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The European Union is looking to increase its dialogue and cooperation with Turkmenistan, and hopes to strengthen its institutional framework of cooperation with the ratification of the PCA. The entry into force of the PCA would allow for additional dialogue in all sectors and a Cooperation Council at Ministerial level. The visit of European Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič to Ashgabat in May 2015, travels of President Berdimuhamedov to several EU countries in 2016, and an increasing number official and business delegations visiting Turkmenistan signal a strategic interest on both sides to intensify relations. In 2016, Turkmenistan adopted its first National Action Plan for Human Rights and updated its Constitution and a number of other laws in line with international standards, notably in the judicial sectors. The effective implementation of these new laws is now a priority in EU-Turkmenistan cooperation.
EU development cooperation focuses notably on consolidating the general and professional education systems, on capacity-building of the Turkmen public administration, further improving public finance management, supporting the development of the private sector and agricultural and rural policies.
Human rights are an important aspect of our bilateral relations with Turkmenistan. The European Union has already held nine annual meetings of the Human Rights Dialogue with Turkmen authorities since 2008 (latest on 25 April 2017), allowing for constructive discussions on sensitive issues related to human rights and democratisation. Turkmenistan organised a visit for EU, UN and US diplomats to the Dashoguz women's penitentiary (in September 2015 and in January 2017) and to the general regime colony for minors in Bayramali in December 2016. The EU welcomed the participation of Deputy Foreign Minister Hajiyev at the Warsaw OSCE Human Dimension meeting in 2015 and 2016.
Moreover, the first National Action Plan on Human Rights was adopted in January 2016 by the Turkmen authorities and outlined notably the need to implement reforms in the rule of law area. The EU supported the drafting of this Action Plan and the development of the National Institute of Human Rights and Democracy of Turkmenistan. The revised Constitution strengthening the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms was adopted in September 2016. The Law on the Ombudsman came into force on 1 January 2017 and the first Ombudsperson was elected in March 2017.
The European Union is strongly committed to the prevention of enforced disappearances, and has consistently advocated in favour of Turkmenistan's ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT), and the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearances.
The EU has also been engaging with Turkmenistan (along with Azerbaijan) on negotiations for developing the Trans-Caspian Pipeline and linking Turkmen gas to the Southern corridor. The Southern Gas Corridor should transport gas volumes ranging from at least 45 to 90 bcm/a (which constitutes 10-15% of EU total consumption) to have a significant impact on gas supply diversification in the EU as a whole. On 1st May 2015, the Commission Vice-President Šefčovič met President Berdimukhamedov in Ashgabat and, in a further meeting with Energy Ministers of Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and Turkey, agreed to extend the TCP Working Group to other countries of the Southern Corridor. The Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation in the Field of Energy, signed between the EU and Turkmenistan in 2008, provides a framework for an information exchange on energy policies, the diversification of transit routes and the promotion of renewables and energy efficiency.
Funding for development in the country is provided by the EU's Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI). In this context, bilateral cooperation projects focus on economic reforms and privatisation, education and capacity building, good governance and the rule of law, and sustainable energy. EU assistance for 2011-2013 was approximately €39 million, the main focus being on education and legal reforms, the promotion of human rights, and economic and social sector reforms for sustainable development. 2014-2020 EU bilateral assistance will focus on education and vocational training (€10 million). The EU and Turkmenistan also cooperate in the framework of the regional approach, which includes all five Central Asian Republics: the EU Strategy for Central Asia. Regional cooperation projects focus on education, rule of law, water and environment, border management and the fight against drug-trafficking.
Turkmenistan's status of permanent neutrality has contributed to its role in promoting regional stability and in tackling common threats such as terrorism, violent extremism, illicit drug trafficking, and transnational organised crime. The existence of ethnic Turkmens (between 200,000 and 1 million) living in the Northern provinces of Afghanistan is an important factor of relations with Afghanistan. Turkmenistan has also been active in facilitating the smooth management of shared water resources in the region, notably in the framework of IFAS (International Fund for Aral Sea) notably under its current IFAS Chairmanship. A decade long active presence of the UN Centre for Preventive Diplomacy (UNRCCA) in Ashgabat is a result of this policy of promoting regional dialogue and conflict prevention. This approach is supported by the EU through the High-Level and Political Security Dialogue, the Central Asia Border Security Initiative and several related projects (such as BOMCA, CADAP) implemented at regional level.