By Abdul Kerimkhanov
The first round of negotiations on the Agreement on Extended Partnership and Cooperation (EPC) between Uzbekistan and the EU was held in Tashkent on February 4-7.
Deputy Foreign Minister of Uzbekistan Dilshod Akhatov and Deputy Managing Director of the European External Action Service Luke Devin led representative delegations of the parties.
The press service of the Foreign Ministry said that the parties came to a common understanding on the draft Agreement structure and, divided into three groups, discussed in detail and constructively all sections of the draft document, identifying possible mutually acceptable provisions.
By mutual agreement, meetings of experts on the trade section of the draft Agreement with the participation of representatives of Uzbek relevant ministries will continue until the end of the week.
It was decided to hold the second round of negotiations on the EPC Agreement in Brussels.
Within the framework of the European delegation’s stay in Tashkent, consultations were held on the preparation of the application of Uzbekistan for the status of “General System of Preferences Plus” (GSP+), a briefing for representatives of the business community of Uzbekistan to familiarize themselves with the advantages of obtaining the GSP+ status.
The new agreement is intended to replace the Agreement on partnership and cooperation between Uzbekistan and the European Communities and their member states that have been in force since July 1, 1999.
The document is expected to focus on political cooperation, trade and investment relations, sustainable development and interaction, as well as human rights and governance.
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.
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.
Abdul Kerimkhanov is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow him on Twitter: @AbdulKerim94
Follow us on Twitter @AzerNewsAz