European Council president, Charles Michel was in Tashkent on Friday (28 October) for talks with Uzbek president Mirziyoyev.
Once considered a parriah in the international system because of gross human rights abuses, Uzbekistan has in recent years adopted a trajectory for reform, and of opening up to the world. Good relations with the EU are now an important pillar of Uzbek foreign policy.
For the EU too relations with Uzbekistan are increasingly important given the Union's strategy towards Central Asia.
This was all reflected in a joint statement issued after Friday's meeting between. Shavkat Mirziyoyev and Charles Michel.
The joint statement said:
During a warm and friendly meeting, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev and President Charles Michel have reaffirmed that in recent years the relations between Uzbekistan and the European Union have been elevated to a qualitatively new level and gained a comprehensive nature.
The parties welcomed the desire of the European Union to strengthen ties and interregional cooperation with Uzbekistan and Central Asia.
The parties agreed to take joint efforts to give a new impetus to the relations between Uzbekistan and the EU and deepen them further.
The parties noted productive activity of the joint mechanisms of bilateral and interregional cooperation. They expressed readiness to take joint efforts to further increase the effective use of their potential and capabilities.
The parties welcomed the recent initialing of the Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, which is set to open a new page in relations between Uzbekistan and the European Union, and strengthen cooperation on a wide range of issues in policy, economy, security and human dimension.
The Presidents expressed the hope that this key document be signed and ratified as soon as possible.
The parties stated that they shall strictly adhere to the UN Charter and universally recognized norms of international law in international affairs and bilateral relations, and will support and develop cooperation based on the principles of equality, mutual understanding and mutual consideration of interests.
The European side has reaffirmed its support for the policy of reforms carried out as part of the Strategy of Development of New Uzbekistan, and its hope that these are sustainable and irreversible.
The Presidents appreciated the constructive dialogue and active interaction in the field of human rights, democracy and the rule of law. The parties are determined to further promote the strengthening of cooperation between Uzbekistan and the EU in this direction.
The President of the European Council noted with satisfaction the ever-growing attention of the leadership of Uzbekistan to ensuring gender equality, empowerment of women, youth and children and assured that the EU is ready to continue comprehensive assistance in the implementation of projects and programs in these areas. The EU stressed the importance of full respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.
In the context of continuity, the priority has been given to attracting direct investments, the latest technologies, best practices and high standards of EU companies to Uzbekistan.
The Presidents welcomed the dynamic development of economic, trade and investment cooperation between Uzbekistan and the European Union. Granting Uzbekistan a status of the EU’s GSP+ arrangement beneficiary in April 2021 became an important step in this regard, which opened up access for a large number of Uzbek commodities to the EU market.
The parties attached special attention to the need for joint efforts to accelerate the implementation of the EU Strategy for Central Asia and welcomed the EU-Central Asia Connectivity Conference: Global Gateway for Sustainable Development to be held on November 18, 2022 in Samarkand.
During that conference, the Uzbek side is ready to propose to adopt a "Road Map" for the implementation of joint projects in priority areas of cooperation.
Creation of sustainable transport corridors has been specified as key factor for increasing mutual trade, including explore options for further development of the Trans-Caspian Multimodal Route.
The Presidents discussed the importance of expanding port capacities, increasing ferry and rail fleets, harmonizing customs procedures, introducing digital solutions for cargo handling and border crossing. The implementation of such projects is fully consistent with the goals and objectives of the EU’s Global Gateway initiative.
The Uzbek side explained the importance of the project of construction of the Termez-Mazari-Sharif-Kabul-Peshawar railway, enhancing connectivity.
The Uzbek side expressed its readiness to create the necessary conditions for attracting FDIs, including EU companies.
The parties welcomed the approval and beginning of implementation of the EU’s Multi-Annual Indicative Program 2021-2027 for financial and technical assistance for Uzbekistan.
They stressed the importance of using the existing significant potential for mutually beneficial cooperation in the field of digitalization, green economy and energy efficiency and water use, including through the introduction of advanced European experience and implementation of joint projects in these areas.
The Uzbek side expressed gratitude to the European Union for its continued support of Uzbekistan's initiatives on water and environmental issues, in particular on setting up the UN Multi-Partner Trust Fund for Human Security for the Aral Sea region. The parties share the importance of its continued activities.
The parties underscored the importance of deepening cooperation in the field of education and science, including thorough exploiting the potential of the Erasmus+" and "Horizon Europe" programs. The parties welcomed the implementation of the first regional project of vocational education “Darya”.
The Uzbek side proposed to host the first EU-Central Asia Tourism Forum in Uzbekistan in 2023.
The topical issues of the regional and international agenda have been discussed.
The importance of continuing joint efforts in terms of strengthening connectivity, ensuring security and stability in the Central Asia has been noted.
In this context, the parties underlined the need to prevent Afghanistan from turning into a source of permanent threat to regional and international security.
Prevention of the impending humanitarian catastrophe in the winter period, in particular, providing humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people has been underlined as a priority concern.
The Uzbek side outlined its initiative to set up an International Group to negotiate with Afghan interim government to agree the algorithm for the earliest fulfilling of mutual obligations of the parties.
To achieve long-term stability, both sides shared views about the necessity for inclusive political process and provision of human rights, including women’s rights, in Afghanistan.
In conclusion, the Presidents reaffirmed their commitment to strengthening an open and constructive dialogue and partnership between Uzbekistan and the EU, as well as promoting further expansion of regional cooperation and connectivity based on the principles of good neighborliness, mutual respect, trust and compliance with fundamental norms of international law in order to transform the Central Asia to a region of peace, security, stability and sustainable development.