On 7 December, the online Economic Forum “EU-Central Asia Dialogue on Partnership for Prosperity” took place, organised by the EU Special Representative for Central Asia. The virtual Forum brought together high-level representatives of the European Commission, Deputy Prime Ministers and Ministers of Trade and Economy of the Central Asian countries, and almost 200 government and private sector representatives of both the EU and Central Asia. The virtual meeting served to launch a high-level dialogue between the EU and Central Asian countries, setting initial steps and priorities in preparation for the first in-person Economic Forum “EU-Central Asia Economic Forum”, which will be held next year.
The Economic Forum is envisaged to establish a new platform for jointly shaping a green sustainable recovery from the coronavirus crisis and strengthening connectivity and the legal convergence of the common economic space between the EU and the Central Asian countries, thus supporting the implementation of the EU Strategy on Central Asia: The EU and Central Asia: New Opportunities for a Stronger Partnership.
Executive Vice-President of the European Commission and Commissioner for Trade, Valdis Dombrovskis, welcomed the participants of the online Forum in his keynote speech. He stressed that “The European Union attaches great importance to cooperation with Central Asia, and we continue to strengthen our cooperation with the region. In recent years, the Commission has provided over €1 billion in assistance to support the development of a sustainable and productive business environment. Now we must work together to develop our strategies for exiting the pandemic and restoring economic growth. This is the right moment to work on a sustainable recovery, building inclusive and resilient growth models.”
Also representing ‘Team Europe’, European Commission Vice-President for Inter-institutional Relations and Foresight, Maroš Šefčovič, invited all to work together to accelerate the green and digital transitions, while carefully planning for a post-coronavirus future. Speaking at the online forum, Vice President Šefčovič said “Our new Strategy on Central Asia lays out the path to building a strong, modern partnership based on mutual interest and shared values. The Coronavirus pandemic showed that it is in all our interests to hasten the twin green and digital transitions. The EU is committed to working together on these challenges, and stands ready to help by sharing experiences, new technologies and solutions.”
The Vice-President of the European Investment Bank, Teresa Czerwińska, said: ““Team Europe could help to better coordinate and reinforce the action of all International Financial Institutions in the region in a well-planned and structured way. I am happy that the EIB is a leading part of the Team Europe landscape, as I am convinced that it will add tailwind to scale-up our portfolio of operations in Central Asia.”
Deputy Prime Ministers of Central Asia also participated in the Dialogue, and presented regional and national initiatives and opportunities for strengthening inter- and intra-regional cooperation for a sustainable post-coronavirus recovery, including transitioning to competitive, sustainable and circular economies, which will be a focus of the first “EU - Central Asia Economic Forum” in 2021.
During the Dialogue, high-level participants stressed the importance of innovative economic policies and approaches, as well as stronger bilateral and regional partnerships, in order to bring prosperity for all citizens across the region and beyond, including in neighbouring countries.
To launch a discussion on future cooperation in specific sectors and prepare a result-oriented Economic Forum next year, representatives of the EU institutions, including directorates of the European Commission, as well as international financial institutions, private sector and senior officials and experts from the EU and all five Central Asian countries, discussed cooperation and possible EU support under the EU regional programmes to strategic priorities of the Central Asian countries. These include the green and digital transition, economic reforms, improvement of the business environment and investment climate, the development of private sector, and regulatory cooperation. Experts exchanged views on concrete action points needed to implement the political level discussions on the ground and overcome challenges caused by the coronavirus pandemic, which has affected economies, businesses and jobs both in Central Asia and in Europe.