Colleagues, Ambassador Morel, Ambassador Rejepov, Ambassador Curto, Director-General Landaburo,
Let me warmly welcome you to Berlin and thank you for accepting my invitation.
The last time we met, on 28 March Astana, we set ourselves a great deal of tasks. We wanted to open a new chapter in European-Central Asian relations, to supply the impetus for a comprehensive and mutual deepening of our relations. I am pleased to be able to take initial stock of these efforts with you here today. As a visible sign of our joint efforts you have before you the EU's strategy on Central Asia adopted by the European Council.
I see this strategy as a concrete programme for the coming years. Implementing it is our common task, and it is clear that the subsequent Presidencies will have a special role to play in this task. I am therefore pleased that our colleague Luìs Amado will shortly join us.
The “Strategy for an intensified cooperation between the European Union and the five Central Asian States Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan” is a success, both for the European Union and for Central Asia. For the first time we have a political framework which defines joint aims and lists specific areas for intensified cooperation. We want a partnership with the Central Asian countries which helps bring greater security and prosperity to this important region. And we see the Central Asia strategy as a further building block in our efforts to strengthen the EU's relations with our eastern neighbours – apart from the Neighbourhood Policy and the further development of the strategic partnership with Russia.
Let me thank you, Ambassador Morel, as EU Special Representative for Central Asia, for your great commitment to this issue, as well as the Commission and all EU partners, without whose active collaboration this step would not have been possible.
I would also like to thank my Central Asian colleagues. Many of your suggestions over the past few months have been included in the document before you.
We are all aware of the centuries-old links between Europe and Central Asia. But the strategy involves more than history or a romantic reminder of the Silk Road's mythical traditions. On the contrary it involves very specific tasks which face us all in the age of globalization and which we can only address together - terrorism, organized crime, the drug trade, but also environmental threats – and to be able to do so we want to pool our resources in a supraregional way. The road to stabilization and reconstruction in Afghanistan also leads via Central Asia. We in the EU want to cooperate with you, the Central Asian States, in all these areas. We would like to support you in the political and economic modernization of your countries. The basis for this support is the values and principles both sides have pledged to uphold in the UN and the OSCE.
Part of our efforts is the strengthening of political dialogue between our two regions. On 28 March 2007 in Astana the first meeting took place between the EU Troika and the Central Asian foreign ministers. We want this dialogue to be an annual event, and the EU is prepared to significantly upgrade its presence in Central Asia. As you know this is one of the reasons why the European Commission wants to open new delegations in the region.
The EU also wants to double its funds for cooperation with the Central Asian States.
It is important to better integrate these countries into the global economy and to increase regional trade links. The prerequisites for this are, like everywhere else, reliable conditions also for private investors. We Europeans have come a long way in unifying and liberalizing our markets. Our experiences could be of use to you in Central Asia, as the task is to bring your economies gradually into line with EU and international standards. In this regard we also support the efforts of those Central Asian States that are not yet members of the WTO to join that organization.
Cooperation in the field of energy is also a promising area for the future. The possibilities here are huge and by no means exhausted. At least 4% of world energy reserves are to be found in Central Asia. We want to first strengthen our energy dialogue in order to make progress on practical cooperation. This also involves additional energy transport corridors from the Caspian Basin via the Black Sea region to Europe.
The history of the EU is one of peace and prosperity through regional cooperation, of the equality of large and small states. The Central Asian countries are also different. Each has its own distinctive national features, its historical and cultural heritage. This is why our approach is both bilateral and at the same time regional. We want to support you in creating a modern border management which secures borders while not preventing the movement of persons and goods.
Cross-border regionale cooperation is also necessary for the efficient use of water resources. Only in this way can we prevent future disasters such as the desiccation of Lake Aral.
I see other, also bilateral, areas of cooperation in the field of education or the protection of human rights. The start of the human rights dialogue with Uzbekistan shows how useful joint efforts can be here. We are also planning an EU “rule of law initiative” to promote the development of modern rule-of-law structures.
We also want to develop tailor-made programmes as part of the EU's “education initiative”. The star catalogue of Ulugh Beg, the great “astronomer prince” on the throne of Samarkand, the Canon of Medicine written by the famous physician Abu Ali Husain ibn Sina from Bukhara – better known in Europa as Avicenna – , we all know about Central Asia's great scientific traditions. Ulugh Beg once said: “Religions disperse like mist, empires destroy themselves, but the works of the Prophet remain for all time. The search for knowledge is the duty of every man!” We also want to build on these words in our quest to improve access to education and training, to modernize the education systems and to increase academic and scientific exchange between Central Asia and the EU.
As I said at the beginning, the strategy before you is in my view less the result than the specification of the tasks that lie ahead. Europe and Central Asia should go into the 21st century as partners. We have created a good working basis for this. Everything now depends on how actively we implement our joint agenda.
I now hand over the floor to Ambassador Morel, who will inform us about the next steps in implementing the strategy.