Gathered in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, on Sunday (7 July), the foreign ministers of the five Central Asian countries welcomed the new EU Strategy on Central Asia recently adopted by the EU.
The foreign affairs chiefs of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, as well as EU High-Representative Federica Mogherini, met on 7 July in Bishkek (Kyrgyz Republic) for the 15th EU-Central Asia Ministerial Meeting.
According to a communiqué, the participants reaffirmed their commitment to forge a strong partnership in Central Asia and the mutual interests between the two regions.
They also reaffirmed their commitment to work together for peace, security, human rights, democracy and sustainable development in full respect for international law.
In particular, the foreign ministers of Central Asia welcomed the new EU Strategy on Central Asia adopted by the EU member states on 17 June.
The Strategy focuses the EU’s commitment to the region on partnering for resilience and prosperity, as well as investing in regional cooperation.
Over the last two years, regional cooperation in Central Asia has gained momentum.
Mogherini reportedly emphasised the EU commitment to mobilise all its policies and instruments in line with the objectives of the Strategy and to strengthen its role as a partner for the Central Asian countries in their reform process, as a supporter of their integration in the world trading system, and as a supporter of their regional cooperation efforts.
"We see a strong demand from our Central Asian partners for more engagement with the EU as a reliable and predictable partner for reforms and modernisation in the region" @FedericaMog pic.twitter.com/UD59AZdajT
— European External Action Service – EEAS 🇪🇺 (@eu_eeas) July 7, 2019
In line with the EU Strategy on Connecting Europe and Asia, the participants agreed to work together to promote sustainable connectivity.
The participants also highlighted the importance of supporting as appropriate the involvement of Afghanistan in EU-Central Asia cooperation initiatives and projects and to strengthen connectivity between Central Asian countries and Afghanistan.
The EU is banking on the capacity of Central Asian countries to provide assistance and positively influence Afghanistan, the immediate neighbour of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.
The Commission’s vision on how to better connect Europe and Asia appears to be a reply to China’s Belt and Road initiative, with an accent on how to bring “the European way”, on the basis of a rules-based approach.
The participants stressed the importance of Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreements as a cornerstone of relations between the EU and the Central Asian countries. In this respect, Kazakhstan leads the way, the agreement having the potential to serve as a model for other countries as well.
The participants also welcomed the first “EU-Central Asia Forum”, held back-to-back with the Ministerial meeting, as a key opportunity for the civil societies of the two regions to contribute to the development of the EU-Central Asia partnership. They welcomed the proposal made by the Government of the Kyrgyzstan to host the first EU-Central Asia Economic Forum.
The next ministerial of this type will be held in 2020 in Brussels.