Based on their strategic and geopolitical situation, their vicinity to Afghanistan, as well as increasingly important questions of energy and security, the five Central Asian countries (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan) have become more and more important for the European Union. The region is faced with a number of problems, such as fundamentalism, terrorism, drug or human trafficking. Additional difficulties represent the fight against poverty, regional water management and democratization.
At the European Council of 22 June 2007 the EU’s Heads of State or Government adopted the EU-Central Asia Strategy. This strategy serves as a framework for the EU’s relations with Central Asia especially in the field of human rights, democracy, rule of law, good governance, education, economic development, trade and investment, energy and transport, environment and water, migration and intercultural dialogue.
The EU-Central Asia Strategy has a two-pronged approach, i.e. a regional one and an individual one. On the one hand, the Strategy sets out areas of co-operation with the entire Central Asia region. On the other hand the implementation has been adapted to the needs and the performances of each individual country. To this end, a specific priority paper has been elaborated for each of the five countries which is being up-dated on an annual basis. From 2007 to 2013 the EU’s financial assistance to the entire region totals € 750 million.
In June 2010 the Council and the European Commission submitted a progress report on the EU-Central Asia Strategy to the European Council. The report stated that the relations between the EU and Central Asia had considerably increased within the Strategy’s first four years. At the same time, already existing representations in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, which until then had been attached to the delegation of the European Commission in Astana, became separate EU delegations. The EU Delegation in Uzbekistan opened in January 2012. In Turkmenistan there is a Europe House. Today human rights dialogues exist with the five Central Asian countries.
On 7 April 2011 a Ministerial Meeting of the EU Central Asia Strategy took place in Tashkent. In July 2012 Patricia Flor was appointed as new Special Representative for Central Asia.
Austria – like other member states of the EU – has become increasingly interested in the region. This led to the opening of an Embassy in Astana in the year 2007. The Embassy represents Austria not only in Kazakhstan but also vis-à-vis Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. The Austrian Embassy for Uzbekistan is located in Vienna. There are a few Austrians in the EU-Delegations and the OSCE Centres in Central Asia. Currently the Head of the EU Delegation in Dushanbe is Austrian. The first Head of the OSCE Centre in Ashgabat was also coming from Austria. There was a focus on Central Asia during the Austrian OSCE-Presidency in the year 2000.
From 8 to 9 June 2011 the World Economic Forum on Europe and Central Asia took place in Vienna.