|Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy, Benita Ferrero-Waldner will be attending both the EU-Central Asia Ministerial Troika and the EU-Central Asia Security Forum in Paris on the 17-18 September. |
The EU Troika held its fourth joint meeting with their Central Asian counterparts from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan in the evening of the 17 September.
Their discussions covered topics such as EU-Central Asia relations, including cooperation in the area of education, environment and water management, border management, rule of law, fight against drug trafficking as well as international matters of common concern.
Furthermore, ministers will prepare the first EU-Central Asia Security Forum, which will take place the following day. In her speech at this Forum, Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner will focus on how the EU and Central Asia can work together to fight against key threats and security challenges such as energy insecurity, organised crime, drug trafficking, environmental challenges and climate change. Cooperation on these issues is already anchored in the Central Asia Strategy adopted in 2007.
Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy, Benita Ferrero-Waldner said: "Central Asia is a region of increasing importance for us and we need the Central Asian countries to be strong partners in the fight against shared challenges. Therefore, we have considerably increased the intensity in our relations over the last months, notably through our Central Asia strategy. During my visit to Central Asia earlier this year I underlined the importance of stability for a region that is so close to Afghanistan and our commitment to work with the Central Asian countries to achieve this. I am happy to see that a security partnership is a very important element of this reinforced cooperation."
The Central Asia Strategy adopted in 2007 is a sign of the EU's commitment to this important region, and the growing significance of relations with Central Asia is also demonstrated by the near doubling of EC assistance to the countries in the region in the period 2007 - 2013, to a total of €750 million. Over the next four years, poverty reduction will continue to be the key priority for EC assistance. The second main focus is the promotion of good governance, strengthening of public institutions, improvement of the investment climate, and other trade policy reforms. All programmes are tailored to the specific needs of each country.
Energy and trade relations are increasingly important areas of co-operation between the EU and Central Asia. The European Commission's "Baku initiative" is already supporting closer integration of transport and energy networks. Co-operation on new energy transport routes, including the Trans-Caspian corridor will continue, as well as promotion of energy saving, energy efficiency and renewable energy sources.
Since the republics of Central Asia gained independence in the early 1990s the European Commission has provided more than €1.4 billion assistance to the region. The Partnership and Cooperation Agreements in place with Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan provide a solid working basis. Similar agreements are expected to come into force with Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.
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