Today, Central Asia is a center of attraction and a space of new economic opportunities for leading European companies and banks, President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev stated, speaking at the second EU-Central Asia high-level regional meeting in Kyrgyzstan on 2 June 2023.
As Mirziyoyev noted, we are talking about a broad investment and technological partnership aimed at creating modern industrial capacities, the introduction of “green” energy, the development of “smart” agriculture, the formation of an extensive transport and logistics infrastructure.
Taking into account the agenda of the summit, the President of Uzbekistan highlighted priority areas of mutually beneficial cooperation between EU and Central Asia.
In order to significantly expand trade relations with the European Union, the leader of Uzbekistan noted the interest in creating sustainable trade and logistics chains and effective mechanisms to support mutual supplies, extending the validity of the GSP+ trade regime to the countries of the region.
At the same time, Mirziyoyev pointed out the lack of noticeable progress on a number of issues, which could be settled with development of a comprehensive program to support exporting and importing enterprises in the region.
It was stressed that this will also be facilitated by the early completion of the process of adopting an Agreement on expanded partnership and cooperation between Uzbekistan and the EU.
Secondly, the key factor of sustainable economic growth is the formation of efficient transport corridors.
“It is important to join the efforts of our countries in order to develop the transport and communication connectivity of Central Asia and Europe, primarily through the formation of the so-called Middle route – the Trans-Caspian Transit Corridor,” the President of Uzbekistan said.
“Unfortunately, there is still no coordinated approach to improving the competitiveness of this highway. Today we need tariffs that will be beneficial to the business that generates the main cargo traffic. However, as the analysis shows, the current tariffs and fees on this route are 1.5 times higher than, for example, on alternative North–South routes,” he said.
Equally important are the expansion of transport, logistics and port infrastructure, improvement of the technical condition of the roadway, as well as the creation of an effective mechanism for using the potential of the Trans-Caspian Corridor through regular meetings of authorized representatives of transport departments.
In the field of investment and technological partnership, the President of Uzbekistan proposed to consider the annual holding of industrial and technological exhibitions within the framework of the Economic Forum “Central Asia – European Union”.
According to Mirziyoyev, taking into account modern realities, Uzbekistan is interested in launching, together with the European Investment Bank, special financial support tools for the transfer of production capacities of leading European companies to Central Asian countries.
He confirmed readiness to provide all the necessary conditions for the activities of the Bank’s regional office in Uzbekistan.
In the field of digital connectivity, the development of a joint “Digital Agenda for Central Asia” with the involvement of the “Team Europe” mechanism was proposed.
The head of Uzbekistan also focused on countering climate change and increasing the sustainability of ecosystems through the implementation of targeted regional projects using advanced European knowledge and technologies.
“Taking into account the urgency of the issues, we invite the European Union to co-organize the first International Climate Forum, which will be held this autumn within the framework of the Samarkand Solidarity Initiative for the Sake of Common Security and Prosperity,” the President of Uzbekistan suggested.
He also expressed interest in the active participation of partners in the project of a Central Asian University for Environment and Climate Change.
With a view of unlocking the tourism potential of Central Asia, the head of Uzbekistan voiced an initiative to jointly develop a program to promote sustainable tourism for the region and present it at the anniversary session of the General Assembly of the World Tourism Organization, which will be held in October this year in Uzbekistan.
Mirziyoyev also called for the resumption of regular meetings of ministers of education and rectors of universities, the expansion of support for research and educational projects for the Central Asian region within the framework of the Horizon Europe Program.
As the President stressed, the most important areas of cooperation are strengthening cooperation in the fight against new challenges and threats to security, developing partnership programs in the fight against extremism and radicalism, human trafficking, organized crime and cybercrime, border security.
“To this end, we propose to hold an expert conference “Central Asia – the European Union: a new agenda for cooperation in the field of security,” the Uzbek leader said.
Noting the deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan, the President of Uzbekistan called on partners not to reduce the humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people and underlined the readiness to provide for these purposes the logistics hub in Termez.
In conclusion, the President of Uzbekistan also expressed gratitude for the support of the initiative to host the first official summit in the format of “Central Asia – EU” in Uzbekistan next year. ///nCa, 3 June 2023 [photo credit – press service of the President of Uzbekistan]
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