By Roy Lie Atjam
On Wednesday 7th July 2021, the Embassy of Uzbekistan to the Kingdom of Belgium host a virtual symposium to serve as a prelude to the upcoming International Connectivity Summit named “Central and South Asia: Regional Connectivity. Challenges and Opportunities” which will take place in the Uzbekistan capital Tashkent from July 15-16. It is an initiative of the President of Uzbekistan H.E. Shavkat Mirziyoyev.
The main focus will be on the economy, security and culture
Uzbekistan is a double landlocked country. The conference aims to establish how the Connectivity summit(15-16 July 2021) can lead to greater cooperation, security and economic prosperity in the regions. The expectation is that several participants will dispatch high-level delegations, Iran, India, the USA and the EU. The head of state of Afghanistan and Pakistan head of government are to lead their delegation.
H.E. Mr Dilyor Khakimov, Ambassador of Uzbekistan in Belgium, Head of the Missions of Uzbekistan to the EU and NATO, delivered the opening address. Ambassador Khakimov, welcomed the speakers to the symposium. He mentioned the fact that this year Uzbekistan and others Central Asia countries will be celebrating 30 years of independence. “The Uzbekistan president has made significant contributions to regional policies”, Khakimov stated.
Uzbekistan jointed peace-building missions in Afghanistan. Ambassador Khakimov encouraged the distinguished speakers to come with additional proposals.
Ambassador Khakimov was followed by a string of prominent speakers/panelists: Philippe van Amersfoort, Deputy Head of Central Asia Division, EEAS, Romana Vlahutin, Ambassador at Large for Connectivity, EEAS; Ryszard Czarnecki MEP, Chair D-RU, European Parliament; Stefania Benaglia, Associate Researcher, CEPS; Štefan Füle, Former European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighborhoods, Consultant of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan and Dr Obid Khakimov, Deputy Adviser of the President of Uzbekistan, Director of the Center for Economic Research and Reforms under the Administration of the President of the Republic.
The moderator was Mr Georgi Gotev, Senior Editor, EURACTIV. Speakers were allotted five minutes of pitching time each. Romana Vlahutin remarked that the EU is the product of connectivity, connectivity she said is interdependence. The EU has lots of experience in this regard. Vlahutin went on to say that the EU is central Asia’s top trade partner, 24% higher than trade with China and Russia.
The connectivity conference should strive to attain a regional approach. Connectivity is a geopolitical tool.
Philippe van Amersfoort noticed a new momentum in central Asia, initiated by Uzbekistan. For example, custom regulation is one. Van Amersfoort briefly referred to positive developments in ASEAN. He is of the view that a common vision is needed in Central Asia. The European Investment Bank could be of assistance. Van Amersfoort hinted that the EU is envisaging hosting a high-level EU Central Asia conference in 2022.
Ryszard Czarnecki observed the connectivity conference to be timely organized. According to him, Uzbekistan could be considered a silk road hub. He sees the Trans Afghanistan Railway as a great asset. Stefania Benaglia poses the question of how to implement connectivity initiatives. Should it be a project approach or a systematic approach?.
Obid Khakimov, elaborated on the potential of Central Asia countries. According to one Boston based institute, in the next 10 years, Central Asia will attract approximately US$ 170 billion in investments. Good Infrastructure is imperative, connectivity reduces poverty. As a result, the conference will lead to the showcasing of Uzbekistan achievements. From landlock to land link.
A q&a session concluded the successful symposium.