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The Foreign Ministers of the Republic of Uzbekistan , Republic of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Republic of Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, the European Union’s (EU) High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission, and the European Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development met on 10 November 2017 in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, for the 13th EU-Central Asia Ministerial Meeting.
During the ministerial meeting Joint Communiqué: European Union - Central Asia Foreign Ministers’ Meeting “EU and Central Asia: Working for a Safer and More Prosperous Future Together” was signed by participants.
After the EU-Central Asia ministerial meeting High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini the Foreign Minister of Uzbekistan Abdulaziz Kamilov had a press point.
The Foreign Ministers of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Republic of Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Republic of Uzbekistan, the European Union’s (EU) High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission, and the European Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development met on 10 November 2017 in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, for the 13th EU-Central Asia Ministerial Meeting.
Ten years after the adoption of the European Union’s Central Asia Strategy, the five Central Asian countries and the EU have become significant partners and in recent years both dialogue and cooperation have acquired a new dynamic. The Participants recognised the progress made in state- and society-building during the 26 years of independence of the Central Asian countries as well as recent steps undertaken to enhance regional cooperation. They welcomed the EU’s commitment to the stability and prosperity of the region, including through the important work of the EUSR and to the sovereignty of the five countries.
The Participants reviewed the overall relationship between the European Union and the Central Asian countries and welcomed the frequency of meetings at Ministerial level between the EU and individual countries and between the EU and the region. Regular meetings of Ministers of Foreign Affairs contribute to better mutual understanding while meetings of sectoral ministers are important for the purpose of sharing experience and best practice.
Formats such as the High Level Political and Security Dialogue and other meetings at senior officials’ level in multilateral and bilateral formats equally serve to strengthen ties between Central Asia and the EU and to improve our joint ability to address common challenges.
The Participants confirmed their readiness to cooperate on issues of development in Central Asia with other similar international partners.
The Participants addressed regional and international issues of mutual interest, the security situation in and around Central Asia including Afghanistan, and the security challenges facing the European Union. In this regard they welcomed the support provided to Afghanistan by the countries of the region and the EU and called for continuing relevant common efforts.
The Participants also focused on the potential for enhanced economic relations between the EU and the Central Asian countries. Strengthening the nexus between security, migration, climate change and economic sustainable development could contribute to stronger economies. Transparent rules and regulations, as well as increased use of e-governance solutions, are important for a favourable investment climate and private sector development in the countries of Central Asia, which will promote the region’s further sustainable economic development.
In today’s complex international environment, it is important to continue strengthening the resilience of societies through good governance, including the strengthening of democracy, the protection of human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law in order to enable them to effectively and flexibly tackle threats from violent extremism, terrorism and drug trafficking, and to respond to financial and political challenges. The upcoming meeting of EU and Central Asian Ministers of Justice on 7 December 2017 in Brussels will provide a good opportunity to deepen the dialogue within the framework of the Rule of Law Initiative.
Particular attention should be paid to enhancing Central Asia’s economic, transit and transport potential, which will require the implementation of programmes aimed at improving the investment climate, ensuring sustainable economic growth, effective border management, developing human capital through education and supporting small- and medium-sized businesses and employment.
Continued and expanded dialogue and cooperation contributes to the efficient use of water and energy resources, the protection of the environment and for addressing climate change as well as other cross-border issues. In order to strengthen mutual understanding and trust among all the countries of Central Asia and to establish openness and transparency in relations, it is necessary for the countries of the region to make joint efforts to find mutually acceptable and mutually beneficial solutions.
The Foreign Ministers welcomed the European Union’s commitment to a relationship with Central Asia based on the principles of responsibility and cooperation and aimed at assisting the stable, secure and sustainable development of this region. They welcomed the European Union’s continued financial support amounting to €1 billion for programmes to be implemented in Central Asia until 2020. They also welcomed the involvement of EU Member States in regional and bilateral development programmes.
It is timely for the European Union to examine its approach to the Central Asian region, building on the experience gained during the ten years of the current EU Central Asia Strategy.
The European Union employs a comprehensive approach to its engagement with the individual countries and to the region, encompassing not only political meetings and multilateral financial assistance, but also support by individual EU Member States and the active engagement of European and multilateral financial institutions, such as the European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. This approach continues to be relevant and brings direct, tangible benefits to the populations of the five Central Asian countries.
The close involvement of the governments of the Central Asian countries, as well as of civil society, is essential regarding any further development of the EU’s policy to take EU-Central Asia relations into the next decade.
In this context, the five Foreign Ministers welcomed the call by the EU Foreign Affairs Council for a new EU Central Asia Strategy by the end of 2019, which should be based on mutual interests, common approaches and values of the EU and countries of the region.
The Participants expressed their deep appreciation to the Government of Uzbekistan for hosting the Meeting and agreed to meet in Brussels in 2018.
I would like to start by thanking the authorities of Uzbekistan and my friend the Foreign Minister [of Uzbekistan, Mr Abdulaziz Kamilov] for their wonderful hospitality and the opportunity to meet in this wonderful city of Samarkand. The beauty of the surroundings has for sure contributed to the content of our exchanges.
We have adopted a Joint Communiqué that contains a lot of very concrete and practical elements for our cooperation. I fully share the Minister's [Kamilov] assessment of the fact that never before have the countries in the region shown the determination to reform and to work together in regional coordination as they do now. And never before have we had such an intense, positive and constructive EU-Central Asia cooperation. I would say that we are at the top of our historical experience of cooperation, but we want to use this not as a target point, but as a starting point.
The Minister [Kamilov] mentioned the fact that we have worked in these past ten years on the basis of the European Union Strategy for Central Asia. We have now decided to renew our commitment to the support of the region and to the partnership with the region. We have started today to exchange views on the priorities for our next European Union Strategy for Central Asia that we will adopt in the course of the next 18 months, and we want to share priorities and issues that we want to work on with our partners in the region.
We covered and we will continue to cover common priority areas, starting from security challenges - be it the situations inside our countries, be it the challenge posed by the radicalisation of our youth, or be it the situation in Afghanistan. This is a priority security concern for us, with a strong determination both from the European Union's side and from the countries of the region to support an Afghan-led peace process that has to be successful.
We also discussed at length the economic perspective of the region: the support that the European Union gives to the reforms that are ongoing, namely in Uzbekistan but also in the other countries in the region, when it comes to reforming the business environment, the economic environment, but also governance, the democratic rule of law, and increasingly opening up the space for society.
We are, as the European Union, and we will remain the first development partner of the region. But we see Central Asia more and more not as a recipient of aid but as an economic partner, with a market of 70 million people, that especially if reforms are undertaken successfully will become an attractive area for investments, including from Europe. We believe that we are facing challenges but that there are a lot of opportunities that we can make the most out of if we cooperate together.
We concluded our meetings with the commitment to meet again next year; the next ministerial meeting will be held in Brussels and we will make sure that we will continue to build on this excellent result we have had.
Let me add that I also had the opportunity today to have bilateral meetings with all five foreign ministers [of Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan]. I had the chance of having a very long and very fruitful meeting with the President of Uzbekistan [Shavkat Mirziyoyev]. We discussed the significant, impressive reforms undertaken by the authorities and I expressed the full support of the European Union to turn these efforts into concrete results and to support the reform agenda that the President has expressed to me and to all of us this morning during the opening of the international conference [on Security and Sustainable Development under the auspices of the United Nations], in which I was honoured to take part.
I would also like to mention the fact that I also took the opportunity of my presence in the region to visit Bishkek yesterday, to meet the newly-elected President, the outgoing President, and the Prime Minister. This is consistent with the current increase of engagement. It is a pleasure for me to be here, but this is especially a reflection of the high political importance that the European Union attaches to the Central Asia: a strategic region and a region of friends. So we will continue working together.
Thank you very much.