The Commission outlines a stronger partnership with countries of Central Asia and registers a European Citizens' Initiative
A renewed partnership with Central Asia
The European Union outlined today its vision for a renewed partnership with Central Asia, updating its strategy on relations with the region first set out in 2007.
The new Joint Communication adopted by the European Commission and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini sets out a fresh vision for a stronger partnership with the five countries of Central Asia: Kazakhstan; the Kyrgyz Republic; Tajikistan; Turkmenistan; and Uzbekistan. It comes at a key moment of fast-developing Euro-Asian connectivity, reform and opening up in some of the countries of the region, and new momentum for regional cooperation.
The Joint Communication proposes to focus future EU engagement on two aspects:
- Partnering for resilience by strengthening Central Asian states' capacity to overcome internal and external shocks and enhancing their ability to embrace reform;
- Partnering for prosperity by supporting economic modernisation, promoting sustainable connectivity, and investing in youth.
In addition, the EU is determined to invest in regional cooperation in Central Asia, helping the countries of the region to promote dialogue and cooperation at their own pace.
Adding to the Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement that the European Union has signed with Kazakhstan, the EU intends to conclude negotiations on similar agreements with Uzbekistan and the Kyrgyz Republic, as well as to make the best possible use of its wider development assistance toolbox in the region.
In line with its Strategy on Connecting Europe and Asia and using existing frameworks of cooperation, the EU will, where appropriate, establish partnerships on sustainable connectivity with countries of Central Asia, following market principles, guaranteeing transparency and based on international standards. Envisaged areas of cooperation include transport, energy and digital connections, as well as people-to-people contacts.
Given the critical interest that Central Asian countries have in the future of the country, the EU also intends to step up cooperation with Central Asian partners to promote peace in Afghanistan. Integrating Afghanistan as appropriate in relevant EU-Central Asia dialogue meetings and regional programmes, and supporting more regional and trilateral cooperation projects with Afghan and Central Asian partners, will therefore remain a priority.
European Citizens' Initiative "Save the bees!"
The European Commission decided to register a European Citizens' Initiative entitled 'Save the bees! Protection of biodiversity and improvement of habitats for insects in Europe'.
The organisers call on the Commission to 'adopt legislation to maintain and improve habitats for insects as indicators of an undamaged environment'. The Citizens' Initiative focuses on the creation of mandatory targets 'to make the promotion of biodiversity an overall objective of the common agricultural policy; to dramatically cut the use of pesticides, ban harmful pesticides without exception and reform eligibility criteria; to promote structural diversity in agricultural landscapes; to effectively reduce nutrients (e.g. Natura 2000); to effectively establish conservation areas; to intensify research and monitoring and improve education.'
Under the Treaties, the EU can take legal action in areas such as the internal market, agricultural policy as well as the protection of public health and the quality of the environment. The Commission therefore considers the initiative legally admissible and decided to register it. The Commission has not analysed the substance of the initiative at this stage. The registration of this initiative will take place on 27 May 2019, starting a one-year process of collection of signatures of support by its organisers. Should the initiative receive one million statements of support within 1 year, from at least 7 different Member States, the Commission will have to react within 3 months. The Commission can decide either to follow the request or not, and in both instances would be required to explain its reasoning.
President Juncker debriefed the College on the informal EU27 leaders' meeting in Sibiu and the road from Sibiu as outlined in the joint Declaration, reflecting the substantial Commission contribution to the meeting.
High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini briefed Commissioners on the outcome of the Foreign Affairs Council which took place in Brussels on Monday and Tuesday, as well as on current Foreign Policy developments.
Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström updated the College on the latest trade developments., and First Vice-President Frans Timmermans informed Commissioners on the latest developments regarding Rule of Law.