Ashgabat, 9 July 2018 - The tasks of establishing mutually-beneficial inter-regional cooperation between the countries of Central Asia, Afghanistan, and the European Union based at the foundation of joint efforts to update the EU Strategy for Central Asia, and also require increased exchanges of experiences and best practices in the security sphere and the development of common measures to fight terrorism and radicalization, ensure border security, and combat drug trafficking. This was the main conclusiondrawn today in Turkmenistan's capital during the 5th session of the High Level Dialogue (HLD) on Political and Security issues between the European Union and the countries of Central Asia.
Kazakhstan's delegation, which included representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, National Security Committee and Ministry of Internal Affairs, was headed by Deputy Foreign Minister Mr. Roman Vassilenko. Other delegations were represented by deputy foreign ministers and experts from the capitals of Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Afghanistan.
The European side was represented by Mr. Jean-Cristophe Belliard, the Deputy Secretary General of the European External Action Service (EEAS), Mr. Peter Burian, the EU Special Representative for Central Asia, as well as an EEAS delegation.
The Dialogue participants carried out a comprehensive overview of a host of interregional cooperation issues, from the process of updating the EU Strategy for Central Asia and development of a new EU Connectivity Strategy for Asia, to a search for common ways to protect the environment, effectively utilize water resources, and contribute to Afghanistan's social and economic rehabilitation.
Speaking at the session, Mr. Vassilenko underscored the constructive level of inter-regional cooperation between the countries of Central Asian and the European Union which is aimed at the general and comprehensive development of the region vis-à-vis various programs in the areas of education, combating terrorism, radicalization, and drug trafficking, ensuring border security, as well as the stabilization of Afghanistan.
In this regard, the head of Kazakhstan's delegation highlighted the joint work of Central Asian and EU countries to update the EU's 2007 Strategy for Central Asia. The process of updating this document, which is scheduled to be completed by the middle of next year, is aimed primarily at enhancing political, economic, and humanitarian collaboration between our region and European countries and institutions, taking into account the current level of interaction and the expanded horizon of strategic partnership between Central Asia and the EU.
“Kazakhstan is counting on the next-generation Strategy to become a qualitatively new driver of strategic cooperation between our countries and the EU”, said Mr. Vassilenko. In this context, the head of Kazakhstan's delegation underscored a set of Kazakh initiatives to ensure the proper implementation of future cooperation programs, among them — the launch of a multifunctional online portal that would provide various business and social platforms of cooperation with a “virtual institutionalization” backbone.
HLD participants also paid particular attention to advancing cooperation within the implementation in our region of European programs such as BOMCA (Border Management Programme in Central Asia) and CADAP (Central Asia Drug Action Programme), which have made a substantial contribution to raising security at Central Asian borders.
The first phases of these programs were launched in the beginning of the 2000s and have since then become key partners in Central Asian countries. In all, during the implementation of BOMCA and CADAP, the EU had contributed more than 40,1 million euro and 20,7 million euro, respectively. These funds were used to carry out monitoring activities, preventive campaigns, and raising the corresponding capacities of law enforcement agencies in Central Asia.
The traditional participation of Afghanistan's delegation in the HLD allowed its participants to carry out an overview of the situation in Central Asia in a wider socio-economic and political context, as well as to consider possible cooperation formats for the continued development and strengthening of Afghanistan's potential in the security field. In this context, the Kazakh delegation suggested holding thematic seminars under HLD auspices with the participation of experts from the countries of Central Asia, the EU, and Afghanistan on issues such as cybersecurity, border security, and economic connectivity.
Worthy of note is that several delegations made particular mention of the first working consultative meeting of the heads of Central Asian states that had taken place on 15 March in Astana. HLD participants agreed in unison that the meeting, which had first been suggested by President Shavkat Mirziyoyev of Uzbekistan and held in Astana at the initiative of President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan, gave an important start to the continuation of comprehensive regional cooperation.
According to established practice, the work of the HLD in Ashgabat was based on political agreements and guidance provided by yearly meetings of foreign ministers in the “EU-CA” format which had recently taken place in Samarkand and Tashkent, as well as previous Dialogue sessions. The general tone of the discussions was also provided by the results of the efforts of foreign ministries from Central Asia and the EU to advance constructive interregional cooperation, which will be considered in detail at the upcoming “EU-CA” ministerial meeting in Brussels on 23 November.
Meanwhile, the delegations of Kazakhstan and the EU met on the sidelines of the HLD where they noted the strategic nature of relations between Astana and Brussels, and discussed cooperation in the context of international efforts to aid the further stabilization and sustainable development of Afghanistan, the process of updating the EU Strategy for Central Asia as well as other relevant international issues. During the talks, the EEAS leadership gave high marks to the international initiatives of President Nazarbayev and the active work being carried out by Kazakhstan during its non-permanent membership of the UN Security Council in 2017-2018.