Romania’s Foreign Minister Teodor Melescanu said on Monday, in the beginning of a high-level conference to mark the adoption of the new EU Strategy for Central Asia – Connectivity for sustainable development, that the countries in that region have undergone important changes and new opportunities are opening up for them.
“In the light of the new EU Central Asia strategy to be launched soon, this is an excellent opportunity to hold a discussion today. The priorities set out in the EU’s strategy regarding connectivity between EU and Asia of October 2018 give us a solid platform (…) Central Asia, as a region, and each country individually have undergone tremendous changes over the last decades and new opportunities are opening up for them. Opportunities come with challenges and threats either new or old ones. The world in which we live is changing and, at the same time, becoming more connected. We are facing global challenges and threats. Every region is also facing challenges and threats but we must note that for each country there are also plenty of opportunities,” Melescanu told a conference called “Connectivity for Sustainable Development,” organised by Romania’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in co-operation with the European External Action Service.
Melescanu said that Romania, as host of the event, wants to provide a platform for concrete projects enabling co-operation and intensification of connectivity.
“Traditionally, Romania shares constructive agendas with all the countries of Central Asia. We have intensified bilateral diplomatic and politic dialogue on regional affairs. We have been advocating for a closer relationship with the European Union as a trustworthy partner for reforms and modernisation, in view of significant positive developments in the region,” he said.
He highlighted a “substantial partnership” built by Romania with Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, mentioning political contacts, dialogue at the level of foreign ministries, joint economic committees, as well as co-operation projects in transport, energy and education. He noted at the same time that “joint efforts undertaken over the past two years opened new chapters in the relationship” with partners in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
“In regional dynamics, water is a matter of concern to Central Asia, which highlights the unique role of this essential resource for prosperity and stability. Even if there are challenges in this area, they should lead to future long-term bilateral and regional co-operation projects for sustainable development. From this point of view, we are particularly interested in sharing our experience and best practices with the management of water resources,” added Melescanu.
He also mentioned that in the beginning of March the foreign ministers of Azerbaijan, Georgia, Romania and Turkmenistan signed a joint political declaration in Bucharest to support the materialisation of the Black Sea – Caspian Sea freight route.
“It is more than obvious that not only geographically, the Black Sea, South Caucasus and Central Asia are at the core of the transport route from Europe to Asia and are an important part of the EU strategy to connect Europe and Asia. In this respect, Romania and Turkmenistan, along with Georgia and Azerbaijan, have declared their political will and a strong commitment to the freight route between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea across the four countries, signing a declaration at the level of the foreign ministers in Bucharest on March 4. We see this route as a measure that adds up to other initiatives in the region, also open to third country participation,” Melescanu explained.
The minister highlighted the part of connectivity in linking Afghanistan to the wider Central Asian neighbourhood, which would help strengthen peace and economic development in that country.
He also pointed to another aspect of connectivity, education and contacts between people who build “bridges” in areas that are affected sometimes by distance and geography.
Romanian-Turkmen initiative: Sustainable development, main goal of EU Strategy for Central Asia
The main goal of the new EU Strategy for Central Asia is sustainable development, said European Union’s Special Representative for Central Asia Peter Burian present in Bucharest at the High Level Conference on Connectivity in Central Asia, organised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in cooperation with European External Action Service (EEAS).
In context, Peter Burian welcomed the fact that the theme of Central Asia is a priority for the Romanian Presidency of the Council of the EU.
The EU is finalizing its new strategy for Central Asia, so the ideas and suggestions generated by today’s talks will make a very good contribution. The main purpose of our strategy for the EU-Central Asia relationship is to support sustainable development in the region. I am glad that Romania is committed to implementing the provisions of the 2030 Agenda. The EU has a strong interest in strengthening the mechanisms and commitments to Central Asia, so that this region become even more peaceful, resilient, prosperous and better interconnected economically and politically. We find that there are developments in this direction but we have to work hard to achieve this goal of interconnection for Central Asia, he told a press conference held at the Palace of Parliament alongside Romanian Foreign Affairs Minister Teodor Melescanu.
Peter Burian specified that Central Asia is “a young, growing market with great potential for trade and transport,” but also a region that significantly contributes to energy security.
The EU representative also talked about the importance of creating new jobs in Central Asia and about the support that the European Union can offer in this respect. Burian also spoke about a platform for collaboration with China and how this can help improve connectivity between the EU and Central Asia.
Teodor Melescanu said that by hosting the High Level Conference to mark the adoption of the new EU Central Asia Strategy, Romania wants to provide “a platform for in-depth discussions at a crucial moment” for the Central Asia region.
“Romania has traditionally developed partnership relations with the Central Asian states. Our country has been and is perceived as a bridge towards Europe, being a constant advocate for the development and consolidation of relations between the EU and the Central Asia region, on the principle of ‘the neighbours’ neighbours’. From the point of view of intra-regional developments, Romania has good expertise to promote topics of common interest to the states of the region, such as: water resources management, transport, connectivity in general and education. In the field of water resource management, Romania particularly stood out during its active contribution as the President of the working group for Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia (EECCA) of the European Union Water Initiative, and most recently through cooperation with UN Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia, in Nur-sultan,” the head of the Romanian diplomacy specified.
He added that Romania has a “very good” cooperation with Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan from the perspective of competitiveness and connectivity in the field of transport, “with interest in expanding contacts and concrete projects” with Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. He also referred to the Romanian-Turkmen initiative on the creation of a Caspian Sea – Black Sea transport corridor, that Azerbaijan and Georgia have also joined.