Deputy Prime Minister of Uzbekistan, H.E. Aziz Abdukhakimov, Participates in the 2022 European Development Days
On June 21-22, the 2022 European Development Days (EDD), Europe’s leading forum on international partnerships since 2006, took place in Brussels. Organised by the European Commission, EDD bring the development community together each year to share ideas and experiences in ways that inspire new partnerships and innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges.
The theme this year was centred around the ‘Global Gateway: building sustainable partnerships for a connected world’. Alongside the thematic sessions, EDD 2022 hosted a series of special events focusing on key aspects of the Global Gateway and exploring the geopolitical, financial and geographical aspects of the Global Gateway. The various expert panels discussed the Global Gateway flagships across the world’s regions including Africa, Latin America, Central Asia, the Indo-Pacific and the EU Neighbourhood.
The session on Central Asia counted with the participation of European Commissioner for International Partnerships Jutta Urpilainen; Deputy Prime Minister of Uzbekistan and Minister of Tourism and Cultural Heritage Aziz ABDUKHAKIMOV; Minister of Transport and Communication of the Kyrgyz Republic Erkinbek OSOEV; Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Tajikistan Usmonali USMONZODA and Chairman of the Agency of the Republic of Kazakhstan for Strategic Planning and Reforms Aset IRGALIYEV.
In her opening speech, Commissioner Urpilainen elaborated on the three pillars of the EU’s engagement with Central Asia: supporting political reforms, environmental sustainability and human development. She furthermore emphasised the need to strengthen digitalisation and the participation of civil society and the private sector in the reform processes.
Deputy Prime Minister Aziz Abdukhakimov, in his remarks, highlighted that Uzbekistan is fully supportive of the Global Gateway initiative, given that it is fully aligned with the main directions of the Development Strategy of New Uzbekistan for 2022-2026.
The Uzbek Government highly appreciates the EU’s firm and consistent support for the irreversible reform processes taking place in Uzbekistan. Indeed, relations between Uzbekistan and the EU have reached a new level in recent years, acquiring a comprehensive and multidimensional character, DPM Aziz Abdukhakimov noted.
Among some of the most notable achievements in multilateral cooperation are:
Uzbekistan receiving a GSP+ beneficiary status, whereby Uzbekistan will receive duty-free access to the EU market for about 66% of tariff lines;
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 percent (to USD 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 at EUR 5.2 million);
The European Investment Bank and the French Development Agency are designing a project to improve the environmental situation in the Aral Sea region worth EUR 150 million.
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 Central Asia. 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.
In this regards, Deputy Prime Minister Aziz Abdukhakimov specifically outlined Uzbekistan’s position on the Global Gateway Initiative in the following points:
1 – Proposals of the Initiative should be aimed at supporting regional projects pertaining to trade and investment, low-carbon energy, water use, and digitalisation;
2 – 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. Uzbekistan attaches high importance to the development of a regional programme on the creation of a transport system in Central Asia similar to the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T).
3 – 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.
4 – Effective steps should be taken towards inclusive transition to green economy, introduction of innovations and digital technologies, as well as infrastructural modernisation.
5 – 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.
6 – 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.
7 – 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.
8 – Security and sustainable development of Central Asia is in many ways dependent on peace and stability in the neighbouring Afghanistan. Therefore, the Afghan question should be constantly in the centre of 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.
By way of conclusion, DPM Aziz Abdukhakimov remarked that 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.
The Uzbek side furthermore remains 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.