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EU steps up support to prevent violent extremism and #Radicalization in #CentralAsia

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The European Commission has mobilized an additional €4 million to support the media, civil society organizations, and active citizens in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan to prevent violent extremism and counter radicalization. The new projects will support trainings and professionalization of local journalists, activists and press officers to produce high-quality content, while fact-checking platforms to flag fake news will be created.

The action, through the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace, will also contribute to fighting disinformation, increasing resilience of local population and minorities, and developing counter-narratives. The support announced today will consolidate and advance activities started through a previous collaboration with the NGO Internews, promoting regional collaboration and the co-production of content related to peace and stability. Today's conference at the European Endowment for Democracy in Brussels will present and showcase the main achievements and results of the first phase. More information is available here.

Central Asia

#ASEP - European Parliament to host 10th Asia-Europe parliamentary meeting

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The impact of climate change on migration, the economy and security will top the Asia-Europe Parliamentary Partnership (ASEP) meeting, taking place 27-28 September.

MEPs and MPs from EU member states, 18 Asian countries and Russia, Australia, New Zealand, Norway and Switzerland will debate the environmental challenges that Asia and Europe are facing: sustainable development and the circular economy, urban areas management, cooperating on water resources, waste treatment and plastic reduction, food security and clean technologies. They will also prepare their input for the ASEM summit to be held 18-19 October in Brussels.

EP President Antonio Tajani will kick off the plenary session on 27 September at 10.30. This will be followed by a welcome speech from the ASEP 9 meeting host Mr Yondonperenlei Baatarbileg (Mongolia), Ms Shirin Sharmin Cahudhury, speaker of the Bangladesh Parliament, Ms Ana Maria Pastor Julian, President of the Congress of deputies (Spain), Ms Gloria Arroyo, Speaker of the House of Representatives (Philippines) and Mr Zhang Zhijun, Vice-Chairman of the Committee of Foreign Affairs (China).

The plenary session will be web-streamed live. You can also follow the coverage through @EP_ForeignAff with #ASEP10.

A detailed draft programme of the event is available here.

Press point

A press point with EP Vice-President for relations with Asia Heidi Hautala (Greens, FI) is scheduled for Thursday, 27 September, at 12h30 in front of Hemicycle (Paul Henri Spaak building).

BackgroundThe Asia-Europe Parliamentary Partnership (ASEP) meeting is part of the overall Asia-Europe partnership, which provides a forum for inter-parliamentary debates, information-sharing and promotes mutual understanding of global issues. ASEP meetings are convened on a bi-annual basis before the ASEM Summit, alternately in Asia and in Europe.

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EU steps up its strategy for connecting Europe and #Asia

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The European Commission and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy have adopted a Joint Communication that sets out the EU's vision for a new and comprehensive strategy to better connect Europe and Asia.

The Joint Communication builds on the European Union's own experience of enhancing connections between its member states, with and in other regions. With sustainable, comprehensive and rules-based connectivity at its core, the Communication will help to guide the EU's external action in this field and is a part of the implementation of its Global Strategy

The EU will combine a principled approach to connectivity and recognition that Asia encompasses different regions, which are home to very diverse countries in terms of economic models and level of development, with concrete action based on three strands: creating transport links, energy and digital networks and human connections; offering connectivity partnerships to countries in Asia and organisations; and promoting sustainable finance through utilising diverse financial tools. The aim is to better connect Europe and Asia through physical and non-physical networks so as to strengthen the resilience of societies and regions, facilitate trade, promote the rules-based international order, and create avenues for a more sustainable, low-carbon future.

This Joint Communication will inform the EU's engagement with its partners from the neighbourhood to the Pacific, bringing benefits for the people of Europe and those countries who see the value of our approach to connectivity. The Joint Communication adopted today will now be discussed in the European Parliament and the Council, and will contribute to discussions on connectivity at the upcoming Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) Summit, to be held in Brussels on 18-19 October.

full press release, including statements of High Representative/Vice-President, Federica Mogherini, Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, and Commissioners Neven Mimica and Violeta Bulc is available online, as are a memo explaining the EU's approach to connecting Europe and Asia, a factsheet on the strategy, and the Joint Communication itself.

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Astana EXPO

#Kazakhstan and the EU: Towards an even stronger partnership

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Interesting Facts about Kazakhstan (1)My country has always sought to cultivate strong links with Central Asia, and I have taken a great personal interest in the region since my first visit in 1999.

I was struck, then and now, by its industry and ambition qualities that have seen Kazakhstan in particular overcome a very challenging start to become the confident player on the world stage that we see today. 

I remarked back in 2006 that Central Asia was "young, full of promise and already attracting attention on the world stage". The five Central Asian countries of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan are each year making greater contributions to global dialogue on energy security, the environment, people and drug trafficking, and counterterrorism. All these issues are of critical importance to the West, and I believe that the already vital relationship between Kazakhstan and the European Union could, and should, grow even stronger, to the benefit of both parties.

Kazakhstan’s admirable commitment to a multidimensional foreign policy is worth examining in detail. It became the first Central Asian country to join ASEM (the Asia-Europe Meeting) in 2014. And now, Kazakhstan is bidding for a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council between 2017–18. If elected in June, it would become the first Central Asian country to hold a chair on the UN Security Council. I wish Kazakhstan the best of luck in its bid.

In 2015, Kazakhstan agreed to host the first ever Low Enriched Uranium bank, affording safe access to nuclear materials for countries and helping to curb the worrying trend of nuclear proliferation. This is just the latest of a number of concrete measures taken by Kazakhstan against the spread of nuclear weapons, starting with its voluntary disarmament of its Soviet era nuclear arsenal in 1991.

Under the leadership of President Nursultan Nazarbayev, Kazakhstan has, in the last twelve months, joined the World Trade Organisation and signed an Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with the EU – the latter a landmark agreement which underlines the importance of Central Asia to its European partners, now more than ever. The EU is the largest foreign trade partner for Kazakhstan, representing 50 percent of its total external trade, and the largest investor in the country, with 60 percent of total foreign investment.

I can only commend the recent improvements made to the business and investment climate in Kazakhstan, which benefit European companies tremendously.

Equally important developments include Kazakhstan’s increase in support to Afghanistan, improving security through training; the promotion of economic activity; and the funding of education for its brightest young people in national universities.

President Nazarbayev’s initiative to host the triennial Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions in Astana is a significant contribution of Kazakhstan’s to promoting respect and understanding between religions around the world, while the upcoming EXPO 2017 in Astana, on the theme of 'Future Energy', is sure to stimulate significant support for the UN’s 'Sustainable Energy for All' Initiative.

In the first semester of 2015, a new EU Strategy for Kazakhstan and Central Asia was drafted, with increased emphasis on economic and social development. Chair of the European Parliament Delegation to Central Asia Iveta Grigule noted that Kazakhstan’s foreign policy is “very balanced”, and that it is "realising the policy of multi-vector diplomacy very correctly, constructively and pragmatically".

In the fall of 2015, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and US Secretary of State John Kerry completed unprecedented bilateral tours of Central Asia – marking the first visit by a Japanese prime minister to Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan among others – and President Nazarbayev met with British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President François Hollande to discuss trade agreements, accentuating the region’s growing importance to the traditional world powers.

In the past months, Astana has played host to a major anti-extremism conference as well as talks of Syrian opposition representatives in an attempt to help resolving the conflict currently taking place in the Middle East. This follows from the important role that Kazakhstan played as mediator in bringing Iran to the negotiating table with the West concerning its own nuclear ambitions. 

Finally, Kazakhstan has built a harmonious society, where citizens of many different faiths and backgrounds live in peace and tolerance, while recognising the dangers of extremism. The international community is grateful to Kazakhstan for stepping up its efforts, both internally and in collaboration with its international partners, to root out and counter terrorism. After the atrocious recent attacks in Paris, Tunis, Mali and other parts of the world it is absolutely indispensable that we all gather to combat extremism by all forms.

In this age of mutual exchange and interconnection, no man is an island: it is essential that information should be shared by everyone for the benefit of all. In the words of the distinguished Kazakh poet Olzhas Suleimenov, "we always roam towards ourselves by recognising ourselves in the other."

From the fight against nuclear proliferation to the development of a stable Afghanistan in the post-war period, Kazakhstan is an increasingly vital ally to the EU, and I sincerely hope that this alliance continues to develop and strengthen in 2016.

The author, Dr. Benita Ferrero-Waldner, is former foreign minister of Austria, former EU commissioner for external relations and chairman of the Advisory Council of the Eurasian Council on Foreign Affairs.

 

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