BRUSSELS The European Union member states have adopted a new strategy on Central Asia, saying the document aims at forging a "strong and durable partnership" between the bloc and countries of the region.
Meeting in Brussels on June 17, the EU foreign ministers adopted conclusionsthat, together with the strategy, will provide a "new policy framework for EU engagement with the countries of Central Asia over the coming years."
The ministers welcomed strengthened relations between the EU and Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan since the adoption of the first EU strategy on Central Asia in 2007.
In 2016, Kazakhstan became the first Central Asian republic to conclude an Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (EPCA) with Brussels. The accord aims at strengthening political dialogue and promoting mutual trade and investments.
The EU is currently negotiating similar accords with Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.
The EU Council of Foreign Affairs reaffirmed its commitment to conclude and implement "ambitious, broadbased and mutuallybeneficial" EPCAs with the countries in the region.
The conclusions further state that the "promotion and protection of the rule of law, of human rights and fundamental freedoms of an enabling environment for civil society, and of human rights defenders" must remain at "the core of Brussels' relations with Central Asian countries.
Copyright (c) 2015. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.