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EC Strategy for Central Asia

Background and objectives

When in 2007 the EU adopted a new political strategy for the region of Central Asia (“Strategy for a New Partnership with Central Asia”), EU cooperation and development assistance to Central Asia was also stepped up as set out in the European Commission’s “Regional Strategy Paper for Assistance to Central Asia for the period 2007- 13”.

The Regional Strategy Paper for Assistance to Central Asia (RSPCA) for the period 2007-2013 is a fundamental complement to the New Partnership Strategy. It summarises the common as well as the individual challenges faced by the countries of the region, and provides the context and priorities for the financial assistance provided by the European Commission (EC).

The overall objectives of the RSPCA is to promote the stability and security of the countries of Central Asia, to assist in their pursuit of sustainable economic development and poverty reduction and to facilitate closer regional cooperation both within Central Asia and between Central Asia and the EU.

In all 750 M€ has been set aside under the Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI), which is the main instrument that will be used to achieve these objectives and priorities both at regional level, and for each country individually.  The regional strategy will also be supported by other instruments, such the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI), which is designed to support actions to promote better relations in the wider region.

Priorities

The RSPCA identifies seven topics the EU Member States and European Commission have committed to cooperating closely with the Central Asian States on, namely:

  • Human rights, rule of law, good governance and democratization
  • Investing in the future: youth and education
  • Economic development, trade and investment
  • Strengthening energy and transport links
  • Environmental sustainability and water
  • Combating common threats and challenges
  • Building bridges: intercultural dialogue

The strategy puts a clear focus on three main areas of intensified policy dialogue and enhanced co-operation: Rule of Law, Education and Environment. Accordingly, three related initiatives have been launched (See below). For more information please click here.

  • Rule of Law: This was considered to be a focus since it is an essential condition for the development of a stable political framework and efficient economic structures. Hence the EU – Central Asia Rule of Law Initiative was launched in November 2008 to support reforms and share experience between the EU and Central Asia in the area of legal and judicial reforms, including intensified policy dialogue at all levels. In 2010 it was decided to provide further support to this work by developing Rule of Law Platform. The Rule of Law Platform project was launched in 2011 and provides services required for an efficient implementation of the Rule of Law Initiative work plan. It also promotes regional cooperation between the countries of Central Asia, in order to advance constitutional, legal and judicial reform in the region (For more information please click here).
  • Education: The EU – Central Asia Education Initiative, has led to closer links in the area of supported by a significant increase in EU support for educational exchanges, education reform, and vocational training (For more information please click here).
  • Environment: The EU-Central Asia Environment and Water Initiative has established an EU-Central Asia Join Expert Working Group to facilitate regional cooperation in the fields of climate change, protection of the environment, rational use of water resources as well as land and forest management (For more information please click here).

This Regional Strategy and the Strategy for a New Partnership have been developed in consultation with the authorities of the partner countries of the region, and the Member States and other donors have been consulted during the drafting process.

The Strategy for a New Partnership was reviewed by the Council of the European Union in June 2012 (“Council conclusions on Central Asia”). Both strategy and priority areas for cooperation were found to still be relevant. In addition, it was recognised that the region is facing increasing new challenges, notably as regards developments in Afghanistan, and that security issues have come to fore in relations with the EU.

At bilateral level, the EU’s relations with Central Asian states are based on the Partnership and Cooperation Agreements (PCAs). These are built upon three pillars: political dialogue, trade and economic relations and cooperation in a variety of sectors.

Three pillars of co-operation

The allocation of financing under the RSPCA is broadly broken down as follows:

  1. Regional cooperation and good neighbourly relations: (30-35% of total budget)
  2. Reducing poverty and increasing living standards (40- 45 % of total budget)
  3. Promoting good governance and economic reform (20- 25% of total budget)

The first of these three pillars focuses on promoting improved relations and cooperation in the wider region, which is designed to prevent the emergence of new dividing lines in Europe and to offer neighbouring countries the prospect of closer political, security, economic and cultural cooperation.

The other two pillars forsee specific bilateral assistance programmes for the individual Central Asian countries in line with the policy agendas and objectives defined in the Partnership and Cooperation Agreements.

Meanwhile the European Commission organises a series of civil society seminars.