EU-Central Asia Ministerial Meeting in Bishkek

On 27 November, Central Asian Ministers of Foreign Affairs met in Bishkek with EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton, at the 6th EU-Central Asia Ministerial meeting. Kazakhstan was represented by Foreign Minister Erlan Idrissov.

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Participants discussed the implementation of the EU-Central Asia Strategy adopted by the European Council in 2007, as well as EU assistance for sustainable economic development in Central Asia and other regional issues such as the efficient use of energy and water, environmental protection, the fight against terrorism and extremism. Participants also exchanged views on regional security and stability, including the situation in Afghanistan ahead of the withdrawal of most international forces by the end of 2014.
Speaking after the meeting, Lady Ashton took stock of the EU-Central Asia partnership over the past five years: “We agreed that all the areas of the Strategy remain important but that we should do more to make our cooperation more targeted and more efficient.” 
The EU Strategy focuses on a number of key initiatives: education, the rule of law, the environment and water, democratization, human rights and the development of civil society. She noted the great potential to further develop energy, trade and economic relations to the benefit of both the EU and Central Asian countries. She reiterated the EU’s support for Central Asian countries’ political and economic reforms, and its willingness to share experience and knowledge in areas such as the environment.
Lady Ashton confirmed that the EU and Central Asian countries will strengthen their cooperation in the security area through a regular High Level Security Dialogue, in particular to “promote a secure Afghanistan and a prosperous region as a whole”.
During a press briefing after the event, Minister Idrissov drew attention to a number of shared challenges and common goals in EU-Central Asia cooperation. In particular, he noted the importance of security issues and foreign policy cooperation, including on Afghanistan and Iran. “Our views on the need for sustainable and stable development in the region are the same”, the Minister said. He reiterated Kazakhstan’s support for this ministerial format meeting, calling on its role to be strengthened and moving from an information sharing exercise to deeper consultations in order to develop coordinated solutions to the most pressing issues of mutual concern. The Minister said that he was “convinced of the need to join forces in the region with the EU in post-crisis management, and exchange ideas on economic modernization and the implementation of joint projects”.
The EU-Central Asia Ministerial meeting was the first to be held in the Kyrgyz Republic. It was attended by the Foreign Ministers or Deputy Foreign Ministers of all five Central Asian countries (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan) and was the ninth Ministerial meeting since the Central Asia Strategy was adopted by the European Council in 2007. Lady Ashton also visited Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan on a tour of the region.

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