partnership'.
The Partnership and Cooperation Agreement came into force on 1 January 2010 after ratification by all EU countries. It is contributing to the enhancement of bilateral relations and heightening the EU profile in Tajikistan, as it sets out the parameters for increased political dialogue and cooperation and also aims to promote bilateral trade and investments.
The EU Strategy towards Central Asia strengthens relations in all areas of cooperation. It has reinforced political dialogue with more regular meetings between EU and Central Asian Foreign Ministers, has seen the introduction of structured human rights dialogues, and has led to EU Initiatives on education, the rule of law, the environment and water. It has also strengthened cooperation on energy and transport, common threats and challenges (including border management and combating drug trafficking), and trade and economic relations.
The EU and Central Asian countries have confirmed their commitment to the EU Strategy towards Central Asia, and strategy implementation is well under way. The Cooperation Council of the EU and Tajikistan holds annual high-level discussions between the EU and Tajikistan.
The EU Delegation in Tajikistan is currently implementing the 2014-2020 Multi-Annual Indicative Programme, which is the basis for EU-Tajik development cooperation. According to this programme, the cooperation between the EU and Tajikistan during this period will cover three main focus points:
The EU Special Representative for Central Asia, Ambassador Peter Burian, visited Tajikistan in 2015 and emphasised the importance of the bilateral relations. He promised a continuation of EU support, but stressed the need for more social reforms in Tajikistan.
Closer to the Tajik people
In order to bring the EU closer to the Tajik people, the EU organises European Week each year. This is an opportunity to introduce European cultures to Tajikistan and to outline the work of the EU Delegation. Furthermore, many Tajik students have already been successful in applying for the Erasmus Plus programme, which allows them to study in the EU.
Economic relations between the EU and Tajikistan are broadly governed by the bilateral Partnership and Cooperation Agreement and the European Union and Central Asia: Strategy for a New Partnership 2010.
The Partnership and Cooperation Agreement aims at improving bilateral relations between the EU and Tajikistan and promotes, among other objectives, bilateral trade and investments. Meanwhile, the Strategy for a New Partnership includes among its key objectives strengthening trade and economic relations.
Loans and investment
The EU has developed several loan and investment programmes from which Tajikistan has benefited in the past. Tajikistan received its first European Investment Bank (EIB) loan in 2011, and in the same year, the EU and Tajikistan signed the Financing Agreement for a Human Development Support Programme regarding health, social protection and public finance management.
Economic relations have often been on the agenda of the Cooperation Council of the EU and Tajikistan, which holds annual high-level discussions. These have underlined the importance of economic reforms in Tajikistan and the significant increase in bilateral trade that the EU and Tajikistan have witnessed.
Trade and economic relations between the EU and Tajikistan are governed by the Partnership and Co-operation Agreement (PCA) signed in October 2004 and which came into force on 1 January 2010. The agreement provides for a non-preferential agreement under which the parties grant each other 'most-favoured nation' (MFN) treatment with respect to tariffs whilst quantitative restrictions are prohibited in bilateral trade. The agreement also envisages progressive regulatory approximation of the national legislation and practices to the most important EU trade-related standards, including technical regulations, sanitary and phytosanitary requirements, protection of intellectual property rights, and customs issues. This should lead to better practical access to the EU markets for goods originating in Tajikistan.
Tajikistan is also a beneficiary of the EU's Generalised System of Preferences (GSP), a bilateral trade arrangement through which the EU provides preferential access to its market to developing countries and territories, in the form of reduced tariffs for their goods when entering the EU market. Preferential imports from Tajikistan are heavily concentrated in two sectors, industrial products such as base metals and textiles.
EU-Tajikistan bilateral trade relations are limited but have been growing in recent years. In 2014, the EU was Tajikistan's fifth major trade partner, after China, Russia, Kazakhstan and Turkey, with a 10.1% share in its total external trade. The main EU imports were aluminium, textiles and textile articles, and agricultural products. The main EU exports were machinery, transport equipment, chemical and agricultural products, including foodstuffs and beverages.
The EU is also an important partner in Tajikistan's economic development, with assistance projects at the regional and national level.
Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) from the EU is limited. A small number of joint-ventures are active in the country.
The European Union encouraged and supported Tajikistan's accession to the WTO, as WTO accession can open Tajikistan's way to integrating into the world economy, which is likely to result in more intensive trade and investment relations. Tajikistan applied to join the WTO in 2001. The negotiation lasted until the 26th October 2012 when the Working Party on the Accession of Tajikistan approved the Accession Package and forwarded it to the WTO General Council. The Accession Protocol was adopted by the WTO General Council on 10 December 2012. Tajikistan’s Parliament ratified the Accession Protocol on 9 January 2013. The Ratification Instrument was subsequently signed by the President of the Republic of Tajikistan and officially submitted to the WTO Secretariat on 31 January 2013. Tajikistan became a full-fledged WTO member on 2 March 2013.
Becoming WTO member does not necessarily bring any benefit to the newly acceded country as WTO is rather a platform to further develop and liberalize the trade regime of a member. However, Tajikistan immediately became a very active member; it adopted its WTO Accession Action Plan in October 2014, which lists the activities required to fulfil the country's obligations arising from WTO membership. Along with other donors, the EU is committed to support the government of Tajikistan in implementing some of the listed activities necessary to fulfil its commitments.
The EU-Tajikistan Human Rights Dialogues offer a platform for discussion regarding questions of mutual interest, and serve to enhance cooperation on human rights in multilateral fora such as the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the United Nations. Officials from the EU meet their counterparts from Tajikistan's government on a yearly basis to address concerns in the field of human rights. The Human Rights Dialogue is a high-level meeting.
Since the first Dialogue took place in Dushanbe on 31 October 2008, a number of Dialogues have been held and have sought to improve human rights in Tajikistan. Contrary to previous meetings, the 2015 Human Rights Dialogue was held in Brussels. The EU welcomed the work of the Ombudsman and encouraged the Tajikistan authorities to further strengthen the institutional setting, including the planned introduction of an Ombudsman for children's rights. The adoption of a state programme on the prevention of domestic violence was also acknowledged as a positive step. The EU welcomed Tajikistan's ongoing work to combat torture, but stressed the need for additional efforts to counter impunity.
The Partnership and Cooperation Agreement between the EU and Tajikistan and the European Union and Central Asia: Strategy for a New Partnership both contain clauses that promote the development of human rights and democratisation in countries that are not members of the EU.
For the period 2015-2019, the EU has created a special Human Rights and Democracy Action Plan. This Plan contains 97 actions that are meant to deal with human rights and democracy issues. Both the EU Strategic Framework on Human Rights and Democracy, adopted in 2012, and the current Action Plan, form a basis for the human rights activities of the EU Delegation to Tajikistan.
The EU supports Tajikistan in ensuring full alignment with all OSCE norms and international standards in the field of human rights. There is a need to enhance the rule of law and improve the functioning of the legal system.
Another form of cooperation in Human Rights is under way in all Central Asian countries, namely the Rule of Law Initiative. In Tajikistan, this Initiative has seen a number of actions including seminars on judicial training and on penal law and study visits to European countries for civil servants and academics.
The European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) is an important tool for the EU to use to finance and support human rights-related projects in Tajikistan and around the world. In Tajikistan, the EU focuses on encouraging a pluralistic political system while strengthening the role of civil society. Tajikistan receives about €900 000 every two years under this programme.
The dialogue with Civil Society Organisations (CSO) in Tajikistan takes place on a broad range of topics and in various formats along the priorities for EU intervention as envisaged in the EU Country Roadmap for Engagement with Civil Society.
The Non-State Actors and Local Authorities in Development Programme (NSA/LA), ongoing since 2007, supports development actions implemented by non-state actors and/or local authorities, and focuses on achieving more efficient cooperation with these groups. It forms a significant instrument of cooperation in the EU Delegation’s dialogue with civil society in Tajikistan.
Complementing this programme is the Civil Society Organisations and Local Authorities in Development (CSO/LA) programme. The NSA/LA and the CSO/LA programmes foster synergies and facilitate a structured dialogue in the area of development between civil society networks and local authorities' associations from the EU and countries that are not members of the EU. Tajikistan receives about €750 000 per year under the CSO/LA programme.
The overarching objective of the CSO/LA programme is poverty reduction in the context of sustainable development. It is aimed at strengthening the capacity of civil society organisations through support for their own initiatives.
Civil Society Seminars
As part of its engagement with civil society, the EU Delegation discusses important human rights topics with representatives of civil society in Tajikistan. Once a year, the EU organises a Civil Society seminar, discussing a different topic each time.
Freedom of Media was the discussion point of the 2014 Civil Society Dialogue. Comprehensive discussions covered various aspects, including the general situation regarding media freedom, access to information, the concept of information security in Tajikistan, responsible journalism and professional ethics, and the transition to a digital switchover.
The European Commission implements cooperation with Tajikistan at centralised, regional, sub-regional and national level, with projects managed from Brussels, Almaty, Bishkek and Dushanbe.
The cooperation between the EC and Tajikistan is regulated by the Partnership and Co-operation Agreement (PCA), signed in October 2004 and which entered into force on 1 January 2010.
With regard to development cooperation a new Country strategy and multi-annual implementation programme are in place for 2014-2020, with an allocated bilateral financial envelope of EUR 251 million, equivalent to an average annual budget of EUR 35 million per year and representing over 80% increase, compared to previous financial framework.
Poverty reduction as well as a sustainable and inclusive growth remains key challenges in the Central Asia region, and more specifically in Tajikistan, with increasing needs from a growing and young population seeking more and better education and economic opportunities.
EU co-operation aims to address these challenges by focusing on in its cooperation with Tajikistan on supporting reforms of Education, Health sectors and sustainable Rural Development.
The objectives of the specific sector support aim at:
CA new regional multi-annual indicative programme, with a total of EUR 360 million, foresees the continuation of cooperation at regional level in the fields of Energy, Environment/Water and Socio-Economic development, Integrated Border Management, Fight against Drugs and Crime, Rule of Law platform Education (ERASMUS+), Transport and Energy (TRACECA, INOGATE ).
Tajikistan also benefits from thematic support through EIDHR, NSA, Migration and asylum and funding channelled through global initiatives like Global partnership for education Global Fund to fight HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and GAVI alliance where the EU and its member states are the major donor.
Last but not least specific projects are implemented under the Instrument contributing to stability and peace and the Instrument for Nuclear Safety Cooperation.
Tajikistan is prone to various and frequent natural disasters such as floods, landslides, cold waves and earthquakes. In recent years, the raising temperatures due to climate change are exacerbating the impact of climate-related disasters. Floods occur regularly which can be quite disastrous to some communities at the local level. The most recent major flooding occurred in May 2016 in nine districts of the country, killing five persons and affecting 1598 households. The European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) provided support to the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in order to respond to the urgent humanitarian needs.
Poverty and underdevelopment also increases the vulnerability of the population. The frequency of electricity shortages, for example, not only affects the livelihoods of communities but also constitutes a direct threat to human lives as many households rely on electricity for heating.
Tajikistan is also vulnerable to Glacial Lake OutBurst Floods (GLOF) – a phenomenon by which mountain lakes located on high altitude glaciers break their embankment, with devastating effects in the communities along the valleys below.
The mountainous country also lies in a highly seismic region. Earthquakes are a common feature; the latest large one took place in December 2015 in Murghab in Gorno Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast (GBAO), causing extensive damage to local communities, and prompted international response, including from ECHO.
Since 1992, ECHO has delivered approximately €182 million in humanitarian aid to Tajikistan, including assistance to the victims of the civil war in the 1990s, the rehabilitation of health facilities and drinking water supplies in different parts of the country, the delivery of emergency food assistance after natural disasters and efforts to strengthen disaster preparedness, prevention and response capacities of Tajik communities and state authorities.
Since 2003, ECHO’s focus has been on disaster risk reduction under the DIPECHO Disaster Preparedness programme, working with the government’s Committee of Emergency Situations and Civil Defense, as well as partners from the NGO community, United Nations family, and the Red Cross and Crescent Societies.
DIPECHO-funded projects increase the resilience and reduce the vulnerability of local communities and institutions by supporting strategies which enable them to better prepare for, mitigate and respond to natural disasters. Through the current DIPECHO cycle (2016- 2017), ECHO is funding 10 projects implemented by non-governmental, international organizations and UN agencies. The projects focus on consolidation and institutionalization of past achievements in the area of Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR), aiming at building up the resilience of hazard-exposed communities and strengthening the DRR capacities of governments in Central Asia. Given its high vulnerability and high exposure to natural disasters, Tajikistan is a priority country for the DIPECHO program. The total funding for the ongoing DIPECHO cycle is €5, 8 million (jointly with funding for Southern Caucasus), of which about €2 million are used in Tajikistan, making it the largest recipient of ECHO funds in the region.
The EU Civil protection mechanism was activated in 2009 to respond to the floods in Khatlon province. An assessment and coordination team was deployed on site, while assistance in form of tents, hygiene kits and medicines was swiftly provided to the affected population.