European Union External Action

New opportunities to take EU-Central Asia Partnership forward

26/11/2018 - 09:46
News

"Central Asia is a region where there is a strong and increasing demand for new, diversified partnerships, and a region that is looking for more engagement with the European Union," said EU High Representative Federica Mogherini during the 14th EU-Central Asia Ministerial Meeting on 23 November. "The message we have shared today is that the EU is also interested in increasing this partnership. It is in our interest that Central Asia develops as a more resilient and more closely interconnected economic and political space, and this is something we are actively supporting," she said.

Oshelectro Rehabilitation Project in Kyrgyzstan reconstructed with the funding of the EU to support reliable electricity supplies
Oshelectro Rehabilitation Project in Kyrgyzstan reconstructed with the funding of the EU to support reliable electricity supplies

 

The Foreign Ministers of the five Central Asian countries - Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan  - met with EU High Representative Federica Mogherini on 23 November 2018 in Brussels for the 14th EU-Central Asia Ministerial Meeting.

The participants discussed the key opportunities and challenges they are facing in Central Asia and the wider neighbourhood. They exchanged on the EU's new Strategy for Central Asia, which is currently being elaborated ahead of its expected launch in 2019.

The current EU Strategy for Central Asia, which was first adopted in 2007, encompasses the long-term commitment of the European Union to regional and bilateral cooperation with its Central Asian partners. The main goal of the EU Strategy is to increase the resilience of the region as a whole as well as the resilience of individual states. The Strategy lays the framework for regular political dialogue at ministerial level and enhanced cooperation in key initiatives, for example the rule of law, education, environment and water. Specific attention is devoted to the region’s security and stability, notably to common threats related to border management and drugs. 

Assistance provided by the European Commission, combined with assistance provided by EU Member States individually, makes the European Union the number one donor in the region. The global envelope for EU assistance to Central Asia (through the Development Cooperation Instrument) rose to €1 billion for the period 2014-2020.

 

The Ministerial also provided a backdrop for several key announcements:

  • The EU announced a new set of regional programmes for Central Asia worth €124 million to support the private sector as well as trade and investment in the region, to help protect the environment, tackle climate change, and promote the rule of law and regional cooperation.
  • The EU and Uzbekistan launched negotiations for a new Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement. The future Agreement will replace the current Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, which has been in force since 1999. It will focus, among others areas, on political cooperation, trade and investment relations, sustainable development and connectivity, as well as human rights and governance.
  • The European Union will open a Delegation in Turkmenistan. This will allow the EU to step up political, economic and sectoral dialogue and cooperation with Turkmenistan.

 

These positive developments are complemented by similar trends in other Central Asian countries:

  • The EU and the Kyrgyz Republic are currently negotiating a modernised, comprehensive bilateral agreement, which will replace the current Partnership and Cooperation Agreement. The negotiations were launched in December 2017.
  • The European Union and Kazakhstan signed in December 2015 and are already implementing many aspects of the Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, bringing good results.
  • Tajikistan has expressed interest in upgrading its existing bilateral agreement with the EU so as to step-up relations.
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