Central Asia – European Union: on the way to further progress

President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev will take part in the second meeting of the leaders of Central Asia and the European Union, which will be held on June 2 in the city of Cholpon-Ata (Kyrgyzstan).

It should be noted that the first meeting in such a format took place on October 27, 2022 in Astana (Kazakhstan) with the participation of the leaders of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, as well as the President of the European Council Charles Michel.

At the meeting in Astana, the head of our state, speaking for the consistent deepening of cooperation between our region and the European Union, highlighted a number of priority areas of interregional cooperation, and also confirmed Uzbekistan’s commitment to an open, systematic and productive dialogue in the format of “Central Asia – the European Union” in the interests of stability, sustainable development and prosperity of the countries of the two regions.

It summed up the results of cooperation between the countries of Central Asia and the European Union over the past period and expressed readiness to continue partnership based on common values and mutual interests.

The President of the European Council welcomed the efforts of the leaders of the Central Asian countries to strengthen regional cooperation and interconnectedness. In turn, the heads of Central Asian states highly appreciated the EU’s contribution to boosting economic development after the pandemic and overcoming its negative consequences. The parties stressed that the creation of favorable conditions for doing business would further boost investment in the region of interconnectedness and trade.

During the current meeting of the leaders of the Central Asian states and the European Council, it is planned to discuss issues of further strengthening interregional cooperation, as well as topical international problems.

In general, since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the states of Central Asia and the EU, interregional cooperation has advanced in a plethora of areas and sectors, and today it serves as an example of multilateral partnership for the sake of prosperity and sustainability.

Uzbekistan takes an active part in this format of cooperation. In particular, meetings of the EU-Central Asia Foreign Ministers are regularly held: the 18th meeting was held in Samarkand on November 17, 2022. The next day, the first EU-Central Asia Connectivity Conference was held there.

These events were attended by the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Vice President of the European Commission Josep Borrell, who during his visit to our country was received by the President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev. During the talks, Josep Borrell welcomed the policy of Uzbekistan to strengthen regional cooperation and noted that the countries of Central Asia have made great progress. He stated that the EU intends to further expand partnerships with the states of the region in the fields of politics, trade, investment, digitalization, climate change and the environment, science and education.

Since 2013, the annual EU-Central Asia High-Level Dialogue on Politics and Security has also been held. The last meeting took place on 17 May 2022 in Brussels.

The beginning of relations between Uzbekistan and the European Communities was laid on April 15, 1992 by the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding. On November 16, 1994, diplomatic relations were established. Since 1995, the Embassy of Uzbekistan has been operating in Brussels, which also performs the functions of the Mission to the EU. In 2011, a diplomatic mission of the European Union was opened in Tashkent.

The contractual and legal basis of relations consists of 15 documents, the key of which are the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA), the Agreement on Cooperation in the Field of the Peaceful Use of Atomic Energy, the Agreement on the Establishment of the EU Diplomatic Representation in Uzbekistan, the Memorandum on Cooperation in the Energy Sphere, the Protocol on amendments to the ATP and the Agreement on Bilateral Trade in Textiles.

In July 2022, Uzbekistan and the EU completed three years of negotiations and initialed in Brussels the text of a new Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (EPCA), which will replace the PCA that has been in force for more than 20 years.

Under the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement between Uzbekistan and the EU, six joint bodies have been established – the Cooperation Council, the Cooperation Committee, the Parliamentary Cooperation Committee, the Subcommittee on Economy, Trade and Investment, the Subcommittee on Justice, Home Affairs, Human Rights and Related Issues, the Subcommittee on Cooperation for development purposes.

The EU strongly supports the ongoing strategy of irreversible reforms in the New Uzbekistan. This was announced at the meeting of President Shavkat Mirziyoyev and President of the European Council Charles Michel, held in Tashkent on October 28, 2022. During the talks, which took place in a warm and friendly atmosphere, the leaders confirmed that in recent years, relations between Uzbekistan and the European Union have reached a qualitatively new level and become comprehensive.

EU support was also expressed in Tashkent on April 14 this year at a meeting of the President of Uzbekistan with EU Special Representative for Human Rights Eamon Gilmore and EU Special Representative for Central Asia Terhi Hakala. At the meeting, the European side praised the achievements of Uzbekistan in ensuring human rights, developing civil society, gender equality, eradicating forced labor and other areas.

Most favored nation treatment has been established in trade between Uzbekistan and the EU countries. In recent years, thanks to the GSP+ conditions presented by the European side, there has been a dynamic growth in the volume of mutual trade and the number of successful investment projects. In addition, significant events are held in the field of cultural and humanitarian exchange.

Therefore, in 2022, the total volume of trade with the EU countries amounted to $4.5 billion, and in January-March 2023, this figure exceeded $1.8 billion.

Uzbekistan’s main trading partners in the EU are Germany, the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Latvia, Italy, France, the Netherlands and Poland.

There are 1069 enterprises operating in Uzbekistan with the participation of investments from the EU states, including 304 companies with 100% European capital.

The EU provides financial and technical assistance to Uzbekistan in the implementation of bilateral projects and support for the development of civil society and human rights. As part of the relevant programs for 2021-2024, the EU allocated 83 million euros to Uzbekistan.

In addition, within the framework of the financial and technical assistance of the EU, a project worth 5.2 million euros “EU Contribution to the Multi-Partner Trust Fund for Human Security for the Aral Sea Region” is being implemented.

An integral part of bilateral cooperation is cultural and humanitarian interaction.

Over 25 years, together with the European Union, more than 80 projects of the Tempus educational program have been implemented in the amount of more than 32 million euros with the participation of 55 higher educational institutions of Uzbekistan and 71 universities of the EU member states.

Since 2014, within the framework of the Erasmus+ educational program, more than 40 projects with a budget of about 40 million euros have been implemented to increase the potential of higher education, which involve about 70 universities, over 20 sectoral departments and organizations of Uzbekistan, as well as about 120 European universities.

Within the framework of regional and bilateral cooperation, Uzbekistan and the EU are implementing joint projects in the areas of socio-economic development, education, the rule of law, border management, the fight against drugs and organized crime, transport, environmental protection, agriculture and others.

Since 2013, the Delegation of the European Union in Uzbekistan, together with the National Agency “Uzbekkino”, annually holds the European Film Festival in Tashkent. It has already become one of the most notable and large-scale cultural projects in Uzbekistan. About five thousand spectators take part in it every year.

Since 2016, the Festival has expanded its geography and began to be held in other cities of Uzbekistan. In 2017, the festival, in addition to Tashkent, was organized in Navoi and Nukus, in 2018 – in Shakhrisabz and Ferghana, in 2019 – in Urgench, Nukus and Jizzakh.

Last year and as well as this year, exhibitions dedicated to the historical and cultural heritage of Uzbekistan were held in Europe with great success. In particular, at the end of November last year, two exhibitions opened in Paris – at the Louvre and the Institute of the Arab World, the first of which was devoted to a greater extent to archaeological finds, and the second represented textiles, jewelry, carpets at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. The last exhibition continues its work until the end of June this year.

As part of a visit to Germany in May this year, the Presidents of Uzbekistan and Germany opened the exhibition “Archaeological Treasures of Uzbekistan. From Alexander the Great to the Kushan Empire. The exhibition has been in preparation for several years. It includes 285 items from the collections of museums in Uzbekistan and 65 from museums in Berlin. This exhibition will run until January 14, 2024.

Consequently , the above indicates that both Uzbekistan and the European Union are aimed at strengthening and expanding cooperation not only in bilateral, but also in regional formats for the benefit of the development of interconnectedness, which creates the basis for further prosperity and progress of the people of our countries and regions.

Published On: June 7, 2023Views: 81