From border security to environmental safety – what High Level Dialogue “EU – Central Asia” discussed in Ashgabat?

From border security to environmental safety – what High Level Dialogue “EU – Central Asia” discussed in Ashgabat?

Central Asia and the European Union will continue the dialogue on the development of an updated EU regional Strategy, which is based on the goals of strengthening cooperation in addressing common security issues that require a close exchange of experience and the development of joint measures to combat terrorism and radicalization. Such an agreement was reached during the High Level Dialogue (HLD) on Political and Security issues between the European Union and the countries of Central Asia, held in Ashgabat on Monday.

The delegations of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Afghanistan headed by the deputy foreign ministries of these countries arrived in the capital of Turkmenistan for the regular meeting in the EU-CA format.

On behalf of the European Union, the forum was attended by Jean-Cristophe Belliard, the Deputy Secretary General of the European External Action Service (EEAS), Peter Burian, the EU Special Representative for Central Asia, as well as an EEAS delegation.

The agenda of the forum, despite its official name, was not limited to security and policy issues. The parties comprehensively considered such topics of inter-regional cooperation as economic interaction in line with the new EU Strategy, joint search for approaches to environmental protection, water resources management, as well as socio-economic reconstruction of Afghanistan.

As the participants of the meeting noted, a constructive level of inter-regional cooperation has developed between Central Asia and Europe, which is successfully implemented through various programs in the field of education, combating terrorism and radicalization, strengthening borders, combating illegal drug trafficking, as well as stabilizing the situation in Afghanistan.

The updated EU strategy on Central Asia, which is planned to be adopted by mid-2019, will primarily focus on deepening political, economic and humanitarian cooperation between European and Central Asian institutions.

In this context, a number of initiatives were announced in Ashgabat to expand the horizons of strategic partnership in trade, economy, transport, environment spheres, as well as to eliminate the negative impact of the nuclear legacy.

In particular, the Kazakh side proposed to launch of a multifunctional online portal that would provide various business and social platforms of cooperation with a “virtual institutionalization” backbone.

It was also proposed to hold thematic seminars under the auspices of the Dialogue with the participation of experts from Central Asia, the European Union and Afghanistan on issues such as cybersecurity, border security and economic integration.

Special attention was also paid to the implementation of key European programmes such as BOMCA (border management assistance Programme in Central Asia) and CADAP (drug prevention Programme in Central Asia). The EU has allocated more than 60 million Euro for both programs, which have made a significant contribution to improving security on the borders of Central Asia.

In general, the discussion background of the EU-CA Ashgabat forum reflected political agreements and developments of the annual meetings of foreign ministers and the previous meetings of the Dialogue. Detailed study of various aspects of inter-regional cooperation, including the topics covered in Ashgabat, will be continued at the Ministerial meeting scheduled for 23 November this year in Brussels.