Remarks by High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini at the joint press point following the EU-Central Asia ministerial meeting
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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.
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