The European Union (EU) and Tajikistan are working together at a political and economic level, guided by the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement as well as the European Union and Central Asia Strategy. The EU Delegation to Tajikistan is engaging with civil society and working for improvement of human rights standards in Tajikistan.
Currently, political relations between the EU and Tajikistan are guided by the bilateral Partnership and Cooperation Agreement and the new EU Strategy on Central Asia “New Opportunities for a Stronger Partnership”, adopted in 2019. Tajikistan has formally requested to upgrade the current PCA in November 2019 through negotiation of an Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (EPCA - following KAZ, KYR, UZB example). EEAS and TRADE (co-chef defile) are working for launching the Inter Service Consultation (ISC), in view of obtaining a possible negotiating mandate in 2021.
The EU Special Representative for Central Asia, Ambassador Peter Burian, visited Tajikistan in 2021 and emphasised the importance of bilateral relations. He promised a continuation of EU support, but stressed the need for more social and economic reforms in Tajikistan.
The Partnership and Cooperation Agreement came into force on 1 January 2010 after ratification by all EU countries. It is contributing to the enhancement of bilateral relations and heightening the EU profile in Tajikistan, as it sets out the parameters for increased political dialogue and cooperation and also aims to promote bilateral trade and investments.
The new EU Strategy on Central Asia aims to forge a stronger, modern and non-exclusive partnership with the countries of Central Asia so that the region develops as a sustainable, more resilient, prosperous, and closely interconnected economic and political space.
The EU and Central Asian countries have confirmed their commitment to the new EU Strategy towards Central Asia, and strategy implementation is well underway. The Cooperation Council of the EU and Tajikistan holds annual high-level discussions between the EU and Tajikistan.
Closer to the Tajik people
In order to bring the EU closer to the Tajik people, the EU organises European Week each year. This is an opportunity to introduce European cultures to Tajikistan and to outline the work of the EU Delegation. Furthermore, many Tajik students have already been successful in applying for the Erasmus Plus programme, which allows them to study in the EU.
Trade and economic relations
Trade and economic relations between the EU and Tajikistan are governed by the Partnership and Co-operation Agreement (PCA) signed in October 2004 and which came into force on 1 January 2010. The agreement provides for a non-preferential agreement under which the parties grant each other 'most-favoured nation' (MFN) treatment with respect to tariffs whilst quantitative restrictions are prohibited in bilateral trade.
The agreement also envisages progressive regulatory approximation of the national legislation and practices to the most important EU trade-related standards, including technical regulations, sanitary and phytosanitary requirements, protection of intellectual property rights, and customs issues. This should lead to better practical access to the EU markets for goods originating in Tajikistan.
EU Systems of Preferences
Tajikistan is also a beneficiary of the EU's Generalised System of Preferences (GSP), a bilateral trade arrangement through which the EU provides preferential access to its market to developing countries and territories, in the form of reduced tariffs for their goods when entering the EU market. Preferential imports from Tajikistan are heavily concentrated in two sectors, industrial products such as base metals and textiles.
Tajikistan is the smallest trade partner of the EU in Central Asia. In 2019, the EU exported €169 m to Tajikistan and imported € 44 m (mainly aluminium and textiles), with no significant evolution compared to 2018 and 2017. Tajikistan joined the WTO in 2013 but has so far not substantially benefited from it in terms of trade flows. Tajikistan has recently become committed to join the Special Incentive Arrangement for Sustainable Development and Good Governance (GSP+). GSP+ can act as a positive political and economic signal to the international community and business that the government is binding itself to international law and continuous, transparent monitoring.
Loans and Investments
The EU has developed several loans and investment programmes from which Tajikistan has benefited in the past. Tajikistan received its first European Investment Bank (EIB) loan in 2011, and in the same year, the EU and Tajikistan signed the Financing Agreement for a Human Development Support Programme regarding health, social protection and public finance management.
Economic relations have often been on the agenda of the Cooperation Council of the EU and Tajikistan, which holds annual high-level discussions, at FMs level. These have underlined the importance of economic reforms in Tajikistan and the significant increase in bilateral trade that the EU and Tajikistan have witnessed. The Cooperation Council between the European Union (EU) and Tajikistan held its ninth meeting on 19 February 2021 via video conference between Brussel, Lisbon and Dushanbe.
Human rights dialogues
The EU-Tajikistan Human Rights Dialogues offer a platform for discussion of questions of mutual interest and serve to enhance cooperation on human rights in multilateral fora such as the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the United Nations. Officials from the EU meet their counterparts from Tajikistan's government on a yearly basis to address concerns in the field of human rights. The Human Rights Dialogue is a high-level meeting. The first Dialogue took place in Dushanbe on 31 October 2008.
On 11 November 2020, the European Union (EU) and Tajikistan held the 12th round of their annual Human Rights Dialogue via video conference.
The EU supports Tajikistan in ensuring full alignment with all OSCE norms and international standards in the field of human rights. There is a need to enhance the rule of law and improve the functioning of the legal system.
Another form of cooperation in Human Rights is underway in all Central Asian countries, namely the Rule of Law Initiative. In Tajikistan, this Initiative has seen a number of actions including seminars on judicial training and on penal law and study visits to European countries for civil servants and academics.
The European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) is an important tool for the EU to use to finance and support human rights-related projects in Tajikistan and around the world. In Tajikistan, the EU focuses on encouraging a pluralistic political system while strengthening the role of civil society. Tajikistan receives about €900.000 every two years under this programme.
Civil society dialogue
Civil society in Tajikistan is actively engaged in the preparation of the annual EU –Tajikistan Human Rights Dialogue, which is the main political arena for discussing human rights issues with the Tajik authorities.
The thematic programmes Non-State Actors and Local Authorities in Development Programme (NSA/LA), ongoing since 2007, and Civil Society Organisations and Local Authorities in Development (CSO/LA) programme, implemented by non-state actors and/or local authorities, facilitate a structured dialogue in the area of development between civil society networks and local authorities' associations from the EU and countries that are not members of the EU. Tajikistan receives about €750,000 per year under the CSO/LA programme.
Civil Society Seminars
As part of its engagement with civil society, the EU Delegation discusses important human rights topics with representatives of civil society in Tajikistan. Once a year, the EU organises a Civil Society seminar, discussing a different topic each time.
The Delegation of the European Union to Tajikistan organized the 9th EU-Tajikistan Civil Society Seminar in Dushanbe in March 2020. Discussions focused on “Economic and Social Empowerment of Women and Girls in Tajikistan”. The European Union stands ready to provide its full political and financial support to the Government of Tajikistan to work at decreasing gender inequality and promoting empowerment and engagement of Tajik women in all areas of social and economic life.
In July 2020, the EU Delegation to Tajikistan published a new call for proposals to support non-profit organisations, such as non-governmental organisations, public sector operators, local authorities or international organisations. Applicants applied for EU funding for projects in the two prioritised areas - supporting people living with disabilities, and expanding opportunities for youth self-development, employability and increased participation in decision-making processes. The European Union in this call for proposals allocated a total of €2,909,305. Applicants could request a grant between €200,000 and €400,000.
Development and technical cooperation
With regard to development cooperation, a new Country strategy and multi-annual implementation programme are in place for 2014-2020, with an allocated bilateral financial envelope of €231 million, equivalent to an average annual budget of €33 million per year and representing over 80% increase, compared to previous financial framework.
During the 2014-2020 period, a total EU grant of €251 million was planned for Tajikistan. Following the Mid-term Review, it was decided to deduct €20 million from the sectors of Rural Development (€10 million), Education (€5 million) and Health (€5 million), and transfer this to the Multi-Annual Regional Indicative Programme (RIP) for Central Asia, with these funds remaining earmarked for investments in Tajikistan
Poverty reduction, as well as a sustainable and inclusive growth, remains key challenges in the Central Asia region, and more specifically in Tajikistan, with increasing needs from a growing and young population seeking more and better education and economic opportunities.
EU co-operation aims to address these challenges by focusing on in its cooperation with Tajikistan on supporting reforms of Education, Health sectors and sustainable Rural Development.
The objectives of the specific sector support aim at:
- Improving quality and relevance of secondary education and Vocational Education and Training (VET), leading to a more effective school to work transition for school and VET graduates.
- Strengthening planning and budgeting processes and financial management capacities within ministries responsible for secondary education and VET.
- Strengthening governance and leadership in the health system.
- Improving coverage with appropriate, available, equitable, affordable and quality health services, especially for vulnerable populations and at primary health care level.
- Improving governance at sub-national and community-based levels and strengthened capacity for decentralized inclusive rural development.
- Improving farm smallholders' resilience to extreme natural hazards and livelihoods.
- Climate change mitigation through the establishment of integrated water and other natural resource management and governance system within selected river (sub) basin.
The new Multi-annual Indicative Programme (MIP) for 2021-2027 will be developed by the European Union in close consultation with Tajikistan to address needs and provide the necessary support to the country.
Central Asia new regional multi-annual indicative programme, with a total of €360 million, foresees the continuation of cooperation at regional level in the fields of Energy, Environment/Water and Socio-Economic development, Integrated Border Management, Fight against Drugs and Crime, Rule of Law platform Education (ERASMUS+), Transport and Energy (TRACECA, INOGATE).
Tajikistan also benefits from thematic support through EIDHR, NSA, Migration and asylum and funding channelled through global initiatives like Global partnership for education Global Fund to fight HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and GAVI alliance where the EU and its member states are the major donors.
Specific projects are implemented under the Instrument contributing to stability and peace and the Instrument for Nuclear Safety Cooperation.
Tajikistan is prone to various and frequent natural disasters such as floods, landslides, cold waves and earthquakes. In recent years, the rising temperatures due to climate change are exacerbating the impact of climate-related disasters. Floods occur regularly, which can be quite disastrous to some communities at the local level.
In response to a series of floods and mudflows that wreaked havoc across large parts of Tajikistan in early May 2021, the European Union provided EUR 100,000 in humanitarian aid funding to assist the most vulnerable communities.
EU Assistance for response to COVID-19
The EU stands by the Tajik People with a contribution of € 48 million in the Team Europe Package adopted on 11 April, which EU provided as part of a comprehensive €112.2 million development cooperation support package, to assist Tajikistan respond to the threat of coronavirus and address longer-term health and socio-economic needs to enhance livelihoods.
The package consists of three interlinked programs: the Health Development Program (€52.2 million), the Quality Education Support Program II (€50 million), and Support to Civil Registry System Reform (€10 million). The first two programs contain elements (worth €46.2 million in total) that will directly support the emergency response to the pandemic, as well as boost efforts to mitigate its negative socio-economic impacts.
EIB made a 20 million € loan available for crisis response (pending consultation and approval). The EIB emergency response is a combination of rapid utilisation of signed credit lines and preparation of new loans, to support Tajikistan’s health sector modernisation and SMEs.