By Abdul Kerimkhanov
EU is ready to provide Uzbekistan with the opportunity to supply more than 6,200 types of goods to the European market without duties, Uzbek media reports.
This became known after the visit of the governmental delegation of Uzbekistan headed by Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov to Brussels.
The Uzbek delegation participated in the 14th meeting of the Uzbekistan-EU Cooperation Council, the next inter-regional meeting of the EU-Central Asia, held bilateral talks with EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini, the EU Commissioner for cooperation and development Neven Mimitz, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Austria’s Presidency of the EU Karin Kneissel and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Belgium Didier Reinders.
The EU confirmed its readiness to assist Uzbekistan in obtaining unilateral tariff benefits within the framework of the “General System of Preferences Plus”, which will facilitate the duty-free entry of more than 6,200 types of Uzbek goods into the European market, the press service of the Foreign Ministry said.
The parties also agreed to begin intensive work on the preparation and holding in 2019 of the Uzbek-European summit in Brussels and the official visit of the head of Uzbekistan to Belgium, which should open fundamentally new chapters in the history of relations.
In addition, an agreement was reached on the commencement of negotiations on the Agreement on Extended Partnership and Cooperation between Uzbekistan and the EU, which will replace the Agreement on Partnership and Cooperation between the Republic of Uzbekistan and the European Communities and their member states in force since July 1, 1999. The European side submitted a corresponding draft document.
It was repeatedly stressed at meetings that the EU attaches particular importance to the early accession of Uzbekistan to the World Trade Organization and will contribute to this process.
The parties agreed to intensify cooperation in the field of education and training, considered the prospects for increasing the network of branches of leading European universities in Uzbekistan to train specialists in the fields in demand today.
"The European side supported the efforts of Uzbekistan to promote peace and stability in Afghanistan, including concrete steps to build a global and regional consensus on the peace process and initiatives to implement trans-Afghan transport and trade routes, to develop a training program for Afghan women," the Foreign Ministry said.
Representatives of the Central Asian countries and the European Union agreed to develop and adopt by mid-2019 an updated EU Strategy for Central Asia, which will become a new Road Map for deepening interregional cooperation for the medium term. The European side emphasized that the document will focus more on the priority areas of development of the Central Asian states.
The EU assistance program for Uzbekistan covers 2014-2020 and has a total budget of 168 million euros. To date, 25 projects have been implemented in Uzbekistan for a total amount of more than 100 million euros with EU assistance. As many as 15 national projects totalling 69.4 million euros cover the areas of economic and social development, education, water management and waste management, improving living conditions in rural areas, supporting entrepreneurship in remote areas and developing tourism.
In addition, Uzbekistan receives EU assistance under 10 regional projects for a total of 33.6 million euros in education (Erasmus +), business and tourism development and other areas.
The EU-Central Asia relations are being developed under the EU strategy for Central Asia, signed in 2007 and reviewed in 2015.
Regional programs within the strategy are effective in the field of stability and security, sustainable economic development and poverty reduction, as well as regional cooperation both within the region and between the EU and Central Asia.
Abdul Kerimkhanov is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow him on Twitter: @AbdulKerim94
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