The European Union and the Kyrgyz Republic held their seventeenth Cooperation Committee meeting on March 25 by videoconference between Brussels and Bishkek.
The EU reiterated its support to reform processes aiming at sustainable socio-economic development of the Kyrgyz Republic and a commitment to further strengthening bilateral relations. The Kyrgyz thanked the EU for its contribution of €44 million as part of the Team Europe package adopted in 2020 to counter the COVID-19 pandemic. The EU noted that the Kyrgyz Republic would soon receive COVID-19 vaccines through the COVAX facility, to which the EU is one of the main donors, and enquired about the Kyrgyz vaccination plan.
The Cooperation Committee assessed the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Kyrgyz Republic, including in the areas of governance, civil liberties, human rights, social vulnerabilities, as well as macroeconomic situation and trade, with the objective for the EU to address the most critical needs and risk factors.
The EU conveyed its concerns as regards the latest draft of the new Constitution and, in particular, on the importance of keeping separation of powers and proper checks and balances intact, as highlighted by the Council of Europe Venice Commission and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights’ joint opinion of 19 March. The EU also addressed recent legislative initiatives of concern, namely on trade unions and non-commercial organisations. It welcomed the decision to maintain the National Centre for the Prevention of Torture as an independent human rights institution notwithstanding budgetary constraints.
The EU raised the importance of press and media freedom, and stressed that, in line with the Kyrgyz Republic’s international commitments, the Kyrgyz authorities should refrain from putting restrictions on the work on NGOs. In that context, the EU recalled the important contribution that an independent civil society can make to sustainable reform processes and to socio-economic resilience in times of crisis.
The EU-Kyrgyz Republic Cooperation Committee reaffirmed the mutual commitment to continue and strengthen cooperation on political and security issues, as well as in sustainable economic development. Participants took stock of bilateral trade developments, including the Kyrgyz Republic’s use of the EU’s unilateral special incentive trade arrangement, the Generalised System of Preferences Plus (GSP+), as well as the business environment and the investment climate. The EU welcomed the intention of the Kyrgyz Republic to host the first EU-Central Asia Economic Forum later this year in Bishkek.
The EU reaffirmed its commitment to continue development cooperation with the Kyrgyz Republic, and referred to the consultations conducted with the authorities and the civil society on the multi-annual indicative programme for the period 2021-2027.
The EU and the Kyrgyz Republic also exchanged views on connectivity with a focus on rail and air transport. They discussed the impact of climate change, as well as environment, water and energy, in the national, regional and international contexts.
The EU's support to closer links with Afghanistan was welcomed by the Kyrgyz Republic, which appreciated joint regional programmes involving Afghanistan. The continuation of BOMCA and CADAP programmes, as well as regional cooperation in the law enforcement area was equally commended.
The Cooperation Committee meeting was co-chaired by Mr Luc Pierre Devigne, (acting) Managing Director for Russia, Eastern Partnership, Central Asia, Regional Cooperation and OSCE at the European External Action Service, and by Mr Azizbek Madmarov, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kyrgyz Republic.
It was agreed to hold the next EU-Kyrgyz Republic Cooperation Committee in 2022, circumstances permitting, in Bishkek.