EU-Central Asia Special Envoys and Representatives meeting on Afghanistan
I am pleased to welcome you to Brussels and wish you all Happy New Year! As we all see that the war in our closest neighbourhood is ongoing, I really wish that this year brings more peace to this world as well as health and happiness to you and your families.
It has been a while since the last EU-Central Asia Special Envoys and Representatives meeting on Afghanistan took place in Almaty (May 2022), but we are very grateful to you for your interest and readiness to continue our exchange as we witness that challenges in Afghanistan still pertain and some of them get even more serious (humanitarian crisis; women and girls rights).
Moreover, we are also witnessing that wider geopolitical situation has become even more challenging over the last year. It is getting complicated day by day and is seriously affecting all of us.
Central Asia region is sandwiched between great powers. Therefore, regional dialogue is of utmost importance for all Central Asian countries to ensure resilience and pursue socio-economic goals. We, in the European Union, are very glad to see that despite challenges regional dialogue in Central Asia has been very much facilitated by the leaders of your countries. We stand ready to continue our ongoing support for this dialogue.
Last year, our dialogue with Central Asia region was strengthening and deepening and has been raised to the highest level at the EU-Central Asia Leaders’ meeting in Astana. We also had several other high-level EU visits and events in the region last autumn, which gave an opportunity to boost our cooperation in mutually important sectors.
While enhancing inter-regional and intra- regional dialogue, we aim at closer connectivity with Central Asia in such areas as digitalisation, transport and transit, green economy, water and energy, which were very much supported by all your countries at the EU-Central Asia Connectivity Conference in November, in Samarkand.
At the same time, we continue to keep a close focus on Afghanistan issues. Therefore, Afghanistan and challenges stemming from Afghanistan will be one of the most important cooperation areas also in 2023.
We need to look for possibilities to influence the situation in Afghanistan in a positive direction. In this context, it is of particular importance to ensure that women and girls of Afghanistan have the right for education. It is a vital pre-condition for development and prosperity of any country in the world.
Thus, it is important to mention that at the meeting of the Heads of State of Central Asia and the President of the European Council Charles Michel we jointly expressed common concern over the situation in Afghanistan and recognized the need to expand interaction in providing humanitarian aid to Afghan people and stressed the importance of the promotion of human rights of all Afghans, in particular women, girls, and all minorities.
This issue was also discussed at the EU – Central Asia Ministerial meeting held in November 2022, in Samarkand.
Of course, there are many other challenges that Afghanistan faces and affect all of us.
Last year I myself travelled several times to the region, and, for example, had a chance to see Tajik – Afghan border, meet local people, speak to border guards and discuss current challenges.
Moreover, in the end of last year, I had a chance to participate at the video-conference organised by UN Women with participation of Afghan women residing in Central Asia. It is of a high importance for them to have a safe place to stay. Any your support, which we highly appreciate (also in relation to practical issues these women face) is of an utmost importance.
With this, I wish us all a very fruitful and successful discussion today and transparent talk as always.