For some years now, the EU and the Central Asia region have demonstrated increased mutual interest in building closer political and economic relations. Guided by “The EU and Central Asia: Strategy for a New Partnership”, the Platform for Environment and Water Cooperation, established in 2009 at a high-level conference in Rome as a framework for cooperation on environment and water, set up a working group to facilitate the implementation of platform objectives. Since then, concrete steps have been taken to strengthen policy dialogue and cooperation at the regional level and to provide guidance on cooperation activities between the EU and Central Asia. Italy has assumed the leading role in coordinating the strategy's environment and water pillar.
Further progress was achieved through a joint communique of the Fifth EU-Central Asia High-Level Conference on Energy and Water Cooperation, held in Milan, Italy, on October 12-13, 2015, as well as through the Fifth Meeting of the Working Group for Environment and Climate Change (WG ECC), held on December 15-16, 2016, in Brussels, Belgium. At this meeting, The REC, part of the WG ECC, made important contributions towards defining common priorities for exchange, facilitating the sharing of experiences, assessing the status of the environment, and determining partner priorities in an environmental context.
During the latter event, the WG ECC addressed developments that have taken place since its last meeting (held in July 2015 in Tashkent, Uzbekistan), namely:
- partner activities related to environmental governance, green economy and circular economy, with emphasis given to sustainable use of natural resources, sustainable production and consumption, and better waste management;
- activities related to making the transition to a low-emission and climate-resilient economy, with particular focus on mitigation and adaptation to climate change, as well as on implementation of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change;
- synergies and cooperation achieved with agencies, international organisations and civil society on environment and climate change; and
- tentative priorities for 2017-2018 pertaining to the EU-CA Platform for Environment and Water Cooperation's "Draft Action Plan for the Environment and Climate Change".
The REC has been closely involved in achieving the ECC goals via a committed, stable relation with the Central Asia Regional Environmental Center (CAREC). In 2015, a memorandum of understanding was signed between both institutions to boost the transfer of regional knowledge and experience, which can stimulate sustainable environment initiatives for societies, especially in the areas of water management, green economy and climate change. Given the institutions’ expertise, the partnership is instrumental in supporting Central Asian countries in strengthening their capacity to: address environmental challenges; promote a sustainable framework for resource-sharing; and integrate disaster risk reduction, resilience, climate adaptation and mitigation into local, national and regional policies.
Furthermore, the REC is also present in the region through the Environment and Security Initiative (ENVSEC), a unique partnership of the OSCE, UNDP, UNECE, UNEP and REC that addresses concerns related to environment and security in Eastern Europe, South Eastern Europe, the South Caucasus and Central Asia. Through ENVSEC, the member institutions are working in Central Asia — and especially with the EU’s Instrument contributing to Security and Peace (IcSP) — to enhance an understanding of the links between climate change and security, as well as to strengthen capacities to effectively anticipate, prevent and mitigate potential security risks resulting from climate change. Other current ENVSEC work programmes in Central Asia are implemented through the EU’s Instrument for Nuclear Safety Cooperation (INSC) and with the governments of Switzerland and Finland in the context of capacity building through the Aarhus Centers for Disaster Risk Reduction.
The REC is committed to nurturing further cooperation with CAREC, and will continue to contribute towards the achievement of ECC goals. At the same time, the REC will seek to exert a positive influence on the upcoming working group meetings (in July 2017 and February 2018), in addition to a preparatory meeting for the next high-level conference and the high-level conference itself, to be held in July 2018 and October-November 2018, respectively.