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The European Union and the Republic of Uzbekistan held today their 15th Sub-Committee meeting on justice and home affairs, human rights and related issues in Brussels.
This regular meeting again covered a wide range of topics, as Uzbekistan has further pursued its ambitious reform programme, reaching out constructively to partners in the region and beyond. Following the recently adopted new EU Strategy on Central Asia, the EU is increasing its cooperation and dialogue with Uzbekistan and the wider region. Negotiations for an enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with Uzbekistan begun in November 2018 and are ongoing.
The Sub-Committee reviewed and discussed developments in Uzbekistan and in the EU related to human rights, democracy, and justice and home affairs. Participants agreed on the important role of civil society in providing checks and balances and for the rule of law. The Sub-Committee reflected on how to best enable civil society organisations and human rights defenders to fully perform their important role to foster Uzbekistan’s resilience and prosperity.
Uzbekistan presented further progress made in rooting out child and forced labour, as recognised by the latest International Labour Organisation (ILO) Third-Party Monitoring Report. Uzbekistan’s productive cooperation with the ILO continues to bear fruits. The importance of continued monitoring and, more generally, cooperation with international and regional organisations, such as the UN, the ILO or the OSCE, was reiterated by all participants, who also discussed their human rights priorities in multilateral fora. Uzbekistan has demonstrated a constructive approach to the Universal Periodic Review in May 2018, though challenges remain.
In spite of Uzbekistan's overall positive trend, there are still a number of problems, for example regarding the freedom of expression, freedom of association, the penitentiary system and prevention of mistreatment, gender issues and vulnerable populations. Individual cases were discussed, as well as possibilities for strengthening the independent monitoring of prison conditions, ensuring due process and the rehabilitation of former prisoners. The EU also stressed the importance of Uzbekistan’s openness to UN human rights scrutiny, including by receiving more UN Special Procedures. Uzbekistan continues to make efforts to modernise relevant legislation, for example the reforms of the judiciary and security systems, the anti-corruption law and measures to improve the business climate.
The EU and Uzbekistan further exchanged views on issues such as violent extremism and radicalisation, illicit drugs, migration and border management. Cooperation and dialogue programmes such as BOMCA (Border Management in Central Asia) and CADAP (Central Asia Drug Action Programme), as well as the European Rule of Law Initiative for Central Asia and a new regional law enforcement cooperation project, provide important support to these policy fields.
In preparation for the Sub-Committee meeting, the EU met as usual with representatives of Uzbekistani and international NGOs, EU Member States as well as other international partners.
The EU delegation was headed by Mr Boris Iarochevitch, Head of Division for Central Asia in the European External Action Service. The delegation of Uzbekistan was headed by Mr Akbar Tashkulov, Deputy Minister of Justice.