The Cooperation Council between the European Union (EU) and the Republic of Uzbekistan (Uzbekistan) held its thirteen meeting the 17th of July. Since 2007 Uzbekistan and the EU held annual dialogues on Human Rights, Justice and Internal Affairs. The bilateral relations between the EU and Uzbekistan have their origins in 1991 being somehow consolidated in 1996 with the signing of the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA).
At the moment, the bilateral relations between the EU and Uzbekistan are included in the EU and Central Asia Strategy for New Partnership.
During its thirteenth meeting, the Cooperation Council discussed several aspects of the bilateral cooperation, including:
- The positive development of the bilateral relations thus far, including the political, judicial and economic reforms. The rule of law, trade, investment and energy relations were top page topics on the meeting´s agenda;
- The review of the improvement measures of Uzbekistan´s business climate, making a special mention to the country´s potential to develop the tourism sector. In this context, Uzbekistan´s commitment with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the European Investment Bank (EIB) opens new financing opportunities of several related projects;
- The entry into force of the Textile Protocol, included in the above-mentioned PCA;
- Common security issues, especially the prevention of violent extremism, particularly among young and vulnerable people.
The meeting was topped by the signing of a financing agreement worth EUR 21.5 million for the Horticulture Development Project. This project is part of a wider plan for the development of the horticulture in Uzbekistan, co-financed by Uzbekistan´s government and local beneficiaries (USD 69.3 million), on one side, and the World Bank (USD 150 million), on the other. The project is included in the Development Strategy for Uzbekistan for 2017-2021, part of Uzbekistan´s government agenda.
The EU was outlined as an active partner in supporting the reforms agenda of the Uzbek Government. The main objective of this financing is the ultimate transformation of a cotton-based economy in an industrial and agro-industrial one. Therefore, the EU makes sure that Uzbekistan follows and accomplishes the required standards of agricultural and industrial production in views of potential trade cooperation.
EU´s financing of the Agricultural Support Services is focused on three main objectives, as the European Commission outlined: improve the participation capacity of the research institutions, support in order to access modern eco-technology and improve the food safety management system in alignment with the international specifications and requirements. The two parts expressed their commitment to develop a sustainable and mutually beneficial bilateral relation.
Although the Uzbek press mentions it frugally, the EU emphasizes the issue of the human rights, including the ones related to the persecution of human rights activists, journalists and dissidents and to the freedom of speech.
EU´s active cooperation with Uzbekistan showcases its interest for a continuous development of is bilateral relationship with the Central Asian states but also its interest for the sustainable development of the area in alignment with its values.