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Brussels, 24 January 2011

Statement of European Commission President José Manuel Barroso following his meeting with the President of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov

The President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, today received the President of Uzbekistan, Islam Karimov, for a working meeting. This was in line with the European Union's established policy as set out in the conclusions of the Foreign Affairs Council of 25 October 2010, namely "the willingness of the EU to strengthen relations with Uzbekistan in a comprehensive manner." The meeting was extremely frank and open. Both President Barroso and President Karimov underlined their willingness to develop comprehensive relations.

Following the meeting, President Barroso said: "The European Union follows a policy of critical, conditional and comprehensive engagement with Uzbekistan. I have raised all key concerns of Europe, notably regarding human rights and fundamental freedoms, which stand at the heart of EU foreign policy. I believe it is through such a robust eye to eye dialogue, and not an empty-chair policy, that we can further the EU's unanimously agreed policy of engagement most effectively."

President Barroso used this meeting to raise specific human rights concerns, among others the cases of Messrs. Kholdorov, Kholjigitov and Formonov, and pressed for the release of all political prisoners and prisoners of conscience. He underlined that a strengthening of relations with Uzbekistan, for which the European Union was ready in principle, is strictly dependent on Uzbek reforms and progress, notably regarding human rights, democratization and the rule of law. President Karimov in reply expressed his commitment to further deepen democratic reforms in Uzbekistan. President Barroso also raised the issue of the accreditation of the Human Rights Watch representative in Tashkent and urged the President to allow an International Labour Organization (ILO) monitoring mission to the country to address the issue of any remaining child labour practices. Pierre Vimont, Executive Secretary-General of the European External Action Service, signed the agreement establishing a European Union Delegation in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. This will further strengthen the EU's voice on the ground.

The Presidents furthermore discussed economic and trade issues. A Memorandum of Understanding regarding energy relations was also signed. Finally, regional issues were raised, including the situation in Afghanistan.

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