Foreign Ministers Strengthen Central Asia – EU Cooperation

The foreign ministers of five Central Asian nations strengthened their commitment to regional cooperation and to work as a region with the EU on tackling economic, security and governance issues over a series of meetings in Samarkand earlier this month.

The foreign ministers of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan met together and with EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission Federica Mogherini and European Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development Neven Mimica during a Nov. 10 EU-Central Asian ministerial meeting and a separate conference on security and sustainable development in the region organised by the United Nations.

After the EU-Central Asian Foreign Ministers meeting, the Central Asian foreign ministers, Mogherini and Mimica adopted a joint communiqué, EU and Central Asia: Working for a Safer and More Prosperous Future Together.

They agreed that recognising and addressing the nexus between security, migration, climate change and sustainable development could help strengthen economies. The communiqué also recognises the EU’s contribution to stabilising Afghanistan and calls for continued joint regional work to support that country.

“We are, as the European Union, and we will remain, the first development partner of the region. But we see Central Asia more and more not as a recipient of aid but as an economic partner, with a market of 70 million people, that, especially if reforms are undertaken successfully, will become an attractive area for investments, including from Europe,” Mogherini said after the meeting. “We believe that we are facing challenges but that there are a lot of opportunities that we can make the most out of if we cooperate together.”

The five Central Asian foreign ministers said they welcomed the EU’s decision to adopt a new Central Asia Strategy to lay the foundation for further cooperation by the end of 2019.

“Never before have we had such an intense, positive and constructive EU-Central Asia cooperation. I would say that we are at the top of our historical experience of cooperation, but we want to use this not as a target point, but as a starting point,” Mogherini said.

The five Central Asian foreign ministers also met on the sidelines of those events to sign a programme of cooperation between their ministries for 2018-2019. The programme is intended to expand contacts and coordination between the foreign ministries, and solidifies their agreement to cooperate on international issues and within international and regional organisations.

Joining the Central Asian foreign ministers and the EU representatives for the UN conference were the heads of the foreign ministries of Afghanistan and Iran, heads of secretariats of international organisations, scientists and nongovernmental organisations.

Foreign Minister of Kazakhstan Kairat Abdrakhmanov stressed the link between security and stability on one hand and sustainable development at the national and regional levels on the other. He reiterated President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev’s proposal to create a model zone for peace, security and cooperation in Central Asia and Afghanistan based on three principles: the security-development nexus, a regional approach, and coordinated efforts by UN agencies and institutions.

“Since gaining independence more than 25 years ago, [Nazarbayev] has been actively promoting a policy of regional integration that takes into account the interests and expectations of all the states of the region. Today, this process receives a new impetus, as we observe a surge of regional contacts at all levels,” he stressed. He noted that Kazakhstan welcomes the idea voiced by President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev to hold regular meetings of the Central Asian heads of state.

Another important event was the signing by the foreign ministers of Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan of an agreement on the junction point of their state borders. The agreement is a step toward the completion of one of the stages of international legal formalisation of the official border between Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.