By Roy Lie Atjam
The Forum of the 15th Session of the European Development Days (EDD) convened in Brussels on 21 June 2022. European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, addressed the opening ceremony.
The Republic of Uzbekistan participated in this global forum. The following statement by the Uzbek delegation headed by Mr Aziz Abdukhakimov, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism, at the Global Gateway Initiative in Central Asia session at European Development Days.
Statement of the head of the Uzbek delegation at the “Global Gateway Initiative in Central Asia” session at European Development Days.
“On behalf of the President of Uzbekistan H.E. Shavkat Mirziyoyev, I would like to express my gratitude for the invitation to the “European Development Days” as part of a separate session dedicated to Central Asia.
The Head of the State has personally entrusted me to take part in this important event and I was also asked to send his best wishes to the leadership of the European Union and all the participants of the event.
Uzbekistan has supported the EU initiative on strengthening connectivity – “Global Gateway”, since its inception, given that it is also fully aligned with the Development Strategy of New Uzbekistan for 2022-2026. In the end of this year we are planning to hold an “EU – Central Asia” Ministerial Conference in Samarkand. This event will become a continuation of today’s forum and will allow us to have a more comprehensive discussion, strengthening connectivity between the EU and Central Asia, as well exploring further cooperation opportunities across development issues.
“The European Union is a trusted and one of the key partners of Uzbekistan.
The Uzbek Government highly appreciates the EU’s firm and consistent support for the irreversible reform processes taking place in our country.
Relations between Uzbekistan and the EU reached a new level in recent years, acquiring a comprehensive and multidimensional character.
Among some of the most notable achievements in multilateral cooperation are:
- Uzbekistan receiving a GSP+ beneficiary status
- Negotiations on the Enhanced Cooperation Partnership and Agreement are at their final stage. Active joint work is underway on Uzbekistan’s accession to the WTO.
- Bilateral Trade grew by 22.6% ($1.83 billion) since the beginning of the year. About 1,000 joint ventures and projects have been implemented over the past few years.
- The EU is one of the main donors to the UN Multi-Partner Trust Fund for Human Security for the Aral Sea region (estimated 5.2 million euros).
- The European Investment Bank and the French Development Agency are designing a project to improve the environmental situation in the Aral Sea region worth 150 million euros.
The Uzbek Government welcomes the EU initiatives on digitalisation, water use, energy and climate change in Central Asia through the “Team Europe” assistance mechanisms.
To add to this, at present, we are working on the organization of the EU-Central Asia Tourism Forum in Khiva with the purpose of supporting the post-pandemic recovery of the tourism sector.
It is undoubted that rapid global changes and crises are posing serious challenges for the developing world. These challenges require joint action in order to advance resistance to external shocks. Global crises require collective response by eliminating barriers and paying a special attention to the protection of vulnerable people.
This has been one of the key priorities of the EU Strategy for Central Asia endorsed in 2019.
The Government of Uzbekistan is convinced that improving the interconnectedness of Central Asia with other parts of the world will play an important role in ensuring prosperity and sustainability of our region.
Thus, it is imperative that the current and prospective joint projects and programs with the EU consider the needs and priorities of the countries of our region.
Taking this opportunity, I would like to outline Uzbekistan’s position on the Global Gateway Initiative in 7 concise points:
- Proposals of the Initiative should be aimed at supporting regional projects pertaining to trade and investment, low-carbon energy, water use, and digitalisation;
- Priority should be given to the development of new transport corridors connecting Central Asia with South Asia and Europe, including through South Caucasus (Trans Caspian international transport route). The latter is closely linked to the EU Strategy on Connecting Europe and Asia of 2018. We consider it important to develop a regional programme on the creation of a transport system in Central Asia similar to the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T).
- Joint measures to address food security issues and explore ways to mitigate the negative impact of rising world prices, as well as establish novel cooperation approaches in production and processing of agricultural products – are imperative.
- Effective steps should be taken towards inclusive transition to green economy, introduction of innovations and digital technologies, as well as infrastructural modernisation.
- Fighting climate change, environmental and biodiversity protection – should become a priority. This is especially relevant in light of the lessons learned from the Aral Sea environmental disaster.
- Through the “EU-CA” platform, The Uzbek Government deems it necessary to accelerate cooperation on water resources, environmental protection and climate change, as well as to start preparations for a high level “EU-Central Asia” conference on the environment and water resources planned for October 2022 in Rome.
On this note, the Uzbek Government counts on extra support from the Trust Fund for the Aral Sea Region.
- It is necessary to invest in capacity building programs, supporting large-scale education and health reforms. The Government of Uzbekistan is interested in expanding cooperation with the EU through Erasmus + and Horizon Europe educational programs.
- Security and sustainable development of Central Asia is in many ways dependent on peace and stability in the neighbouring Afghanistan. Therefore, the Afghan problem should be constantly in the centre of our attention.
Uzbekistan believes that the expansion of humanitarian aid to Afghanistan and the unfreezing of its financial assets abroad is highly important, along with the assistance in implementation of major infrastructure projects such as Termez-Mazar-i-Sharif-Kabul-Peshawar railway and the Surkhan-Puli-Khumri power line
The Uzbek government believes that the aforementioned measures will help in enhancing connectivity of the Central Asian region and its’ sustainable development, as well as facilitate effective implementation of the Global Gateway initiative.
We are committed to a regular information exchange, knowledge sharing, deepening cooperation and joint actions in ensuring practical and effective implementation of the EU’s initiative in strengthening further cooperation between Uzbekistan and the EU.”