The European Union and the Republic of Tajikistan held their tenth annual Cooperation Committee meeting on 27 November in Brussels.
The meeting took place in an open and constructive atmosphere, reflecting the continued strengthening of relations between the EU and Tajikistan.
The Cooperation Committee reviewed the state of play of bilateral relations and addressed political and socio-economic developments, water, environment, energy, trade and investment cooperation, as well as regional and international issues.
Both sides exchanged views on the ongoing negotiations for an Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (EPCA), which were launched earlier this year, and Tajikistan’s application for the EU’s Generalised Scheme of Preference Plus (GSP+) scheme of unilateral duty free treatment. They both commended these important steps towards expanding cooperation into new areas and broadening the scope of interactions.
The EU confirmed its continued support to Tajikistan in its reform process while highlighting the need for improvements of the country’s human rights and fundamental freedoms agenda. The EU asked to bring it in line with recommendations of the UN and OSCE, in particular on freedom of association, peaceful assembly, freedom of expression, media freedom, as well as freedom of religion and belief.
In this context, the EU noted with satisfaction the adoption of Tajikistan’s first Human Rights Strategy and Action Plan for 2023-2025 and encouraged its full implementation and the continued involvement of civil society in political processes. The EU expressed its concern regarding the detention of human rights defenders, independent journalists and bloggers. The EU called on the Tajik authorities to ensure accountability and to bring to justice all those responsible for human rights violations in the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region (GBAO).
On bilateral development cooperation, the EU informed about the budget support programme and the two Team Europe Initiatives (TEIs) on water, energy and climate change and on digital connectivity. This year marks the 20 year anniversary of two crucial regional EU programmes Tajikistan benefits from: the Border Management Programme in Central Asia (BOMCA) and the Central Asia Drug Action Programme (CADAP). The EU encouraged stronger participation of Tajikistan in its Horizon Europe scientific cooperation Programme and looked forward to the national Erasmus+ Office in Dushanbe becoming operational in the near future.
During their discussions, the two sides also exchanged views on matters of regional and international interest, including COP28, the situation in Afghanistan and Russia’s illegal war of aggression against Ukraine. The EU informed about restrictive measures taken against Russia and attempts to circumvent them. The EU encouraged Tajikistan’s engagement with Central Asia countries and welcomed its constructive role for broader cooperation within the region and beyond, in particular, in the regional electricity market. Tajikistan’s important role in the United Nations with regard to water diplomacy and climate change was acknowledged. Both sides also discussed security issues such as counter-terrorism and combatting the illicit trafficking of drugs and human beings.
The Cooperation Committee was chaired on the EU side by EEAS Deputy Managing Director Mr. Luc Devigne and, on the Tajik side, by the Minister of Economic Development and Trade Mr. Zavqi Zavqizoda.