High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell co-chaired the 18th EU-Central Asia Ministerial meeting, in Samarkand (Uzbekistan) on November 17.  The meeting was hosted by the Foreign Minister of Uzbekistan, Vladimir Norov, with the participation of the Foreign Ministers of Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and the Deputy Foreign Ministers of Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan.

The EU Delegation to Tajikistan says that during the Ministerial meeting, participants confirmed their commitment to strengthen EU-Central Asia cooperation to support a green and sustainable post-COVID-19 recovery and to work together to tackle challenges emerging from regional dynamics, with a focus on the fall-out of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine and the situation in Afghanistan.  They also reaffirmed EU and Central Asian countries’ commitment to uphold the United Nations Charter and principles of international law, particularly the principles of respect for the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of all States.

The Ministerial meeting took place just a few weeks after the holding of the first meeting of the Heads of State of Central Asia and the President of the European Council on October 27, in Astana, confirming the new level of the interregional cooperation reached between Central Asia and the European Union.

HRVP Borrell said: “The EU’s relations with our Central Asian partners have gone from strength to strength in the thirty years since we established diplomatic relations.  The EU has high stakes in seeing Central Asia develop since together we are stronger to face the challenges in our increasingly complex world.  I come away from today’s meeting in Samarkand with a strong sense of optimism that together we can make a meaningful contribution to stability, security and prosperity in Central Asia and Europe.”

During the Ministerial meeting, the EU informed of its priorities for regional cooperation, in line with the EU Strategy on Central Asia: promoting resilience, prosperity and regional cooperation.

The meeting also provided the opportunity to exchange on the implementation of a number of EU-funded programs, including the Border Management Programme in Central Asia (BOMCA) and the counter-terrorism project Law Enforcement in Central Asia (LEICA), as well as to present two Team Europe Initiatives on Regional Connectivity, and the regional program “Dialogue and Action for Resourceful Youth in Central Asia” (“DARYA”).

The EU and Central Asia look forward to organizing in the course of 2023 a second in-person EU-Central Asia Economic Forum.

As part of his strategic outreach to Central Asia, during his visit to Samarkand, the HRVP also co-hosted, with Uzbekistan, the EU-Central Asia Sustainable Connectivity Conference, delivered the opening remarks and participated in the panel with the five central Asian Foreign Ministers.

He launched two flagship initiatives for global gateway on the green and the digital Agenda. The conference explored three themes: digital connectivity, transport connectivity, and energy connectivity between Central Asia and the European Union. In this context, the EU, together with International Financial Institutions, will aim to stimulate investment in the region.

In the margins of the Conference, HR/VP Borrell met with the President of Uzbekistan, Foreign Minister of Tajikistan and deputy Foreign Minister of Turkmenistan to discuss bilateral relations and regional cooperation.

In 2019, the EU adopted a new Strategy on Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan), which highlights the growing strategic relevance of the region for EU interests.  The EU has significant stakes in Central Asia, given the strategic geographical location and pivotal role of the region in Europe-Asia connectivity, its vast energy resources (Kazakhstan is the EU’s fourth supplier of crude oil), significant market potential (70 million inhabitants, 35% of whom are under the age of 15), and EU’s interest in regional security and migration, in particular in the light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the situation in Afghanistan.

The European Union’s engagement with Tajikistan has developed significantly since the country’s independence in 1991.  The current basis for our relations is the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA), in force since 2010. The EU is also preparing to engage in negotiations for an Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (EPCA) with Tajikistan.  At the regional level, Tajikistan is a partner within the European Union’s Strategy on Central Asia, which was adopted in June 2019. The Strategy defines the overall cooperation objectives and priorities for the EU’s engagement in the region, focusing on promoting resilience, prosperity, and regional cooperation in Central Asia.  In addition, the Strategy aims at promoting of EU principles and values: good governance; human rights; and rules-based regional cooperation.

The EU supports the work of Tajik civil society, in partnership with local and international non-governmental organizations.

EU cooperation for the 2021-2027 period will build on earlier achievements in key sectors such as health, education, public finance management, water, energy and agriculture, while stepping up support on SME empowerment, greening the economy and disaster risk reduction.

EU bilateral development assistance allocation for 2021-2024 is reportedly EUR 91 million. The following three priority areas have been identified for the 2021-2027 Multiannual Indicative Program: 1) inclusive green and digital economy; 2) human development; and 3) natural resources management, efficiency and resilience.