The new Multiannual Indicative Program of the European Union (EU) for Tajikistan designed for 2024-2027 is under development.

The European Union and Tajikistan held their 10th annual Cooperation Committee meeting in Brussels on November 27.

The EU External Action Service (EEAS) says that chaired on the EU side by EEAS Deputy Managing Director Mr. Luc Devigne and, on the Tajik side, by the Minister of Economic Development and Trade Mr. Zavqi Zavqizoda, the meeting took place in an open and constructive atmosphere, reflecting the continued strengthening of relations between the EU and Tajikistan.

The Cooperation Committee reportedly reviewed the state of play of bilateral relations and addressed political and socio-economic developments, water, environment, energy, trade and investment cooperation, as well as regional and international issues.

Both sides exchanged views on the ongoing negotiations for an Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (EPCA), which were launched earlier this year, and Tajikistan’s application for the EU's Generalized Scheme of Preference Plus (GSP+) scheme of unilateral duty free treatment.  They both commended these important steps towards expanding cooperation into new areas and broadening the scope of interactions.

The EU confirmed its continued support to Tajikistan in its reform process while highlighting the need for improvements of the country’s human rights and fundamental freedoms agenda.  The EU asked to bring it in line with recommendations of the UN and OSCE, in particular on freedom of association, peaceful assembly, freedom of expression, media freedom, as well as freedom of religion and belief.

In this context, the EU noted with satisfaction the adoption of Tajikistan’s first Human Rights Strategy and Action Plan for 2023-2025 and encouraged its full implementation and the continued involvement of civil society in political processes.

The EU expressed its concern regarding the detention of human rights defenders, independent journalists and bloggers.  The EU called on the Tajik authorities to ensure accountability and to bring to justice all those responsible for human rights violations in the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region (GBAO).

On bilateral development cooperation, the EU informed about the budget support program and the two Team Europe Initiatives (TEIs) on water, energy and climate change and on digital connectivity.  This year marks the 20 year anniversary of two crucial regional EU programs Tajikistan benefits from: the Border Management Program in Central Asia (BOMCA) and the Central Asia Drug Action Program (CADAP). The EU encouraged stronger participation of Tajikistan in its Horizon Europe scientific cooperation Program and looked forward to the national Erasmus+ Office in Dushanbe becoming operational in the near future.

During their discussions, the two sides also exchanged views on a number of regional and international issues being of mutual interest, including COP28, the situation in Afghanistan and Russia’s illegal war of aggression against Ukraine. The EU informed about restrictive measures taken against Russia and attempts to circumvent them. The EU encouraged Tajikistan’s engagement with Central Asia countries and welcomed its constructive role for broader cooperation within the region and beyond, in particular, in the regional electricity market. Tajikistan’s important role in the United Nations with regard to water diplomacy and climate change was acknowledged. Both sides also discussed security issues such as counter-terrorism and combatting the illicit trafficking of drugs and human beings.

Meanwhile, the press center of the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade of Tajikistan (MoEDT) says Zavqizoda noted during the meeting that Tajikistan considers the European Union a reliable and important partner in achieving the country’s strategic goals.

Since 2012, the European Union has reportedly allocated 345 million euros for the development of economic sectors of Tajikistan and the two-way trade between Tajikistan and the EU rose 12.5% in a year to December 31, 2022, reaching 490 million US dollars.

The MoEDT press center reports that the parties expressed special attention to further expansion of cooperation in priority areas such as green economy, investment, industry, digitalization, budget support, education, healthcare, border security, regional integration, joining the GSP+ system, environmental protection and climate change, water management, human rights and the rule of law in Tajikistan.

Tajik minister reportedly briefed the EU delegation on the achievements of Tajikistan in the mentioned areas and appealed to the European Union with a request to increase funding for the priority sectors of Tajikistan, including green energy, especially the construction of hydroelectric power plants, industry, agriculture, transport and logistics, digitalization and border strengthening.

In turn, the EU reportedly announced that within the first stage of the European Union Indicative Program for 2021-2024, 91 million euros will be invested in the priority areas of Tajikistan.

In response to Tajikistan's request, the European Union has renewed budgetary support for the country, allocating €30 million in budget support, of which €4 million has already been allocated, and has also launched additional supply chain development projects in the textile sector "Ready for Trade" and energy sector reforms for the general the amount of 64.5 million euros.

Detailed information was also provided on the significant economic, social and environmental benefits of the Roghun hydroelectric power station for the development of Tajikistan and the region, and the European Union was invited to provide funds for the construction of this major facility.

In addition, 80 million euros were allocated from regional funds for priority projects in Tajikistan, including the BOMCA and CADAP projects.

At the same time, Tajikistan proposed several priority projects to the EU for financing, including the following projects: Strategy for the Development of a Green economy in Tajikistan; Medium-term Program for the Development of the Digital economy in Tajikistan for 2021-2025; Development of Social Infrastructure; Program on Preventing the Spread of Drug Addiction in Central Asia (CADAP-7); and Creation of Multifunctional Communication Technologies Between the Structures of the Border Troops of the State Committee for National Security.

In addition, the parties positively assessed the progress in preparing the new Partnership and Cooperation Agreement between the Republic of Tajikistan and the European Union and emphasized the need to speed up the approval process.