Seventh EU–Central Asia High-Level Conference on Environment and Water


Opening remarks by EU Special Representative for Central Asia

Ambassador Terhi Hakala


Dear Excellencies, distinguished colleagues,

It’s a pleasure to be with you all today for the opening of the EU-Central Asia Platform for Environment and Water Cooperation.

I would like to thank the Italian government for hosting us for the Platform meeting over the next two days and the whole conference team for the preparation and organisation of the event.

On behalf of the European Union, I am glad to welcome you to the 7th EU-Central Asia Platform for Environment and Water Cooperation.

Our Platform gives us an important opportunity to exchange on the work in the highly important areas of environment and climate change as well as water cooperation.

There is strong urgency to address the issues on our agenda – for the sake of future generations, but not only as we feel the changes and effects today already. We face more extreme weather conditions every year, feel the impact on environmental health, or on food security. The climate is changing faster than our capacity to adapt.

So, no one needs to be reminded that climate change is a defining global challenge of our generation.

This is a topic that inherently stretches across national borders, making cooperation, regionally and beyond, important and necessary. The climate challenge is global and requires that we act both globally and locally.

It is central for us to regularly exchange on our respective activities and experiences, as well as to plan and implement common approaches.

The EU on its part continues to take steps to transform its economy and society to meet its climate ambitions and overcome related challenges.

The EU’s ambitious plan under the European Green Deal envisions making Europe the world's first climate-neutral continent by 2050, improving the well-being of people, and protecting our natural habitat.

At the end of the road, we believe that the policies implemented under the Green Deal will provide us with fresh air, clean water, healthy soil and biodiversity, renovated energy efficient buildings, healthy and affordable food, more public transport, cleaner energy and clean technological innovation, longer lasting products that can be repaired, recycled and re-used, future-proof jobs and skills training for transition, globally competitive and resilient industry.

Since last year this is complemented by the REPowerEU Plan. REPowerEU is not just aimed at cutting our dependency on Russian fossil fuels, but we are accelerating the roll-out of renewables and energy savings.

The Commission is proposing to increase the EU’s 2030 target for renewables from the current 40% to 45%.

The REPowerEU Plan would bring the total renewable energy generation capacities to 1,236 GW by 2030, in comparison to the 1,067 GW previously foreseen.

Looking at Central Asia, the common framework of our work is the EU-Central Asia Strategy of 2019:  the strategy remains valid in today’s discussion, with its explicit focus “on cooperative solutions at the regional level in areas such as environment, water, climate change and sustainable energy”.

I am pleased to see cooperation on our topics also continuing in Central Asia, including as a topic at last year’s Consultative Meeting of Central Asian Leaders in Cholpon-Ata, where the Regional Program "Green Agenda" for Central Asia was approved.

The Treaty on friendship, good neighborliness and cooperation for the development of Central Asia in the 21st century equally mentions cooperation on environment and climate change as an important are of development.

In line with the European Green Deal and the EU Strategy on Central Asia, the EU works together with Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan to support them in their climate action and green transition.

It is important that we are addressing challenges together and that includes the strong contribution of EU Member States, who bring valuable experience and initiatives to the table and play an active role in our cooperation with Central Asia. This is not only visible through Italy’s hosting today, but will be in the presentations tomorrow morning.

This necessary regional approach is also strongly visible in our Team Europe Initiative on Water, Climate Change and Energy launched in November last year, which will be presented in more detail later today.

It is a central pillar of our support for our partners in meeting the complex challenges I have mentioned.

Team Europe represents the EU institutions working together hand in hand with Member States and financial institutions,

To enable stronger coordination, coherence and complementarities to deliver far greater impact for our collective effort.

This flagship Initiative aims to support regional cooperation and governance for sustainable development as well as to increase investment in a regionally integrated blue and green transition.

Our cooperation has significantly expanded, but we need to do more together to protect the environment and turn climate challenges into green growth opportunities.

Thank you for your attention and I wish us all fruitful exchanges and good discussions on the future priorities and practical steps to enhance dialogue and cooperation in these fields between Central Asia and the EU.