Tusk tests the waters in Central Asia

Donald Tusk at the Sarez lake in Tajikistan. [Council newsroom]

This article is part of our special report EU and Central Asia: A new strategy.

European Council President Donald Tusk did a tour of three Central Asia countries last week, including Tajikistan, where the melting Pamir Glaciers illustrate the impact of climate change and the difficulties of water management in this part of the world.

Tusk visited Tajikistan on 30 May, Kazakhstan on 31 May and Uzbekistan on 1 June. The visit comes two weeks after the Commission tabled its new strategy for the region, setting out a fresh vision for a stronger partnership with the five countries of Central Asia: Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan; Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

Kazakhstan calls EU’s new Central Asia strategy ‘visionary’

Kazakhstan welcomes the EU’s new vision for a stronger partnership with Central Asia, particularly as it took into account the country’s proposals, its deputy foreign minister told EURACTIV and called the document, due to be adopted next month, “visionary”.

An important element of this strategy, which is expected to be adopted at the ministerial level this month, is water resilience.

Water resources management: West Africa and Central Asia

A panel discussion at the Bled Strategic Forum highlighted the experience of West Africa in the common management of the water resources over a large area and progress in improving cooperation in an even larger Central Asia.

Central Asia is facing increasingly severe environmental challenges. The combined impact of climate change, which has started to reduce water flows by shrinking the glaciers that feed Central Asian rivers, and rapid population growth is likely to exacerbate some of the region’s problems, with implications for economic development, security and migration.

The EU is offering help to the region to turn these challenges into opportunities.

Tusk is the first Council president to visit Tajikistan, a mountainous country bordering Afghanistan.

Internet censorship eased as EU Council chief visits Tajikistan

Ex-Soviet Tajikistan appeared to unblock several popular websites and Google services during European Council President Donald Tusk’s visit to the country as part of a regional tour Thursday.

Tusk was holding talks with veteran Tajik leader Emomali Rakhmon Thursday (30 May) …

The Council president praised his host, the President of Tajikistan Emomali Rahmon, for his role in the political stabilisation of Tajikistan and the whole region. “Because of geography, your efforts are much more important than only in this local, regional context. In fact, today, your efforts, your activities, impact also in a global context,” Tusk stressed.

After a visit to Sarez lake, Tusk said he was impressed by the beauty but also by the visible impact of climate change.

“This is not only a major concern for your country, but for the region and the whole world. The EU remains committed to fighting climate change. And I am sure Tajikistan will be the best partner in this,” the Council President said.

Tajikistan, just like Kyrgyzstan, is an “upstream” country, while Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan are “downstream” countries. Uzbekistan, Central Asia’s most populous country, depends on the rivers that rise in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to irrigate farmland.

Under the former leader of Uzbekistan, Islam Karimov, the Rogun dam in Tajikistan was seen almost as a “casus belli”.

But under the new leader, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, regional cooperation in the region was resuscitated. In Tashkent, Tusk praised Mirziyoyev for playing “a big role in the much-improved cooperation in the region”.

In Kazakhstan, which is preparing for a presidential election, Tusk discussed with the incumbent President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev the ongoing political transition, since the first Kazakh president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, stepped down last March.

The country has concluded with the EU an Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, which is soon to be ratified by all EU member states and which the EU is already implementing.

“This is also a good basis to address regional challenges, like violent extremism or environmental issues”, Tusk said.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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