Welcoming speeches to the event were made by the Director of the Department of Bilateral Relations of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Feruza Makhmudova; Senator, member of the Committee on Foreign Relations, International Economic Relations, Foreign Investment and Tourism, member of the Parliamentary Cooperation Committee of Uzbekistan-EU Oral Ataniyazova, as well as the EU Ambassador to Uzbekistan, Mr. Eduards Stiprais.
Ambassador Stiprais noted: “We want to be partners for prosperity. There is a lot the EU can do to support economic modernisation in Uzbekistan, including the development of a stronger and competitive job-generating private sector. We also want to be partners for resilience. It simply means that we stand ready to strengthen the capacity of Uzbekistan to overcome internal and external shocks and enhance their ability to embrace reform”.
25 years ago, on November 16, the European Union and the Government of the Republic of Uzbekistan started their diplomatic relations. Soon after the establishment of the diplomatic relations, in 1996 the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) was signed, which extended cooperation from development to political affairs, trade and economics. The EU opened its diplomatic representation in Tashkent in 2011.
Under the PCA, the EU and Uzbekistan hold regular political meetings and cooperate on trade, investment, intellectual property, legislation, human rights, culture, development and the fight against illegal immigration. There are a number of other agreements complementing relations between the EU and Uzbekistan, notably the Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation in the field of energy.
The PCA provides for several institutions, made up of European and Uzbek officials, to ensure implementation and monitoring:
• The Cooperation Council of ministerial level meets once a year in Brussels and supervises implementation.
• The Cooperation Committee of senior officials meets once a year either in Brussels or Tashkent and assists the Council.
• Two Cooperation Subcommittees of experts provide technical assistance, meeting once a year in Brussels or Tashkent. These are the subcommittees for Justice and Home Affairs, Human Rights and related issues (JHA Subcommittee) and Trade, Investment, Energy and Transport (TIET Subcommittee).
• The Parliamentary Cooperation Committee of members of the Uzbek Parliament and the European Parliament maintain political relations by meeting once a year in Brussels.
EU-Uzbekistan relations exist in the wider context of the European partnership with Central Asian countries. This includes regular political and human rights dialogues, as well as cooperation on numerous issues such as education, the rule of law and sustainable development.
In 2018, the Council adopted the mandate for the opening of negotiations between EU and Uzbekistan for the Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (EPCA), which has significantly demonstrated the efforts of the Uzbek authorities in initiating a process of reforms in all sectors, from business climate, to the judicial system, to administrative accountability and efficiency.
European Union recognizes the important efforts undertaken by Uzbekistan, and it is willing to continue to promote a coherent approach to the country, thanks to the significant and longstanding commitment from both sides.
Recognising the strategic role of Central Asia, the EU has for a long time engaged the governments of the region to help foster integration, support sustainable economic growth and promote shared prosperity. Recent modernisation efforts in the region have led to deeper co-operation with the EU on trade, inclusiveness and economic diversification. Building on these developments, the new EU Central Asia strategy was adopted by European Union member countries on 17 June 2019. This reinforcing also the partnership between EU and Uzbekistan.
Among other goals for stronger co-operation, it prioritises the improvement of resilience and prosperity of the region, including regional connectivity, the rule of law, investment attraction and private sector development.