The EU’s High Representative for foreign policy, Federica Mogherini, presented the new European Union Strategy for Central Asia during the 15th EU-Central Asia Ministerial Meeting in Kyrgyz capital Bishkek on 7 July where Kazakhstan’s Foreign Minister Beibut Atamkulov proposed to focus on the effective use of the EU-Central Asia relations toolkit, as well as on ensuring the integrity, visualization and visibility of such cooperation.

The Foreign Ministers of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and a Deputy Foreign Minister of Turkmenistan also attended the annual forum.

The Strategy, which was adopted by the Ministers of the 28 Member States of the EU on 17 June, is the result of a long and fruitful work that the EU has done with the five Central Asian countries through constant consultations,” Mogherini said.

“We share this interest to strengthen our common engagement. We see, as European Union, a strong demand from our Central Asian partners for more engagement with the European Union as a reliable partner for reforms and modernisation in the region,” she said. This is why our Strategy envisages the strengthening of our cooperation on this extremely broad range of sectors – from security to trade, human rights, rule of law, good governance, energy, connectivity, development,” Mogherini said, adding that Brussels wants to support the countries of Central Asia in becoming first and foremost more resilient.

The Kazakh Foreign Minister welcomed the inclusion in the text of the strategy of a number of Kazakhstan’s proposals for the development of private entrepreneurship, including women’s enterpreneurship, small and medium-sized businesses, transport and logistics infrastructure, energy efficiency, environmental protection, climate change, rational use of water resources, education and digitalization.

“Kazakhstan notes the importance of the return of bilateral EU projects to Kazakhstan, as well as the possibility of implementing joint EU-CA programmes with third countries,” Atamkulov said.

During the debate, the participants exchanged views on the key issues of the EU-CA cooperation agenda and its joint implementation.

The Kazakh delegation proposed to use the potential of the EU’s mechanism Investment Facility for Central Asia (IFCA) and the capabilities of the European Investment Bank (EIB) to finance regional projects, as well as to conduct “virtual institutionalisation” of EU-CA cooperation in order to increase efficiency and public awareness of the political decisions taken within this format. Special attention was paid to regional security issues, including the continuation and expansion of the joint Border Management Programme in Central Asia (BOMCA) with the EU, Central Asia Drug Action Programme (CADAP) and the intensification of cooperation through Central Asian Regional Information and Coordination Centre (CARICC).

As a result of the event, the Foreign Ministers and the EU High Representative adopted the Final communiqué EU and Central Asia: Creating a Stronger Partnership Together. The text states that the EU intends to use all available instruments to support the national efforts of the Central Asian countries, the successful integration of the region into the world trading system and the promotion of intraregional cooperation.

The parties also supported the earlier proposal of Kazakhstan and other parties to establish an EU-Central Asia Economic Forum, which will serve as a basis for establishing practical cooperation between European and Central Asian business, and welcomed the proposal of Kyrgyzstan to hold the first such forum in this country.

Kazakhstan’s high award presented to Mogherini

Atamkulov also held bilateral talks with Mogherini. During the meeting, the parties discussed topical issues of cooperation between Kazakhstan and the EU, including the implementation of agreements reached during the visit of President of the European Council Donald Tusk to Nur-Sultan in May 2019.

The parties noted the importance of timely and effective implementation of the Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (EPCA) between Kazakhstan and the EU and the new EU Strategy for Central Asia, including through the formulation of joint development programmes.

“We hope the new Strategy will give a powerful impetus to our interaction and will serve as the beginning of closer and coordinated cooperation aimed at achieving concrete practical results for the benefit of each country and the region as a whole,” Atamkulov said.

Kazakhstan became the first country in the Central Asian region to sign an EPCA in 2015.

Atamkulov also thanked Mogherini for her personal contribution to the development of friendly relations between Kazakhstan and the EU, and, on behalf of Kazakhstan President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, presented the Order of Dostyk (Friendship) of the 1st degree to the high-ranking European politician. Mogherini thanked the Kazakh government and the people of the republic and assured that in the future she will continue working to strengthen the mutually beneficial cooperation between the EU and Kazakhstan.