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Orientations: the EU – Central Asia Ministerial Meetings on Rule of Law

The EU Strategy for a New Partnership with Central Asia was adopted by the European Council on 21–22 June 2007 in recognition of the increasing importance of Central Asia for EU interests relating to security, stability, governance and energy diversification. The Strategy is a joint effort of the EU with its Central Asian partners.

In line with the interests of the EU as well as with those of the Central Asian States, the Strategy aims at a long-term partnership for stabilizing the region, promoting its democratisation and its economic prosperity. The Strategy provides an overall framework for EU relations with Central Asia and builds on previous achievements in building relations with the countries of Central Asia, EU assistance programmes and other initiatives taken by the EU. In the consultation process with the Central Asian States, a few areas were identified as EU priorities for its cooperation with the region as a whole, including cooperation in the fields of human rights, rule of law, good governance and democracy.

The European Commission alone, not counting the programmes of EU Member States, has doubled its assistance to the region to 750 M€ for the years 2007–2013 under the Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI). This assistance is complemented by resources under thematic programmes and represents one of the leading assistance programmes in the region. This contribution from the Community budget should be seen as one step and a catalyst for a long term engagement.

In order to develop dialog with the Central Asian States in the areas of rule of law and good governance and to respond to their suggestions in order to further intensify cooperation on these matters, the EU has developed a Rule of Law Initiative to better address the specific priorities identified by each country. The Initiative, led by two EU member states, Germany and France, aims for a concerted and balanced regional approach which takes into account particular national situations. Along with environment and education, it constitutes one of the three flagship initiatives of the Central Asia Strategy. The Initiative envisages two kinds of actions: an EU-Central Asia Rule of Law Platform and specific long-term projects.

A concept paper on the “EU Rule of Law Initiative for Central Asia” was presented during the EU – Central Asia ministerial troika in Ashgabat on 9 – 10 April 2008.

High-level political dialogue is maintained in the framework of the Strategy, including through bi-annual meetings at the level of Ministers of Justice. Ministerial-level meetings bring together the European Commission, the EU Presidency, EU Member States, and the partner countries in Central Asia to review policy developments related to legal and judicial reform. These Ministerial conferences deal with:

• meetings looking at priority areas for the region as a whole;

• a dialogue on domestic legal reform with the individual countries.

The general orientations for the Rule of Law Initiative expressed in the joint communiqués of the Ministers of Justice.

The Initiative was jointly launched by the European Union and the five states of the region at a Ministerial meeting in Brussels on 27-28 November 2008. The EU and the Central Asian States confirmed their common determination to closely cooperate on the enforcement of the Rule of Law. To download the joint communiqué of the First EU-CA Ministerial Conference on Rule of Law, click here.

The Second Ministerial Conference took place in Dushanbe, Tajikistan on 14-15 June 2010. On this occasion representatives from the five respective countries agreed on specific thematic areas for reform within the Initiative, and endorsed an EC proposal for an EU-Central Asia “Rule of Law Platform” project to step up the policy dialogue on Rule of Law issues. Click here to download the joint communiqué of the Second EU-CA Ministerial Conference on Rule of Law.

In December 2011, the Rule of Law Platform – Central Asia project was successfully launched with the objective to step up the policy dialogue with Central Asian States on priority themes identified at joint Ministerial meetings. Three levels of dialogue are foreseen, including: (1) Rule of Law Initiative meetings on ministerial level, (2) technical workshops at regional level for the identified priority areas, and (3) national level dialogue on legal and judicial reform.

The Third Ministerial Conference was held on 6-7 December 2012 in Brussels. It emphasised the importance of the inclusive training for all legal professionals and confirmed the importance of the continuous cooperation and further reforms of legislation in the field of administrative law, criminal justice, judicial capacity, constitutional justice, and other spheres related to the Rule of Law. To download the joint communiqué of the Third EU-CA Ministerial Conference on Rule of Law,  click here.

The Fourth Ministerial Conference took place in Astana (Kazakhstan) on 14-15 October 2014. Hosted by Kazakhstan and chaired by Italy, the Presidency of the EU Council, the conference enabled the Central Asian and European delegates (18 EU Member States were represented) to confirm their interest to deepen cooperation and cooperation in the framework of the Rule of Law Initiative. The reviewed the progress made and confirmed the main thematic priority areas (Constitutional Law, Administrative Justice, Criminal Law and Procedure and Judicial Capacity, as well as Commercial/Economic Law). To download the joint communiqué of the Fourth EU-CA Ministerial Conference on Rule of Law, click here.

The EU and CA countries have designated contact officers, for the Rule of Law Initiative (“Rule of Law Initiative National Coordinators”). To date Finland, France, Germany, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic and Latvia have designated Rule of Law Initiative National Coordinators.

The Fifth Ministerial Conference will be hosted by a European Union Member State in 2016.