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C/04/31

Brussels, 27 January 2004

5571/04 (Presse 31)

EU - Uzbekistan Co-operation Council fifth meeting

Brussels, 27 January 2004

The EUUzbekistan Co-operation Council held its fifth meeting on Tuesday 27 January 2004, under the chairmanship of Mr Dick Roche, Presidentinoffice of the EU Council, Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach and Minister of State for European Affairs of Ireland. Mr Sadiq Safaev, Minister of Foreign Affairs, headed the delegation of the Republic of Uzbekistan. The European Commission was represented by Mr Chris Patten, Commissioner, and by Mr Eneko Landaburu, Director General for External Relations.

Uzbekistan and the EU noted the dynamic development of their dialogue under the Partnership and Co-operation Agreement (PCA). On 1 July 2004 the PCA will reach the half-way stage of its initial ten year term, so the Co-operation Council agreed to take stock of progress in implementation of the PCA by the time of its next meeting. In order to play a more active political role in the Central Asia, the EU will continue to provide assistance to help Uzbekistan its transition towards market economy and democracy.

Uzbekistan welcomed the imminent enlargement of the EU. Both sides believe that this historic event will bring greater stability and prosperity not only to the peoples of Europe but to other partner countries. An enlargement protocol will be signed with Uzbekistan providing the necessary adaptation of the PCA that arises from the accession of the 10 new EU Member States. The new EU Member States will apply the provisions of the PCA with Uzbekistan as of 1 May 2004.

The Co-operation Council noted that the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) meeting in Tashkent on 4-5 May 2003 contributed to increasing attention to Uzbekistan in international financial and business circles. The EU looks forward to positive steps by Uzbekistan to implement its EBRD country strategy and its benchmarks. The EU offered its readiness to offer continued assistance in this process.

The Co-operation Council recalled the importance of full respect for human rights and the rule of law in promoting political stability and economic growth. It was agreed that any development of closer political relations between the EU and Uzbekistan would depend upon respect for shared values, as in the PCA. The two sides may seek to identify new areas for co-operation, relating to the application of democratic norms, the rule of law and respect for human rights, notably in relation to the criminal justice system, gender equality and freedom of belief. The EU reiterated its readiness to give practical support for implementation of judicial and legal system reforms in Uzbekistan.

The EU welcomed Uzbekistan's announcement of a reduction in the number of crimes subject to the death penalty. The EU recalled its opposition to the death penalty and asked for a moratorium.

The EU welcomed the announcement by Uzbekistan of a programme aimed at eliminating the practice of torture in Uzbek prisons and expressed its concerns about cases of torture in detention centres, and asked for impartial investigation of deaths of prisoners or other people in custody. The EU welcomed the visit to Uzbekistan of UN Special Rapporteur for Torture, Theo van Boven, and the announcement that Uzbekistan will implement his recommendations and those of the UN Committee Against Torture.

The EU and Uzbekistan agreed on the importance of fully implementing UN Security Council Resolution 1373 on threats to international peace and security caused by terrorist acts. Both sides affirm the vital necessity of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms (including freedom of speech) in the fight against terrorism and noted the need for open, constructive dialogue in pursuit of common interests.

The EU and Uzbekistan will examine ways in which to improve co-operation in the fight against and prevention of terrorism, drug trafficking, illegal migration, money laundering, corruption, human trafficking and other relevant issues, including policing and border control. Both sides welcomed the Agreement signed in October 2003 between Uzbekistan and Euratom on the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

The EU welcomed the Uzbek move to achieve currency convertibility and participation in Article VIII of the IMF. The Commission will continue to provide Uzbekistan with assistance for the WTO accession process and encourages further structural reform in particular in the field of agriculture and banking. Both sides agree on the necessity of eliminating existing trade restrictions.

Uzbekistan undertakes to meet its obligations under the PCA to ensure the same level of protection of intellectual property rights as in the EU. The EU welcomes Uzbekistan's commitment to adopt legislation conducive to improving the business climate, and acknowledges Uzbekistan's commitment to improve its tax and customs systems. Both sides also recognise the importance of the implementation of the rule of law and the elimination of corruption.

The Co-operation Council noted with satisfaction the increasing use of Uzbekistan's capacity to participate in the process of reconstruction in Afghanistan. The EU is willing to consider ways in which it could assist in improving border crossing and customs facilities between Uzbekistan and neighbouring countries in Central Asia, and calls upon Uzbekistan to take measures to facilitate cross-border trade.

The EU announced a new phase in its assistance for Uzbekistan under the EU's Tacis programme, based on the EU strategy for Central Asia adopted in October 2002. It put particular attention on regional co-operation. Both sides confirmed their commitment to develop regional co-operation in developing co-operative projects in Central Asia. Uzbekistan requested the EU to provide greater national ownership of projects and to increase the involvement of local experts in their implementation.

Over the working breakfast the EU and Uzbek delegations had a useful exchange of views on political and regional aspects of their relations.

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