30 January, 2019

​Central Asia and European Union find new prospects of environment and water cooperation

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Governmental delegations from five Central Asian countries, the European Commission and a number of European Union states took part in the 6th EU-CA High-Level Conference on the Platform for Environment and Water Cooperation, held in the capital of Uzbekistan on January 24-25.

At the conference chaired by the European Union, Italy and Uzbekistan, the participants exchanged views on a wide range of issues related to cooperation in the field of environmental protection, combating the effects of climate change, as well as cooperation in the field of sustainable water management.

Speaking on behalf of the delegation of Kazakhstan, which included representatives of the Ministries of Energy and Agriculture, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Roman Vassilenko noted that Kazakhstan was taking active measures to mitigate the effects of global challenges and the country was systematically improving national legislation in the field of environmental protection.

"The Strategy "Kazakhstan – 2050" announced by President Nursultan Nazarbayev, outlines the goal of transition to a green economy. According to the document, by 2050 the share of renewable energy sources in the country should be at least half of the total energy consumption. In order to fulfill the objectives of the Strategy, we adopted the Concept for Transition of the Republic of Kazakhstan to Green Economy, as well as a plan for its implementation, which lay the foundations for deep systemic reforms in order to transition to a new economy, minimizing the burden on the environment and degradation of natural resources," the diplomat said.

Special attention was paid to the plans of Kazakhstan to move to a green economy as well as green technology and advanced solutions in the country. The delegation presented activities of the International Center for the Development of Green Technology and Investment Projects operating on the basis of EXPO 2017. It was stated that according to the results of EXPO 2017 Kazakhstan was already implementing green technology, including in Turkestan and North Kazakhstan regions, and just recently, in the vicinity of Karaganda, the country put into operation the largest solar power plant in Central Asia called SES Saran with a capacity of 100 megawatts.

The key message of the speech was "a call to all interested parties to make consistent joint efforts to improve the environmental situation in Central Asia", especially against the background of forecasts of further climate warming, melting of glaciers and reduction of watercourses of the main rivers of the region.

In this regard, the main initiatives of the President of Kazakhstan announced at the August Summit of the Heads of the Founding States of the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea were brought to the attention of the forum participants.

It was also stressed that the 8th session of the Meeting of the Parties to the UNECE Water Convention was held in Astana in October 2018. As a result, the meeting adopted the Programme of Work for 2019-2021, aimed at providing support in the field of monitoring, assessment and exchange of information in transboundary basins and facilitating financing of transboundary water cooperation. In 2019-2021 Kazakhstan will chair the Bureau of the Water Convention. The upcoming chairmanship will be aimed at promoting and developing transboundary water cooperation, as well as supporting the promotion of the norms of the Convention, including through the expansion of its membership.

The participants noted significant contribution of the European side to strengthening cooperation in Central Asia in the field of sustainable transboundary water management, including through the support of the International Water Assessment Center, operating in Kazakhstan since 2017.

As a result of the forum, which was also attended by representatives of international organizations and the expert community, the participants approved a final regulation on the EU–Central Asia Platform for Environment and Water Cooperation. The document identifies specific areas for further cooperation between the countries of the region with the assistance of the European Union in such areas as ensuring the implementation of commitments under the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, improving the efficiency of national environmental protection systems, water management in the region.

While in Tashkent, Mr Vassilenko also held meetings with Deputy Foreign Minister of Uzbekistan Dilshod Akhatov and EU Special Representative for Central Asia Peter Burian.

At the meeting with Dilshod Akhatov, the sides noted positive dynamics of political, trade and economic cooperation between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan in recent years and considered a number of points of the agenda set by two Presidents Nursultan Nazarbayev and Shavkat Mirziyoyev to further strengthen partnership and increase trade turnover to $5 billion by 2020. There was also a detailed discussion on further strengthening of cooperation, including in the format of regional cooperation with the EU.

At the meeting with Peter Burian, they discussed the final stages of preparation of the new EU Strategy for Central Asia, whose development was also assisted by Kazakhstan and other countries of the region. It is expected that the new document, which is to be approved in the early summer of this year, will also pay special attention to the implementation of the EU regional projects in the field of environmental protection and transboundary water management. The sides discussed the regional schedule of activities, planned for the first half of 2019.

They also discussed joint efforts to provide assistance to Afghanistan. It is expected that this year, on the basis of the Kazakh educational program for Afghanistan, implemented since 2010, the first phase of the joint program of training of Afghan women in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan will be launched with funding from the European Union. Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, announced this new €2 million program in September 2018.

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