EU-Central Asia high-level political and security dialogue meeting makes another step towards closer ties
Deputy foreign ministers led the delegations from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, and while the Turkmen ambassador in Astana led its delegation. Enrique Mora, Deputy Secretary General for Political Affairs of the European External Action Service, headed the EU delegation.
The parties discussed the implementation of agreements achieved at the Second Consultative Meeting of the Heads of State of Central Asia and the President of the European Council in Cholpon-Ata on 2 June 2023, European Union - Central Asia Economic Forum in Almaty and other events.
In light of Central Asia’s growing engagement with external partners, the participants discussed the possibilities for expanding cooperation between Central Asian countries and the EU on a number of areas, including ensuring water security, combating illegal migration and religious extremism in the region. Interaction in the context of the situation in Afghanistan and pressing issues on the international agenda were also addressed.
In his opening remarks, Roman Vassilenko, Kazakh Deputy Foreign Minister said, «Kazakhstan, Central Asia, and the European Union are on the threshold of a qualitatively new stage of relationship. We are confident that in the near future our interregional cooperation in trade, economic and investment spheres, in areas of transport and logistics, in countering common security challenges will become even stronger, while our political dialogue will expand and deepen.»
In turn, the head of the European delegation reassured that «the EU has been and remains a reliable partner for Central Asia.»
Roman Vassilenko also highlighted the significant increase in regional collaboration, including under the EU Strategy on Central Asia. The EU has invested about 105 billion euros in Central Asia over the past ten years, while trade between Central Asia and the EU increased by 61% and amounted to 49 billion US dollars in 2022. At the same time, the trade turnover between Kazakhstan and the EU amounted to 40 billion US dollars.
The deputy minister also briefed on Kazakhstan’s efforts in developing cooperation in the region and articulated a number of specific initiatives aimed at enhancing investment and energy cooperation between the countries of Central Asia and the EU. He particularly outlined promising avenues for interaction in the spheres of rare earth metals, digitalization, ecology and green transition or the development of environmentally friendly industries.
Speaking of transport and logistics, Roman Vassilenko welcomed the key findings of the study by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) on Sustainable Transport Connectivity between Central Asia and the EU and called on the participants to jointly and fully implement the potential of the so-called «Central Trans-Caspian Transport Network», running through southern Kazakhstan, covering all major cities and industrial centers of Central Asia and identified by the EBRD as the «most sustainable option» for future development.
According to the diplomat, the development of infrastructure, harmonization of transport standards and lifting of barriers in this area will not only be economically beneficial, but will also strengthen the entire range of cooperation between the countries of the region and the EU.
Regarding the situation in Afghanistan, the sides discussed in detail the outcomes of the recent Meeting of Special Representatives of the Central Asian states and the EU in Ashgabat and the United Nations conference in Doha.
In this context, the participants of the dialogue stressed the importance of further effective implementation of multi-year regional assistance programs funded by the European Union to strengthen the capacity of border services and law enforcement agencies, including in the field of countering drug trafficking (LEICA, CADAP, BOMCA).
«Kazakhstan is committed to continuing providing the humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people and developing trade and economic cooperation with Afghanistan which positively impacts the strengthening of security in that country,» Vassilenko said. Currently, the implementation of the EU-funded and UN-administered educational program for Afghan women continues in the Kazakh universities.
The event allowed its participants to align efforts and outline the most important areas of cooperation on the eve of the Central Asia - EU Ministerial Meeting in the autumn of this year and a full-fledged CA-EU Summit in 2024.