Address by the President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev at First Central Asia – European Union Summit
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Dear Mr. Michel!
Once again, I sincerely welcome all participants of the First «Central Asia – European Union» Summit.
I join the words of gratitude to the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Kemelevich Tokayev for the organization of our meeting.
We consider this format to be an important and well-needed platform for promoting practical cooperation, building up trust, partnership and interconnectivity.
We support holding our meetings on a regular basis.
Distinguished Summit Participants!
Despite the consequences of the pandemic and the current challenges, we continue to implement the strategy of irreversible reforms in New Uzbekistan.
Our top priority is to build a strong state based on the rule of law with effectively functioning market mechanisms as well as high living standards and comfortable living conditions.
Today, Uzbekistan, which is already home to more than half of the population of Central Asia, is experiencing active demographic growth, which creates a solid foundation and powerful resource for the long-term sustainable development of the country.
We will not rest on our laurels, and we intend to increase the scale of our reforms.
It is primarily about the unconditional rule of law, full support for civil society institutions, human rights and gender equality, freedom of speech and religion.
In the economic dimension, we will continue to create the most favorable conditions for entrepreneurs, continue our uncompromising fight against corruption, and encourage the development of a competitive and innovative business environment.
I would like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank You, distinguished President Michel, all European friends and partners for the constant support of our aspirations.
Distinguished Heads of Delegations!
We understand that the long-term and sustainable development of our country is inextricably linked to the stability and well-being of the entire Central Asia.
In view of this, Uzbekistan is steadily promoting the agenda of good neighborliness and regional partnership. As a result of joint efforts, an entirely new political atmosphere has emerged in Central Asia.
Within a few years, many of the problems that have accumulated for decades, in the solution of which virtually no one had believed, have been resolved. As my colleagues have already noted, an effective mechanism has been established for the regular Consultative Meetings of the Heads of the Central Asian States.
We have proved, above all to ourselves, that we are capable of making compromises in the interests of regional security and prosperity.
Mr. Michel, I would like to give some examples to help you understand the depth of the changes.
Six years ago, our borders with some states of the region were closed. There was practically no mutual trade. We were looking for economic partners outside the region. There were no sustainable communications, no transportation, no active humanitarian exchanges.
Today, the situation has changed dramatically. We have introduced a visa-free regime, opened up all checkpoints. We have restored and increased the frequency of flights and land transport.
Uzbekistan’s trade turnover with the countries of the region has increased tens of times.
The cooperative ties are being strengthened, the joint investment companies and other financial instruments have been established to implement the major projects.
Indeed, there are still unresolved issues in the region. However, we are convinced that our strong political will and the common creative spirit shall contribute to bringing the brotherly countries and peoples of the region closer together.
And I sincerely expect that the European Union shall continue to provide us with support and practical assistance in achieving these noble goals.
We are in favor of a consistent deepening of our region’s cooperation with the European Union in the following priority areas.
On the eve of the summit, in Uzbekistan, we analyzed the state of affairs in the field of trade and economic cooperation.
Indeed, the growth dynamics of trade turnover with the EU countries after the inclusion of our country in the «GSP Plus» preferential trade system is impressive. Since the beginning of the year alone, the export of Uzbek goods with high-added value has almost doubled.
However, unfortunately, the indicators in absolute terms do not correspond to the existing significant opportunities yet.
We understand that to compete commendably in the European market with a finished, non-raw nomenclature, our countries need to address a whole range of issues.
First, it is ensuring that our industrial products comply with high European standards and technical regulations.
Second, establishing efficient transport and logistics corridors for optimal access to the EU market, primarily the development of the Trans-Caspian multimodal route, taking into account the current restrictions.
(China – the Central Asian countries – Azerbaijan – Georgia – Turkey – the European countries)
Third, conducting joint marketing research and targeted events, as well as promotions to ensure the goods from the Central Asian countries are recognizable and in demand by European consumers.
In addition, in many countries of our region – I think my colleagues will support me – there is a great need for European investments and technologies. For example, there are only about 900 joint ventures and projects with European companies in Uzbekistan.
Under these circumstances, we attract investments and loans from other regions of the world. The niches in our markets, which could be taken by the European companies, are being explored by competitors from third countries.
For a systematic solution to all these issues, we propose to establish the European Union – Central Asia Economic Cooperation Committee at the level of the Deputy Prime Ministers of our governments.
As part of the activities of this structure, it is expedient to develop a long-term strategic program to deepen trade and economic cooperation and develop transport and communication connectivity, covering the goals and objectives of the «Global Gates» initiative.
We propose to hold the first meeting of the Committee next spring in Samarkand on the eve of the annual meeting of the Board of Governors of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.
Distinguished Summit Participants!
The European Union is our key partner in the field of «green» development.
We invite the European side to actively join the implementation of the «Green Agenda» program adopted in our region, in particular, in the following specific areas: widespread introduction of the eco-innovations, energy-efficient and resource-saving technologies, digitalization of economic sectors, development of «smart» agriculture by the help of the European network «Smart-AKIS», tapping the potential of renewable energy sources.
We support holding the next European Union – Central Asia High-Level Conference on Environment and Water Resources in Rome next February.
Based on its outcome, we consider it important to develop a joint road map with specific, practical steps and activities.
In the humanitarian sphere, it is necessary to intensify our cooperation in such areas as education and innovation exchanges, cultural and tourist ties.
In the framework of the «Erasmus+» and «Horizon Europe» programs we propose the implementation of the Project on the introduction of advanced European methods of education, the organization of joint fundamental and applied research.
In addition, we are interested in increasing the number of branches of the leading European universities in our countries. For example, today the branches of seven universities from European countries are successfully operating in Uzbekistan.
We are ready to take an active part in the implementation of the first regional vocational education project.
With an aim to broadly familiarize the European partners with the unique historical heritage, rich culture and traditions of the peoples of our region, we intend to hold in the second half of November the major exhibition events in the Louvre in Paris.
We stand up for the annual organization of such events in the European capitals and cultural centers.
The sphere of tourism has enormous potential. Today, European countries are the undisputed leaders in the global tourism field. They have tremendous experience in preserving and reconstructing historical heritage sites, creating modern infrastructure and managing tourist flows.
At the first «EU – Central Asia» Tourism Forum in the city of Khiva next year, we propose to present to the attention of the leading European operators the concept of a common regional tourism product.
In our view, such events shall contribute to a better mutual understanding and consolidate the humanitarian ties between the peoples of Europe and our region.
A key direction is ensuring regional security.
We appreciate the practical assistance of the European Union in the framework of joint programs to combat terrorism, radicalism and extremism, organized crime, drug trafficking and other common challenges.
Based on international practice, we propose to establish cooperation between our intelligence and law enforcement agencies to exchange information and jointly counter modern threats.
Besides, we are grateful to the European partners for supporting our position on the issue of the Afghan settlement.
We have repeatedly discussed this issue openly with Mr. Michel and we have similar concerns and anxieties.
We regularly send humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people. We have not stopped the supply of electricity, oil products and food even in the most difficult periods. We have not stopped the transit of goods to Afghanistan through Uzbekistan.
We are strongly concerned about the aggravation of the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan with the arrival of winter. We are speaking about the critical situation of millions of people living there, in fact, deprived of social guarantees.
Neither the current authorities of the country, nor the neighboring states are capable of solving this complex problem. This requires coordinated efforts and real support from the entire international community.
We are also ready to continue the productive cooperation with the European partners in using the potential of logistics and educational hubs in our border city of Termez.
Distinguished heads of delegations!
As it has been noted, three years have already passed since the adoption of the renewed European Union Strategy for Central Asia.
Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, many activities and tasks were not implemented in full.
In addition, the global and regional situation has changed dramatically, which today requires more active support from the European partners for the integration processes in Central Asia.
In this regard, we propose to consider the possibility of adopting a multilateral program document – a road map to accelerate the implementation of the Strategy and consolidate our partnerships.
I am confident that these issues will be discussed in detail during the upcoming joint Ministerial Conference on Connectivity, which will be held next month in Samarkand.
In conclusion of my statement, I want to once again reaffirm our commitment to an open and productive dialogue in the European Union – Central Asia format in the interests of stability, sustainable development and prosperity of our countries.
Thank you for your attention!