Delegation of the European Union to Tajikistan

Tajikistan and the EU

28/10/2020 - 14:06
EU relations with Country

The European Union (EU) and Tajikistan are working together at a political and economic level, guided by Partnership and Cooperation Agreement as well as the European Union Strategy on Central Asia. The EU Delegation to Tajikistan is engaging with civil society and working for improvement of human rights standards in Tajikistan.

Currently, political relations between the EU and Tajikistan are guided by the bilateral 'Partnership and Cooperation Agreement' and the EU Strategy on Central Asia “New Opportunities for a Stronger Partnership”, adopted in 2019.  Tajikistan has formally requested to upgrade the current PCA in November 2019 through negotiation of an Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (EPCA - following KAZ, KYR, UZB example).  European External Action Service and Directorate General for Trade are working to obtain a mandate to start negotiations for an EPCA in 2022, with the objective to further strengthen the partnership and expand cooperation in new areas.  

The EU Special Representative for Central Asia regularly visits Tajikistan and the region to promote cooperation between the EU and Central Asia on issues of regional importance, in particular connectivity, green energy production, environmental protection and management of natural resources as well as security issues. EUSR Ambassador Terhi Hakala reiterated continued EU support for reforms in Tajikistan and discussed further opportunities for advancing regional cooperation in key areas with the Tajik government during her visit to Tajikistan in September 2021.

 

Strategic documents

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 at promoting bilateral trade and investments. Currently, the political dialogue is held yearly at the level of ministers (Cooperation Council) and senior officials (Cooperation Committee, Sub-Committee for Development Cooperation). A specific Human Rights dialogue is dedicated to reforms in the area of rights, freedoms and governance.

The new EU Strategy on Central Asia aims to forge a stronger, modern and non-exclusive partnership with the countries of Central Asia so that the region develops as a sustainable, more resilient, prosperous, and closely interconnected economic and political space.

The EU and Central Asian countries have confirmed their commitment to the new 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 stands by the Tajik People with a contribution of € 48 million in the Team Europe Package adopted on 11 April, which EU provided as part of a comprehensive €112.2 million development cooperation support package, to assist Tajikistan respond to the threat of coronavirus and address longer-term health and socio-economic needs to enhance livelihoods.

The package consists of three interlinked programs: the Health Development Program (€52.2 million), the Quality Education Support Program II (€50 million), and Support to Civil Registry System Reform (€10 million).  The first two programs contain elements (worth €46.2 million in total) that will directly support the emergency response to the pandemic, as well as boost efforts to mitigate its negative socio-economic impacts.

On 9 March 2021, the first batch of 192 000 doses of the Astra/Zeneca COVID-19 vaccine was delivered to Tajikistan.  This efficient vaccine is delivered through the COVAX Facility, which the European Union and the Member States support with over 2.2 billion euros. EU support to social sectors (health, education, rural development) is critical also for the post-Covid recovery. By 31 August, Tajikistan has received 4,760,740 doses of COVID-19 vaccines through COVAX/AMC (Advance Market Commitment), as well procurements and donation.  According to the Ministry of Health and Social Protection, by 27 September, 41.2% (2.389 million people) of the population above 18 years were vaccinated against the coronavirus in Tajikistan.

EIB made a 20 million € loan available for crisis response (pending consultation and approval). The EIB emergency response is a combination of rapid utilisation of signed credit lines and preparation of new loans, to support Tajikistan’s health sector modernisation and SMEs.


 

EU together with other donors are planning on how to support Tajikistan’s capacity to respond to a potential crisis related to developments in Afghanistan.  Contingency planning for reception of Afghan refugees is ongoing under the leadership of the UNHCR.

The EU has already taken concrete steps to respond to Government’s requests and address the imminent risks related to the situation in AFG – 160.000 EUR humanitarian assistance already put to use at the borders (via Red Crescent), new actions under preparation by both the EU and MS in case of a significant refugee flow. In parallel, the EU is mobilising resources within the relevant regional and bilateral programmes to increase the capacity of border guards and other institutions to respond to increased flow of migrants in compliance with international standards and without compromising the national security (BOMCA, LEICA and programmes funded through Instruments for Peace and Stability). In addition, the EU is looking for ways to increase resilience of local and host communities.

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.

Tajikistan is the smallest trade partner of the EU in Central Asia. In 2019, the EU exported 169 m€ to Tajikistan and imported 44 m€ (mainly aluminium and textiles), with no significant evolution compared to 2018 and 2017. Tajikistan joined the WTO in 2013 but has so far not substantially benefited from it in terms of trade flows. Tajikistan has recently become committed to join the Special Incentive Arrangement for Sustainable Development and Good Governance (GSP+). GSP+ can act as a positive political and economic signal to the international community and business that the government is binding itself to international law and continuous, transparent monitoring.

 

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.

 

High-level discussion

Economic relations have often been on the agenda of the Cooperation Council of the EU and Tajikistan, which holds annual high-level discussions, at FMs level. These have underlined the importance of economic reforms in Tajikistan and the significant increase in bilateral trade that the EU and Tajikistan have witnessed.

The last cooperation Council took place in video conference on 19 February 2021. The Cooperation Council reviewed the positive development of bilateral relations and addressed political and socio-economic developments, trade, investment and energy relations, and international issues.

President Rahmon paid a visit to Brussels on 11-12 October 2021, where he met PEC Michels, HRVP Borrell, EUSR Terhi Hakala.

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. The first Dialogue took place in Dushanbe on 31 October 2008.

The European Union and the Republic of Tajikistan held their 12th Human Rights Dialogue by video conference on 11 November 2020. The meeting took place in an atmosphere conducive to quality, open and constructive discussion, which covered the latest developments in a broad range of human-rights related issues, such as political participation, freedom of association, freedom of expression and freedom of religion or belief, as well as prevention and eradication of torture and ill-treatment, and women’s rights.

 

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 EIDHR

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. 

Civil society in Tajikistan is actively engaged in the preparation of the annual EU –Tajikistan Human Rights Dialogue, which is the main political arena for discussing human rights issues with the Tajik authorities.

The thematic programmes Non-State Actors and Local Authorities in Development Programme (NSA/LA), ongoing since 2007, and Civil Society Organisations and Local Authorities in Development (CSO/LA) programme, implemented by non –state actors and/or local authorities, 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.

 

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 last 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.

Non-profit organisations

In July 2020, the EU Delegation to Tajikistan has published a new call for proposals to support non-profit organisations, such as non-governmental organisations, public sector operators, local authorities or international organisations. Applicants can now seek EU funding for projects in the two prioritised areas - supporting people living with disabilities, and expanding opportunities for youth self-development, employability and increased participation in decision-making processes. The European Union will in this call for proposals allocate a total of 2,909,305 euros. Applicants may request a grant between 200,000 euros and 400,000 euros.

With regard to development cooperation a new Country strategy and multi-annual implementation programme were in place for 2014-2020, with an allocated bilateral financial envelope of EUR 231million, equivalent to an average annual budget of EUR 33 million per year and representing over 80% increase, compared to previous financial framework.

The objectives of the specific sector support aimed at:

Education

  • Improving quality and relevance of secondary education and Vocational Education and Training (VET), leading to a more effective school to work transition for school and VET graduates;
  • Strengthening planning and budgeting processes and financial management capacities within ministries responsible for secondary education and VET.

Health

  • Strengthening governance and leadership in the health system;
  • Improving coverage with appropriate, available, equitable, affordable and quality health services, especially for vulnerable populations and at primary health care level.

Rural Development

  • Improving governance at sub-national and community-based levels and strengthened capacity for decentralized inclusive rural development;
  • Improving farm smallholders' resilience to extreme natural hazards and livelihoods;
  • Climate change mitigation through the establishment of integrated water and other natural resource management and governance system within selected river (sub) basin.

The new MIP will cover the period 2021 to 2027.

. Although the duration of this MIP is seven years, the indicative allocations for Tajikistan and for each of the priority areas and support measures laid down below are provided for the 2021-2024 period only and amount to (MEUR) 91.

The indicative allocations for 2025-2027, as well as the possible modification of other substantial elements of this MIP, will be subject to a decision by the EU.

The following 3 priority areas have been identified:

  • Inclusive Green and Digital Economy (27 MEUR): contribute towards poverty reduction, food security and livelihood creation through the potential of greening agribusiness, promoting private sector development and the adoption of new low-carbon technologies as drivers for growth. Improving the policy and monitoring frameworks for climate-smart and sustainable agriculture will require capacity building, know-how transfer as well as sector governance. The actions under this sector will contain strong cross-linkages with PA 3, and will deliver towards SDGs 1, 2, 5, 8,12 13, 17.
  • Human Development (22.75 MEUR): continue to assist Tajikistan in accelerating achievements in the education and health sectors, especially considering the adverse impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the provision of essential services. Health sector reform efforts cannot be achieved without targeted support to develop and strengthen health sector financing mechanisms as the most deep rooted and politically contentious bottleneck toward UHC.
  • Natural resources management, efficiency and resilience (39.13 MEUR): contribute to the development and implementation of a sound policy on environmental protection and Climate Change adaptation and mitigation, which can also contribute to security and stability of the Central Asia region. The EU aims to employ vast experience with innovative solutions to tackle challenges under this priority area, dramatically improving data collection and management in support of the river basin approach, climate change adaptation and monitoring of ecologically relevant indicators.

Support measures amount to 1.82 MEUR.

Central Asia 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. 

Specific projects are implemented under the Instrument contributing to stability and peace and the Instrument for Nuclear Safety Cooperation.

What are the needs?

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.

Recently, in response to the floods that wreaked havoc across large parts of Tajikistan in mid-May 2020, the EU provided EUR 80,000 in humanitarian aid funding to assist the most vulnerable communities through ICRC. In response to COVID-19, the EU has made available around EUR 2 million (DG DEVCO) for short-term support, while another EUR 46 million (DG DEVCO) will target longer-term needs on the health and socio-economic fronts.

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