15 aprilie 2019

Speech of Foreign Minister Teodor Melescanu HLC to mark the adoption of the new EU Strategy for Central Asia – Connectivity for sustainable development

Romania’s Foreign Minister Teodor Melescanu spoke on Monday, at the beginning of a high-level conference about the adoption of the new EU Strategy for Central Asia.

Teodor Meleșcanu, ministrul afacerilor externe
The Palace of Parliament, Nicolae Bălcescu Hall

Your Excellences,

Ladies and Gentlemen and Distinguished guests,

It gives me a great pleasure to welcome you today to this High Level Conference on Central Asia – Connectivity for sustainable development, organized by Romania as the President of the Council of the European Union, together with the European External Action Service (EEAS).

As the hosts of this important event, we aim to provide a platform for an in-depth exchange of views on concrete projects with potential to step up cooperation and sustainable connectivity as a driving force for long-term development of the countries of Central Asia as well as with Central Asia as a region and beyond the region:

  • in light of the forthcoming release of a new EU Strategy on Central Asia is an excellent occasion to have the discussion today;
  • and also building upon the momentum and the priorities set in the EU Strategy on Connecting Europe and Asia of October 2018 is offering us a very solid platform.

I am confident that today’s discussions, the ideas, the assessments and views that we will share from the perspective of our Central-Asian colleagues and of the EU member states, as well as third-country partners together with the UN bodies, OSCE and the international financial institutions, that have all of them contributed to the achievements and progress we witness now-a-days in Central Asia. Which will add value to our on-going efforts to move our partnership forward.

Central Asia, as a region and each country individually, has undergone tremendous changes during the last decades and new opportunities are lying ahead. Yes, opportunities come also with challenges and threats, old and new.

The world we live in is changing and, at the same time, becomes more connected. We face global challenges and threats, and each region is facing challenges and threats, but in every country we also have a lot of opportunities. The same goes for this opportunity and it depends on us to strike the right balance: to build upon opportunities, to enhance the capacity to anticipate and absorb threats and, where possible, to transform challenges in new venues of cooperation.

Traditionally, Romania shares constructive agendas with all Central-Asian countries. We have enhanced diplomatic bilateral political dialogue and on regional affairs. We advocate for closer relations with the EU, as a reliable partner for reforms and modernisation in view of significant positive dynamics in this region.

As a bridge over time, I cannot but highlight two moments of a symbolic value for us and, I would like to believe, that for our partners is the same.
The EU Strategy for a New Partnership with Central Asia from June 2007 was adopted during the first year of EU membership of Romania and now, we are gathered here today, to mark the forthcoming release of the new EU Strategy on Central Asia during Romania’s first Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

On the bilateral agenda, I take this opportunity to praise the consistent partnerships we have built together with Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan:

  • political contacts, institutionalized formats of dialogue at the level of Ministries of Foreign Affairs,
  • Joint Economic Commissions, projects of cooperation of bilateral and regional interest in the fields of transport, energy and education,
  • and, last but not least, people-to people contacts to know each other better, to better understand our societies and look forward into the future with a knowledgeable young generation.

All that I have mentioned, one way or the other, is about connectivity.
At the same time, I am confident that the joint efforts undertaken within the last two years have opened new chapters in relations with our partners from the Republic of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan and it is up to us, together, to spur synergies to turn our ideas and aspirations into realities based on experience-sharing while coping with the on-going changes.

On regional dynamics,

Water is an issue of global interest and Central Asia makes a valuable contribution to deepening the understanding of the irreplaceable role of this basic resource that foster prosperity and stability. Even though there are still challenges related to water, these challenges should result in future bilateral and regional projects of cooperation for long-term and for sustainable development.

Based on this approach, we have paid a special attention to sharing our experience and best practices in water management. As President of the European Water Initiative for Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia (in between 2008-2010), Romania organized a series of water management events with attendance from all Central Asian countries.
More recently, our country was represented at high level at the thematic international conferences hosted in 2018 and 2019 in Dushanbe, NUR-Sultan and Tashkent and supports the sectoral activity of the UN Regional Center for Preventive Diplomacy in Central Asia.

Let me now refer to transport connectivity. For both Europe and Asia, growing global interdependence is a good chance to increase cooperation, for fair and stronger economic relations, for a more comprehensive interaction at various sectoral levels.

It is more than obvious that, not only geographically speaking, the Black Sea, Southern Caucasus and Central Asia are in the middle of the transport route from Europe to Asia and it is an important part of the EU Strategy on connecting Europe and Asia.

In this light, Romania and Turkmenistan, alongside with Georgia and Azerbaijan, pledged a political will and firm commitment to achieve setting up the Freight Transport Route between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, across the four countries, by signing on March 4 in Bucharest, the Statement at the level of ministers of foreign affairs. We see this route as complementary to other initiatives in the region and open for third-country participation.

Just as important, the role of connectivity in its various forms is to link up Afghanistan to its extended neighbourhood of Central Asia so as to further enhance this country’s economic self-reliance, peace and development.
Ladies and gentlemen, in times that are complex and challenging, education and people-to-people contacts build bridges in areas that are sometimes affected by distance, or by geography. Educated people bring support to the values we share, to our traditions and to our own cultural identities.
Educated people equal more flexibility and adaptability on labor market and thus incentives for sustainable economic growth and development and I have to say also that educated people mean resilience.

Distinguished guests,

A very warm thanks for accommodating your agendas and making this event possible. I wish you to have productive discussions that generate new ideas for the future! I hope you will enjoy the city of Bucharest!

Thank you very much!