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European Union – Central Asia Foreign Ministers' Meeting
Brussels, 23 November 2018
EU-Central Asia – Working together to build a future of inclusive growth, sustainable connectivity and stronger partnerships
The Foreign Ministers of the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, the Republic of Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, the Republic of Uzbekistan, the European Union’s (EU) High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission (HRVP) met on 23 November 2018 in Brussels for the 14th EU-Central Asia Ministerial Meeting.
The Participants discussed the key opportunities and challenges facing their respective regions at a time of particularly significant changes on the global scene and in Central Asia. They agreed that reforms and the positive regional dynamics in Central Asia had created new opportunities for taking the EU-Central Asia partnership forward.
The High Representative confirmed the intention of the EU to bring its current Strategy on Central Asia in line with these important changes. The Participants underlined the importance of the adoption of a new EU Strategy on Central Asia in early 2019 to guide the development of region-to-region relations in a way that brings mutual, tangible and long-term benefits.
The Participants welcomed the increased frequency of meetings at leaders’ and ministerial level between the EU and individual countries of Central Asia as well as between the Central Asian countries themselves. They stressed the importance of the annual EU-Central Asia High-level Political and Security Dialogue as an important forum to strengthen region-to-region ties and to address common challenges.
The Central Asian Foreign Ministers briefed the EU side about the follow-up to the first working meeting of Central Asian leaders held in March 2018 in Astana. The EU acknowledged and further encouraged the development of regional dialogue and cooperation in Central Asia on all transnational challenges calling for collective solutions and reaffirmed its commitment to share its own experience and partnership in regional integration and cooperation.
The Participants reaffirmed their commitment to work together for peace, security, democracy, sustainable development and prosperity, based upon respect for international law, including the promotion and protection of fundamental freedoms and human rights in accordance with the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the relevant international Human Rights treaties and instruments. In this regard, the Participants also referred to the important role of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The participants welcomed the organisation of the Asian Forum on Human Rights, held in Samarkand on 22-23 November 2018. The Participants stressed their commitment to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDGs) and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda with the aim of eradicating poverty and building an inclusive future for all. They stressed the importance of civil society participation in public decision-making. They reiterated that gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls, including the full participation of women in political, economic and other decision-making processes, are crucial for sustainable development. They emphasised the particular importance of sustainable development for young people and their role in achieving the 2030 agenda. They stressed the importance to support initiatives that bring opportunities to youth in Central Asia.
In line with the EU Strategy on Connecting Europe and Asia adopted on 15 October 2018, the HRVP emphasised the commitment of the EU to strengthen connectivity between Europe and Asia and at the regional level by creating transport links, energy and digital networks and fostering people-to-people connections as well as looking for synergies with connectivity cooperation with the Eastern Partnership and within the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM). The Participants stressed the importance of promoting economically, environmentally, socially and fiscally sustainable as well as rules-based connectivity and delivering quality infrastructure based on international standards and innovative solutions. They called for a level-playing field for business, equal treatment and non-discrimination in market access and transparency in public procurement. They welcomed the progress achieved in the development of Trans-Caspian transport corridors linking Europe and Asia through Central Asia. In this regard, the Participants noted the importance of the International conference “Central Asia in the system of international transport corridors: strategic perspectives and untapped opportunities” held in Tashkent in September 2018.
The Participants stressed their commitment to ensure that the Geneva Ministerial Conference on Afghanistan of 27-28 November 2018 helps to formulate a forward-looking agenda for development, reform, peace and stability in Afghanistan. They agreed to work closely together to further develop the international consensus around support to an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process and welcomed the outcome of the Tashkent International Conference on "Peace Process, Security Cooperation and Regional Connectivity in Afghanistan" held in March 2018, as well as the agreements reached at the Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan (RECCA-VII) in November 2017 in Ashgabat. The participants also welcomed the regional conference on “Empowering Women in Afghanistan” on 5 September 2018 in Astana highlighting that improved living conditions and education of girls and women will contribute to the country’s economic recovery, jobs creation, countering of violent extremism and of the appeal of radicalisation in the region. The participants supported the initiative of the European Union, the Republic of Kazakhstan and the Republic of Uzbekistan to launch the first phase of a project providing education and vocational training to Afghan women at higher education institutions in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. They agreed to intensify dialogue and cooperation to secure Afghanistan’s long-term stability and stressed the importance of promoting further connectivity between Central Asia and Afghanistan. The EU invited Central Asian Ministers to attend a meeting on Regional Connectivity and Infrastructure to be held in the margins of the forthcoming Geneva Ministerial Conference on Afghanistan.
Central Asian Foreign Ministers stressed the commitment of their countries to develop intra-regional trade, closer and wider economic cooperation in the region, as well as continuation of economic reforms. The EU intends to continue supporting the implementation of programmes aimed at ensuring efficient border management, improving the business and investment climate and supporting private sector development, promoting the rule of law and good governance, and developing human capital through education and training, building in particular upon the positive experience of the EU-Central Asia Cooperation Platform for Education and of the EU Rule of Law Initiative for Central Asia. The EU also stressed its willingness to continue to enhance the bilateral framework for relations with Central Asian countries and to support the WTO membership of all Central Asian countries. The Participants stressed the importance of the strong involvement of the private sector in the EU-Central Asia partnership.
The Participants expressed their resolve to enhance their cooperation to tackle the growing threats to the environment and the serious challenges posed by climate change. They expressed their deep concern about the new evidence on the negative impact of climate change presented by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which unequivocally confirmed that current global efforts to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement adopted under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. They stressed the need for urgent and effective action in line with the Paris Agreement. They highlighted that the outcome of the Talanoa Dialogue should be a commitment for all Parties to reflect on their levels of ambition and inform the preparation of all Parties' nationally determined contributions (NDCs) pursuant to Article 4 of the Paris Agreement. The participants also emphasised that mitigation of, and adaptation to, climate change represent immediate and urgent priorities. They reaffirmed their full commitment to swiftly and effectively implement the Paris Agreement and to complete its work programme this year at COP24 in Katowice (Poland). The EU reaffirmed its commitment to intensify cooperation with Central Asia in renewable energy, energy efficiency and other low-emission technologies, industry, transportation, agriculture and forestry, innovation, mobilisation of finance, environmental governance, circular economy, prevention of desertification, including water scarcity, disaster management and risk reduction. The Foreign Minister of Kyrgyzstan informed about the outcome of the London Conference on Environmental Remediation in Central Asia co-organised by the Kyrgyz Republic, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the EU on 8 November 2018, which helped to mobilise international financing for resolving the legacy of uranium mining in the region. The Participants welcomed the adoption on 21 November, at the Second Committee of the 73d session of the UN General Assembly, of the resolution “The role of the international community in the prevention of the radiation threat in Central Asia”.
The Participants welcomed the positive momentum in regional cooperation in water management. Participants also noted the importance to develop in this regard a constructive regional cooperation based on international law, that takes into account interests of all countries in the region and with the broad participation of international organisations. In this context, the Foreign Minister of Uzbekistan, as host of the event, and all Participants stressed the importance of an adequate level of participation in the next EU-Central Asia High-level Meeting of the Platform for the Environment, Climate and Water Cooperation, to be held on 24-25 January in Tashkent, which will be organised by Italy and EU institutions. As confirmed at the Eighth Meeting of the Parties to the Water Convention on 10-12 October 2018 in Astana, transboundary water cooperation is essential to share limited surface and ground water resources and thereby to prevent conflict and to ensure peace and stability. The Foreign Minister of Turkmenistan informed about the outcome of the Summit of the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea (IFAS) held on 24 August 2018 in Awaza, Turkmenbashi, and of its follow-up, emphasising the need to develop the UN Special Program for the Aral Sea Basin. The Foreign Minister of Kazakhstan briefed participants about the implications of the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea signed on 12 August 2018 in Aktau. The Foreign Minister of Tajikistan presented the main conclusions of the first High-level International Conference on the International Decade for Action “Water for Sustainable Development” 2018-2028, co-organised by the Government of Tajikistan and the United Nations on 20-22 June 2018 in Dushanbe in the context of the UN Decade on Water, which will serve as a platform to advance sustainable development, energise implementation of existing programmes and projects towards the implementation of water-related goals and targets, and mobilise action to achieve the 2030 Agenda. The EU underlined its commitment to promote international cooperation on the sustainable management of water resources at the global level, as reaffirmed in its Council Conclusions on Water Diplomacy of 19 November 2018. The parties stressed the importance of further improving the legal framework for cooperation in the field of water use in Central Asia. The participants welcomed the EU's efforts to share best practices in the field of transboundary water cooperation, as well as relevant financial, technical and advisory assistance to the Central Asian countries in this area.
The Participants stressed the importance of their cooperation on a broad range of security challenges, including counter-narcotics and border security, conflict prevention and crisis management. They stressed the need for the implementation of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, in particular the Joint Plan of Action for its implementation in Central Asia with the new phase of realisation announced on the High-level Meeting held on 30 April 2018 in Ashgabat. In line with the Declaration adopted at the Dushanbe High-level Conference on Countering and preventing Violent Extremism, organised by Tajikistan in May 2018 in cooperation with the EU and OSCE, the participants committed to enhancing cooperation in preventing and countering violent extremism. They emphasised that education and women empowerment play key roles in that respect and stressed that measures taken to counter terrorism must comply with international law and Human Rights. They called for progress in the negotiation of the UN Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism.
The Participants welcomed Iran’s continued full and effective implementation of its nuclear-related commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), as confirmed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in its latest report of 31 August 2018. They stressed the importance of the preservation of all aspects of the JCPOA, which includes sanctions lifting and the consequences arising from it. The JCPOA is a key element of the global non-proliferation architecture and a significant diplomatic achievement endorsed unanimously by the UN Security Council in its Resolution 2231 (2015).
The Participants expressed their deep appreciation to the EU for hosting the Meeting and agreed to meet in the Kyrgyz Republic in 2019.