Central Asia ministerial welcomes the EU’s new strategy for the region

A meeting of the foreign ministers of the countries of the European Union and Central Asia is held in Bishkek (L-R) Kazakh Foreign Minister Beibut Atamkulov, Turkmen Deputy Foreign Minister Vepa Khadjiyev, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini, Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Chingiz Aydarbekov, Uzbek Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov, Tajik Foreign Minister Sirojiddin Muhriddin in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, 7 July 2019. [Igor Kovalenko/EPA/EFE]

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.

Astana hosts little-publicised Central Asia summit

Only a couple of years ago, a summit of the five Central Asia countries would have been absolutely unthinkable. But the leaders came together on Thursday (15 March) and decided to hold such meetings annually, always at the same time of the year, which is a major holiday in the region.

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.

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.

Mogherini discusses future of Afghanistan at Central Asia forum

EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini arrived in the Uzbek capital Tashkent yesterday (26 March) and met with the foreign ministers of the five Central Asian countries, ahead of a conference on Afghanistan under the heading “Peace process, security cooperation and regional connectivity” which takes place today.

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.

Mogherini unveils EU response to New Silk Road

EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini announced on Wednesday (19 September) the Commission’s vision on how to better connect Europe and Asia, in what appears to be a reply to China’s Belt and Road initiative, and also an effort to prepare the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) in October.

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 EU-Kazakhstan agreement in an nutshell

The Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement between Kazakhstan and the EU (EPCA) is unique. The European Commission says that the EU’s relationship with Central Asia in general and Kazakhstan in particular “has never been any stronger or any better”.

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.

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