European Committee of the Regions in a recent opinion calls for the EU to adopt a more flexible approach to countries in the Eastern Partnership and to work more closely with local and regional authorities. The CoR’s opinion suggests that the EU should look at the region in a more global way, by identifying forms of potential cooperation – via the Eastern Partnership (EaP) – with countries in the Balkans and in Central Asia.
We have interviewed key experts from the EaP countries to find out their goals and priorities in relations with Central Asian countries. Here are the answers from Armenia.
What joint programs exist or are planned in your country for cooperation with Central Asia?
Cooperation between Armenia and Central Asian countries can cover various aspects, including political, economic, cultural, and security cooperation. While Armenia is not geographically located in Central Asia, it has engaged in bilateral and multilateral cooperation with countries in the region. Here are some areas where cooperation can take place:
- Trade and Economic Cooperation: Armenia can develop trade and economic ties with Central Asian countries through increased bilateral trade, investment, and the establishment of joint ventures. Cooperation can focus on sectors such as agriculture, energy, tourism, and information technology.
- Transportation and Infrastructure: Armenia can collaborate with Central Asian countries on transportation projects, including the development of road and rail networks that enhance connectivity between the regions. This can facilitate trade and people-to-people exchanges.
- Energy Cooperation: Energy cooperation can involve the exchange of expertise and resources in the energy sector, such as sharing knowledge on renewable energy technologies and exploring opportunities for energy infrastructure projects.
- Cultural and Educational Exchanges: Promoting cultural and educational exchanges can enhance people-to-people ties between Armenia and Central Asian countries. This can include student exchanges, cultural festivals, art exhibitions, and academic collaborations.
- Security Cooperation: Armenia and Central Asian countries can cooperate on security matters, including sharing information and best practices to combat common challenges such as terrorism, transnational crime, and border security.
- Regional Organizations: Armenia is engaging with regional organizations in Central Asia, such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), which includes Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. This can provide a platform for dialogue, cooperation, and coordination on various regional issues.
- Political and Diplomatic Cooperation: Armenia and Central Asian countries can strengthen diplomatic ties through high-level visits, diplomatic consultations, and participation in regional forums. This can promote understanding and cooperation on regional and global issues.
It’s important to note that the extent and nature of cooperation would depend on the specific interests, priorities, and policies of the countries involved. Additionally, historical, geographical, and geopolitical factors may influence the level of engagement between Armenia and Central Asian countries.
Trade and economic cooperation between Armenia and Central Asian countries can provide mutual benefits and opportunities for growth. Here are some potential avenues for trade and economic cooperation:
- Bilateral Trade: Armenia can explore opportunities for increased bilateral trade with Central Asian countries, such as Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan. This can involve identifying products and services that can be mutually beneficial and facilitating trade agreements to reduce trade barriers.
- Investment and Joint Ventures: Encouraging investments and establishing joint ventures can promote economic cooperation. Armenian companies can invest in sectors like agriculture, mining, energy, and infrastructure in Central Asian countries, while Central Asian investors can explore opportunities in Armenia’s technology, tourism, and manufacturing sectors.
- Regional Integration: Armenia is a member of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), which includes Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan from Central Asia. Strengthening cooperation within the framework of the EAEU can facilitate trade and economic integration, including the removal of trade barriers and harmonization of regulations.
- Infrastructure Development: Cooperation in infrastructure projects can enhance connectivity and facilitate trade between Armenia and Central Asian countries. This can include developing transport networks, such as roads, railways, and logistical hubs, which can improve the efficiency of trade flows.
- Energy Cooperation: Armenia can explore opportunities for energy cooperation with Central Asian countries, such as the development of joint energy projects, including hydroelectric power plants and renewable energy initiatives. This can help meet energy demands, promote energy security, and foster sustainable development.
- Trade Facilitation and Logistics: Enhancing trade facilitation measures, such as simplifying customs procedures, improving transportation logistics, and reducing non-tariff barriers, can boost trade between Armenia and Central Asian countries. This can involve cooperation on trade-related infrastructure, customs regulations, and transportation networks.
- Business and Investment Forums: Organizing business and investment forums, trade fairs, and exhibitions can provide a platform for networking, showcasing products and services, and fostering business-to-business contacts between Armenian and Central Asian companies.
- Tourism and Cultural Exchanges: Promoting tourism and cultural exchanges between Armenia and Central Asian countries can contribute to economic growth. Encouraging tourism flows, promoting heritage and cultural sites, and facilitating travel can enhance people-to-people interactions and stimulate economic activity in the tourism sector.
Overall, trade and economic cooperation between Armenia and Central Asian countries can create opportunities for market diversification, knowledge sharing, and economic development. It is essential for both sides to foster an enabling business environment, promote dialogue, and identify areas of mutual interest to maximize the potential benefits of such cooperation.
Can the EU help this rapprochement? Do you consider such cooperation beneficial for your country?
The European Union (EU) can play a role in encouraging cooperation between Armenia and Central Asian countries by providing support and creating favorable conditions for trade and economic engagement:
- Trade Agreements and Preferences: The EU can negotiate and facilitate trade agreements or preferential trade arrangements with both Armenia and Central Asian countries. These agreements can reduce trade barriers, provide tariff concessions, and establish a predictable and transparent trade framework, encouraging increased trade flows between the parties.
- Technical Assistance and Capacity Building: The EU can offer technical assistance and capacity-building programs to Armenia and Central Asian countries. This can include support in areas such as trade facilitation, customs procedures, standards and regulations, and market access. Building the capacity of institutions and fostering knowledge exchange can help enhance trade capabilities and promote economic cooperation.
- Financing and Investment Support: The EU can provide financial assistance and investment support to Armenia and Central Asian countries. This can involve funding infrastructure projects, offering loans or grants, and supporting investment initiatives. Such financial assistance can help improve connectivity, infrastructure development, and attract investments from both sides.
- Regional Integration Initiatives: The EU can promote regional integration initiatives between Armenia and Central Asian countries. This can involve facilitating dialogue, cooperation, and coordination between relevant regional organizations, such as the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) program. Supporting regional integration efforts can foster economic cooperation and stability.
- Exchange Programs and Networks: The EU can encourage exchange programs, study visits, and networking opportunities between Armenia, Central Asian countries, and EU member states. These initiatives can promote knowledge sharing, business-to-business contacts, and cultural exchanges, enhancing understanding and cooperation between the regions.
- Support for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs): The EU can provide support for SME development in Armenia and Central Asian countries. This can include capacity building, access to finance, business development services, and training programs. Strengthening the SME sector can contribute to economic growth, job creation, and trade diversification.
- Promoting Sustainable Development: The EU can advocate for sustainable development practices in cooperation projects between Armenia, Central Asian countries, and the EU. This can include incorporating environmental and social considerations into infrastructure projects, supporting green technologies and renewable energy initiatives, and promoting responsible business practices.
It is important to note that the EU’s involvement should be based on the interests and priorities of the parties involved, respecting their sovereignty and autonomy. The EU can act as a facilitator, providing support, expertise, and a platform for dialogue, while allowing the countries to determine the nature and extent of their cooperation.
Author Narine Petrosyan, analyst of the “Enlight” Public Research Center NGO
Original source: Strategeast