Category Archives: EU-ASIA

EU-Kazakhstan: welcome to reforms

Brussels 21.11.2022 “The European Union takes note of the preliminary results of the 20 November presidential election in Kazakhstan” reads the statement by the spokesperson of the European External Action Service on the outcome of Presidential elections.

“We welcome their efficient preparation as well as wider political and socio-economic reforms initiated by President Tokayev after the tragic January events. The development of resilient democratic institutions and a strong civil society is key for Kazakhstan’s stability and development” the EU diplomacy continues.

“The EU takes note of OSCE/ODIHR’s preliminary conclusions stating that the election took place in a political environment lacking competitiveness. We call for Kazakhstan’s authorities to strengthen the reform process to increase political pluralism and citizens’ participation in political life. Looking ahead, it will be crucial for Kazakhstan to implement fully the OSCE/ODIHR recommendations.

“The EU will continue to work with Kazakhstan in line with our Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (EPCA), and to support the implementation of important reforms, to enable a fully transparent and competitive political environment as key steps towards a new democratic and fair Kazakhstan.

“Kazakhstan is an important and valuable partner of the European Union. We share an interest to develop our cooperation further as we prepare to mark 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations in February 2023. We remain committed to the universal principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity in line with the UN principles, as well as international security, fundamental freedoms and human rights”.

EU: Borrell travels to Central Asia

Brussels 17.11.2022 The EU top diplomat Josep Borrell will travel to Central Asia, starting his visit in Astana, Kazakhstan, on 16 to 17 November, and continuing to Samarkand, Uzbekistan, on 17 to 19 November. His mission aims to further strengthen and build on the positive dynamics in EU’s bilateral and regional relations, in particular through chairing the EU-Central Asia Ministerial and co-hosting the EU-Central Asia Connectivity Conference: Global Gateway.

In Kazakhstan, the High Representative will meet President Tokayev and Foreign Minister Tileuberdi, following which a joint press conference is planned at 11:40 local time (06:40 CET) on 17 November.

Josep Borrell will then travel to Samarkand, Uzbekistan, where he will chair the 18th EU-Central Asia Ministerial meeting, which is hosted by the Uzbek Foreign Minister Vladimir Norov.

The meeting will provide an opportunity to step up cooperation with the countries of the region in areas such as security, trade and investment, transport, green energy and sustainable growth, improved connectivity as well as closer cooperation in education, science and innovation. Ministers will also exchange on regional challenges, including the situation in Afghanistan and the negative consequences caused by Russia’s illegal military aggression against Ukraine. Following the meeting, a joint press point with Foreign Minister Norov is planned around 19:00 local time (15:00 CET) on 17 November.

On 18 November, High Representative Borrell, will co-host the EU-Central Asia Connectivity Conference: Global Gateway. The conference will explore three themes: digital connectivity, transport connectivity, and energy connectivity between Central Asia and the European Union. In this context, the EU, together with International Financial Institutions, will aim to stimulate investment in the region. Hight Representative will deliver the opening statement at 10:00 local time (06:00 CET).

In the margins of the Conference, Borrell will meet with the President of Uzbekistan and Foreign Ministers of Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan to discuss bilateral relations and regional cooperation.

EU: Charles Michel convenes Council

Brussels 20.10.2022 Invitation letter by President Charles Michel (pictured) to the members of the European Council ahead of their meeting on 20 and 21 October 2022

“Dear colleagues,

“I would like to invite you to our European Council meeting on Brussels on 20 and 21 October 2022.

“Our discussions in Prague allowed us to have a frank exchange. We will build concretely on this at our European Council meeting.

“The focal point of our agenda is the energy crisis, on which we must act with the utmost urgency. In particular, we must imperatively intensify our three lines of action: reducing demand, ensuring security of supply and containing prices.

“Our meeting will be the opportunity to examine further measures that can reduce prices. This includes: fully capitalising on the negotiating clout of our unity at 27 by jointly purchasing gas, developing a new benchmark that more accurately reflects conditions on the gas market, and examining a temporary dynamic price limit. I also expect us to address other short and long-term market interventions, such as an EU framework to cap the price of gas for electricity generation. I am confident that, despite differing national constraints, we will approach our energy debate constructively, mindful of our urgent collective interest.

“Our economic outlook will depend to a large extent on how we manage our energy crisis. As a corollary to our energy discussion I would like us to also focus on coordinating our economic policy responses effectively including with the support of common European solutions.

“We will also return to Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine. The Kremlin has chosen to take several escalatory steps, including launching a mobilisation campaign, orchestrating sham “referenda” to illegally annex Ukraine’s territories and pursuing a threatening rhetoric. Most recently, Russian forces have indiscriminately bombed civilian areas. Perpetrators of those war crimes should be held accountable. At our meeting, I would like us to discuss our assistance to Ukraine, and address in particular Ukraine’s immediate needs with a view to preparing it for this winter, as well as the sustainability of our mid- and long-term assistance.

“Furthermore, in the light of the recent sabotage attacks against the Nordstream pipelines, we will also look into ways of intensifying our cooperation to protect critical infrastructure.

“Lastly, in the light of the current geo-political context, we need to hold a strategic discussion on China, exchanging views on how we wish to frame this critical relationship in the future. I would like us to also discuss preparations for the EU-ASEAN summit, taking place on 14 December in Brussels.

“The European Council meeting will start at 3pm on Thursday 20 October. After our traditional exchange with the President of the European Parliament, we will tackle the energy crisis and its economic implications. We will then address the remaining topics, not least the situation in Ukraine and other foreign policy issues.

“I look forward to welcoming you in Brussels.”

MEPs unequivocally support Ukraine

Strasbourg 06.05.2022 Debating last week’s EU Summit with Presidents Michel and von der Leyen and EU Foreign Policy Chief Borrell, MEPs united in showing solidarity and giving more help to Ukraine.

On Wednesday morning, MEPs discussed the conclusions of the European Council meeting of 24-25 March 2022, including the latest developments in the war against Ukraine. They called for further sanctions against Russia, additional support for Ukraine and for reducing the EU’s energy dependency.

European Council President Charles Michel sent a direct message to the Russian soldiers involved in war crimes, saying, “If you don’t want to be a criminal, stop fighting. Leave the battlefield”. He also mentioned the need for more sanctions: “Measures on oil and even gas will also be needed sooner or later.” On China, President Michel said, “we need to raise the awareness amongst the Chinese authorities not to support the war and not to help Russia avoid sanctions.”

Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said “humanity itself was killed in Bucha”, that the perpetrators must pay, and that they will be held accountable. With regard to the new package of sanctions against Russia, she said that the pressure on Putin must be further increased, to limit the Kremlin’s political and economic options. “Those sanctions will not be our last sanctions”, President von der Leyen said, stressing that “we must look into oil” and that Russia’s fossil fuel revenue stream must end.

However there were also recalcitrant remarks made by vice-President of the European Parliament Giuseppina “Pina” Picierno (Italy, S&D) rejecting the other Italian MEP the freedom of thought:
“Today the Vice-President of the #European Parliament denied my right of expression in the Chamber, attacking me for asking for an independent investigation in Ukraine in light of the UN’s denunciation of violence against civilians by the Ukrainian army. Listen to yourself” wrote an independent MEP Fransesca Dontato.

“We have to have fewer rounds of applause but more arms for Ukraine” so they can defend themselves against Russia, EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell said, urging Europe to step up. Connecting energy policy with defence, he said Europe has so far spent roughly one billion euros on supporting Ukraine, the same amount the EU pays to Russia every day for its energy. “We have to reduce our energy dependence: for once, climate change and geopolitics go hand in hand,” he said.

MEPs expressed shock at the images of the massacre in the Ukrainian town of Bucha, with several calling Vladimir Putin a war criminal and demanding he be tried at an international criminal court. In parallel, many MEPs argued for more support for Ukraine, including both money and weapons.

MEPs welcomed the fifth EU sanctions package presented on 5 April, but all speakers demanded the EU go further, with several proposing an immediate oil embargo. MEPs called for a complete ban on the use by Russian banks of the SWIFT system and bringing a wider group of oligarchs under the EU’s sanctions regime.

Several speakers warned that the surge in energy prices is affecting each member state differently and some of them dramatically so. They called for assistance for member states to ease their burden.

China: EU committed to support Lithuania

Brussels 08.12.2021 “The EU has been informed that Lithuanian shipments are not being cleared through the Chinese customs and that import applications from Lithuania are being rejected. We are in close contact with the Lithuanian government and are gathering information via the EU Delegation in Beijing in a timely manner” reads the Joint Statement by High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell and Executive Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis on China’s measures against Lithuania. (Image: illustration, China)

“We are also reaching out to the Chinese authorities to rapidly clarify the situation”.

“Unity and solidarity within the EU remain key to upholding our interests and our values in our relations with all countries. The EU is ready to stand up against all types of political pressure and coercive measures applied against any Member State. The development of China’s bilateral relations with individual EU Member States has an impact on overall EU-China relations.

“If the information received were to be confirmed, the EU would also assess the compatibility of China’s action with its obligations under the World Trade Organisation.

“The EU remains committed to its One China Policy and recognises the government of the People’s Republic of China as the sole government of China. Within the framework of this long-established policy, the EU will pursue cooperation and exchanges with Taiwan in areas of common interest”.

EU-China Summit: «agree to disagree»

«I’m pleased that we could speak by video conference with President Xi, together with Ursula (von der Leyen) and Angela (Merkel). Unfortunately, our physical meeting in Leipzig wasn’t possible» said Charles Michel, the Euroepan Council president after the meeting.

«Europe needs to be a player, not a playing field. Today’s meeting represents another step forward in forging a more balanced relationship with China.

«We strive for a relationship that delivers on our mutual commitments. That generates concrete results for both sides. Results that are also good for the world. In some areas, we are on the right track. In others, more work needs to be done.

«We made it clear where we stand. Where we agree, and where we disagree. Real differences exist and we won’t paper over them. But we are ready to engage. Ready to cooperate where we can, and ready to roll up our sleeves to find concrete solutions. And on those difficult issues, we conveyed a clear and united European message: we want a relationship with China that is based on reciprocity, responsibility, and basic fairness.

Today we addressed 4 key topics:
1. Climate change
2. Economic and trade issues
3. International Affairs and Human Rights
4. COVID-19 and economic recovery

«China is a key global partner in reducing global greenhouse gas and tackling climate change. And we encourage China to be even more ambitious. The EU is setting the bar high — carbon neutrality by 2050. And we count on China to show similar leadership by implementing the Paris Agreement. We have a robust trading relationship with China. The EU is China’s first trading partner. On average we trade over 1 billion euros a day.

Trade can energise our economic recovery. But we want more fairness. We want a more balanced relationship. That also means reciprocity and a level playing field. That’s why we welcome today’s signature of the Agreement on Geographical Indications. It’s a big step in the right direction. We are working on a comprehensive investment agreement and concrete results in other important areas.

And in the digital domain, we defend our vision of a free, open and secure cyberspace. For the good of our people and our societies. As global players, the EU and China have global responsibilities. This means upholding the rules-based international order.

The national security law for Hong Kong continues to raise grave concerns. The EU and our Member States have responded with one clear voice. Democratic voices in Hong Kong should be heard, rights protected, and autonomy preserved. We called on China to keep their promises to the people of Hong Kong and the international community.

We reiterated our concerns over China’s treatment of minorities in Xinjiang and Tibet, and the treatment of human rights defenders and journalists. We asked for access for independent observers to Xinjiang and we called for the release of the arbitrarily detained Swedish citizen Gui Minhai and two Canadian citizens.

We agreed to discuss these issues in detail at the Human Rights Dialogue in Beijing later this year which will also include, we hope, a field visit to Tibet.

We called on China to refrain from unilateral actions in the South China Sea, to respect international law, and avoid escalations.

Covid-19 remains a deep and urgent threat. Only collective and transparent action will send this virus to the history books. There is only one way to find a vaccine and deploy it in all countries … that’s global cooperation.

We expect all countries, to cooperate with the impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation of the international health response to COVID-19, and support the WHO to identify the source of the virus.

We encourage China to pursue an economic recovery that leads to structural reforms and that shapes a greener, more sustainable economy. This includes implementing the G20 Action Plan to drive sustainable global growth and reduce global tensions. And in Africa, China should be engaged in multilateral efforts on debt relief that will spur economic recovery.

En conclusion, nos discussions aujourd’hui ont été extrêmement importantes. Nous mesurons bien que parler, dialoguer est important mais cela ne suffit pas, il s’agit de transformer nos messages en actes.

Nous sommes déterminés à continuer à être engagés avec la Chine pour promouvoir nos valeurs, pour défendre nos intérêts. Nous voulons une relation équilibrée, fondée sur le respect pour les intérêts mutuels.

Nous considérons que la réciprocité, la transparence doivent être au cœur de l’engagement porté par l’Union européenne. »

Cambodia loses duty-free access to EU

As of today, 12 August, some of Cambodia’s typical export products such as garments, footwear and travel goods are subject to the European Union’s customs duties. The EU’s decision to partially withdraw Cambodia’s duty-free quota-free access to the EU market is now effective. The preferential treatment enjoyed by Cambodia under “Everything But Arms” (EBA) – the EU’s trade arrangement for Least Developed Countries – is now temporarily lifted due to serious and systematic concerns related to human rights ascertained in the country. The EU enforces this measure while staying open to engage with Cambodia on the necessary reforms.

 

“We have provided Cambodia with trade opportunities that let the country develop an export-oriented industry and gave jobs to thousands of Cambodians. We stand by their side also now in the difficult circumstances caused by the pandemic. Nonetheless, our continued support does not diminish the urgent need for Cambodia to respect human rights and labour rights. I stand ready to continue our engagement and to restore fully free access to the EU market for products from Cambodia provided we see substantial improvement in that respect” Commissioner for Trade Phil Hogan said.

The withdrawal of preferential access to the EU market concerns approximately 20% of Cambodia’s exports to the EU. Cambodia may still export those products to the EU but they will be subject to general tariffs applicable to any other member of the World Trade Organization. The remaining 80% of Cambodia’s exports continue to enjoy preferential (duty-free, quota-free) access to the EU market.

The Commission, together with the European External Action Service (EEAS), will continue its enhanced engagement with Cambodia. The EU will keep on monitoring the situation in the country, with a particular focus on current restrictions in the areas of freedom of expression and civil and political rights, as well as land disputes and labour rights in the context of the ongoing reforms.

The EU is aware of the significant impact of the coronavirus pandemic on Cambodia’s economy and employment and stands ready to support the country in its fight against the coronavirus crisis and towards economic recovery. This, however, does not waive the urgent need to ensure respect for human rights and labour rights in Cambodia.

Since February 2020, when the EU’s decision on partial withdrawal was taken, the Cambodian Government could at any time have taken the necessary steps to fulfil the conditions allowing the European Union to fully restore EBA preferential access to the EU market. This remains the case.

The Cambodian authorities should take action to restore political freedoms in the country, to re-establish the necessary conditions for a credible, democratic opposition and to initiate a process of national reconciliation through genuine and inclusive dialogue. The Commission and the EEAS have outlined the necessary actions to the Cambodian authorities on numerous occasions, as well as in the Commission’s Delegated Regulation. Actions include the reinstatement of the political rights of opposition members and the repeal or revision of laws, such as the Law on Political Parties and the Law on Non-Governmental Organisations. If the government of Cambodia shows significant progress, particularly on civil and political rights, the Commission may review its decision and reinstate tariff preferences under the “Everything But Arms” arrangement, in line with the provisions of the EU Generalised Scheme of Preferences.

COVID19: EU allocates Kyrgyzstan €36M aid

Аs part of the EU’s global response to the coronavirus outbreak in Kyrgyz Republic, a support package of €36 million will assist the gouverment of the Central Asian country in addressing immediate needs in the health sector and in its short- and longer-term socio-economic recovery. The EU top diplomat Josep Borrell discussed the importance of intensified regional cooperation in the fight against the coronavirus, and welcomed the commitment of Central Asian leaders in this respect.

On 7 May, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell, held a phone call with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kyrgyz Republic, Chingiz Aidarbekov. They discussed the global response to the coronavirus pandemic and the EU’s support to Kyrgyzstan in that context, as well as the EU-Kyrgyzstan bilateral agenda and broader regional issues.

The high diplomat conveyed the EU’s strong solidarity with Kyrgyzstan in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. The High Representative stressed that the EU continued to be a reliable and committed partner for countries around the world, including Kyrgyzstan and the other countries in the region.

High Representative Borrell and Foreign Minister Aidarbekov welcomed progress in EU-Kyrgyzstan relations, which is centred around a broad reform agenda, sustainable development, and shared principles and values, including human rights, as illustrated by the initialling last year of an Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement.

Josep Borrell welcomed the willingness of Kyrgyzstan to sign the agreement by the end of the year and stressed the importance of developing bilateral relations across all areas, as well as regional cooperation under the EU’s Central Asia Strategy.

EU supports Afghanistan peace process

We then discussed our support to the Afghanistan peace process. You might have seen the conclusions that have been adopted that highlight the concrete actions that the European Union is willing and ready to take in support of an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process, hopefully to be started already next week –  as it was announced that intra-Afghan negotiations might start already next week” the EU top diplomat Federica Mogherini said, while concluding the work of the meeting of Foreign ministers Council in Luxembourg.

“We have been supporting enormously the work of the Afghan legitimate authorities in their preparation for that. I am glad to see that yesterday, President of Afghanistan, Ashraf] Ghani announced the formation of the negotiating team and a senior council to lead them. I really hope that, also following our talks in Kabul a couple of weeks ago, this can open the way for negotiations that can lead to peace in Afghanistan without pre-judging neither the electoral process nor the achievements that the Afghan population has managed to reach, in particular on the rights of women, minorities and human rights in general terms.”

The Council recommends that direct negotiations between Afghans, with the Government of Afghanistan and the Taliban at their core begin as soon as possible.

It confirms the EU’s readiness to support the peace process and its implementation, wit the aim of preserving and building on the political, economic and social achievements of the people of Afghanistan since 2001, which should be irreversible. The EU stands ready to support the following aspects of the process:

  • to help make the peace process inclusive;
  • to assist with reforms, including security sector reform;
  • to act as a guarantor of a peace process, if requested by the parties;
  • to assist with reintegration of fighters and their families and
  • to promote regional trade and connectivity.

New Eurasian security architecture

‘Olympic Circles’ of Eurasian Stability OPINION  Dr Pierre-Emmanuel Thomann 

There are missing links in the security architecture of the European, Eurasian and Central Asian spaces that needs to be fixed in order to avoid a further fragmentation of the European continent between Euro-Atlantic and Euro-Asian alliances (See map Alliances and major zones of instability in a multicentric world). How this new geopolitical architecture could look like in the long term ?

Synergy is needed between the various actors to achieve geopolitical stability on the Eurasian continent. On a longer term basis, a new Eurasian geopolitical architecture based on a new doctrine of overlapping circles of international organizations would be a major factor for developing and improving Eurasian security (diagram: Overlapping Circles of World stability and Peace). The diagram illustrates the need for a new “European security treaty” with a Eurasian reach, and a new “Central Asian security treaty”.

Map 1 a

We also have to assume that an enlargement of Euro-Atlantic institutions (NATO-EU-OSCE) to the whole of the Eurasian continent is impossible. Firstly, the individual EU and NATO member states disagree on further enlargement. Secondly, it would be impossible for these Euro-Atlantic institutions to manage the geopolitical diversity of the Eurasian continent. This new security architecture is based on the “geographical tightening” principle. Geographical proximity would be a central criterion to build regional alliances in order to foster stability and prevent any further Eurasian fragmentation.

Maps 2 a

This architecture is aimed at promoting synergies between interleaved organisations like NATO, EU, OSCE, SCO, CIS, OTSC, EEU, OIC and stabilize the overlapping security spaces. The role of UN would be crucial as a forum to manage this diversity and identify convergence, divergence, competition and/or complementarity. It should lead to greater levels of stability. In-between spaces between these structures would be subject to common stabilization policies or “non-aggression agreements”.

Map 3 a

This netting of institutions resembles the “Olympic circles” (Olympic circles of Eurasian stability). The described configuration would be adapted to the emerging multi centric world to maintain a balance between the different states, alliances and political and security institutions.

Map 4

 

 

 

 

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