The Cooperation Council between the European Union (EU) and the Republic of Uzbekistan held its twelfth meeting on Monday, 18 May 2015. The Cooperation Council reaffirmed the commitment of both parties to see their bilateral relations strengthened across a number of areas and took stock of the progress made since the eleventh Cooperation Council between the EU and the Republic of Uzbekistan in March 2014, including in the implementation of the EU Strategy for Central Asia.
The Cooperation Council underscored the intensification of the political dialogue between the EU and the Republic of Uzbekistan over the past years.
The Cooperation Council reiterated its attachment to a comprehensive implementation of the EU Strategy for Central Asia both, on a regional and national basis, welcomed Uzbekistan's involvement in the EU regional initiatives for Central Asia and discussed possible orientations in relation with the current review of the EU-Central Asia strategy. The EU expressed its expectation to see Uzbekistan actively participate in the EU - Central Asia High Level Security Dialogue as well as in the EU regional cooperation projects on drugs (CADAP and border management (BOMCA).
The Cooperation Council discussed important issues of interest to both parties, notably political reforms, rule of law and human rights, trade and economic relations, energy cooperation, education, regional cooperation in Central Asia and international issues.
The EU welcomed Uzbekistan's readiness to discuss about human rights with the EU in an increasingly open fashion within the Human Rights Dialogue. Both sides reviewed the situation concerning human rights and fundamental freedoms in Uzbekistan, especially in key areas of concern to the EU. The EU welcomed the adoption of a National Action Plan aimed at ensuring the implementation of the recommendations accepted by Uzbekistan under the 2013 Universal Periodic Review exercise and strongly encouraged Uzbekistan to step up its cooperation with the United Nations to ensure that this Plan is properly implemented and duly monitored, in cooperation with international partners. The EU expressed its readiness to support Uzbekistan in this international cooperation exercise.
The EU welcomed the increasing momentum in the cooperation between Uzbekistan and the ILO, in particular on child labour, and took note of the positive findings of the ILO regarding the 2014 cotton harvest, which corroborated the conclusions of the ILO High Level Monitoring Mission on child labour during the cotton 2013 harvest and the subsequent report of the ILO Committee of Experts of 2014. The EU welcomed the adoption in 2014 of a Decent Work Country programme between Uzbekistan and the ILO covering, in addition to child labour, wider labour issues. The EU called upon Uzbekistan to engage further with the ILO on the implementation of the ILO conventions and to address all outstanding labour issues pertaining to these conventions, in particular aspects related to forced labour. The EU welcomed the on-going constructive discussions between Uzbekistan and the ILO to this effect.
The Cooperation Council emphasised the great potential of the economic and trade component of EU-Uzbekistan relations and discussed how to improve the business and investment climate. The EU reiterated its support for Uzbekistan's plan to accede to the WTO and its readiness to provide assistance to this aim. The Cooperation Council welcomed the progress already made towards the creation of a Business and Investments Council aimed at promoting bilateral trade and investments between the EU and Uzbekistan, and the readiness of both parties to establish this new body in the best possible delays.
The Cooperation Council noted the converging views of the EU and Uzbekistan as regards the main priorities of the on-going EU bilateral development cooperation with Uzbekistan, which is focused on the sector of rural development.
The Cooperation Council emphasised the mutual interest of the EU and Uzbekistan in a strengthened cooperation in the field of energy and underlined the importance of an effective implementation of the bilateral Memorandum of Understanding on energy.
In the area of education, the EU underlined the importance of EU programmes in higher education and technical and vocational education that could foster socio-economic development and encouraged Uzbekistan to actively benefit from these programmes. In this regard, Uzbekistan was invited to attend the first EU-Central Asia Education Ministerial conference in Riga on 25 and 26 June 2015.
The Cooperation Council discussed regional cooperation in Central Asia and international issues, including Afghanistan. The Cooperation Council underlined the importance of regional cooperation in Central Asia as an effective means of conflict prevention and socio-economic development in the region. In this context, the Cooperation Council also underlined the importance for the Central Asian partners to seek a sustainable settlement regarding water management, security and energy issues in the region, which would take into account the interests of all countries and preserve the unity in the region, in line with the relevant international water conventions and the guiding principles of the EU Water Diplomacy adopted in July 2013.
The Cooperation Council noted the importance of cooperation between the EU and Uzbekistan to promote regional stability and face external challenges.
The Cooperation Council was chaired by H.E. Abdulaziz KAMILOV, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Uzbekistan. The EU delegation was led by H.E.Edgars Rinkevics, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Latvia on behalf of the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy in her capacity as President of the EU's Foreign Affairs Council.