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European expert suggests creating EU Regional Chamber of Commerce in CA

5 April 2019 14:53

BRUSSELS. KAZINFORM - Andreas Marazis, Researcher at the European Neighborhood Council, suggested establishing the EU Regional Chamber of Commerce in Central Asia and the EU-Central Asia think tank during the panel discussion on the future of EU-Central Asia relations in Brussels, Kazinform correspondent reports.

The event was organized by the Trans European Policy Studies Association (TEPSA) and the Strengthening and Energizing EU-Central Asia Relations Project (SEnECA).

The panel discussion brought together reps of European institutions, diplomatic corps, non-governmental organizations, and mass media.

"The EU should only invest in regional cooperation if there is a genuine interest from Central Asia. This means that topics need to be right and the cooperation flexible in terms of process and participation," Marazis told the participants of the panel discussion.

He reminded that last year the EU came up with the EU-ASIA Connectivity Strategy which will become the backbone of the EU strategy for Central Asia.

"An element of connectivity tailored to the region in the new EU strategy for Central Asia is more likely to bring concrete results in terms of connecting Europeans and Central Asians," he noted.

Marazis believes that EU connectivity efforts should focus on local and regional trade development, as well as border management, with a view to eliminating trade barriers.

"Only if local trade is facilitated and boosted will Central Asians be able to connect to European markets," he said.

Marazis paid utmost attention to two types of regional cooperation frameworks - a renewable energy initiative and a ‘connectivity' program that is concretely linked to rule of trade.

"Central Asian states are aware that energy diversification lies at the heart of the much-needed economic diversification. Moreover, they are keen to attract European energy investments and know-how," the researcher pointed out.

He called on the EU to encourage European companies to invest in renewable energy in Central Asia and create synergies with other partners such as Japan and the Republic of Korea.

According to Marazis, countries that are keen to commit to actual reform could work in bilateral renewable energy projects, as well as on energy efficiency, waste management, and recycling.

In his words, the five Central Asian countries do less than 1/10th of their total foreign trade with one another. The EU-Central Asia connectivity program should emphasize trade development.

"The EU is well-positioned in this area; it is seen as a trusted partner from whom Central Asia hopes to receive more investments," stressed Marazis, adding that Brussels could help Central Asian countries in terms of diversification of their economies and fight against corruption.

"A way to start could be to establish a regional Chamber of Commerce that would offer know-how and advice, while also organizing trade fairs and business for a," he suggested.

Its core task would be to help countries streamline investment rules, while actively bringing investors and local parties together.

Marazis also believes that BOMCA should be part of a regional security component but, foremost, of a connectivity programme given its potential trade facilitation role.

At the same time, according to Marazis, the EU should increase its support for research in the region.

"The current occasional work of some European and Central Asian think tanks and short-term projects on EU-Central Asia relations are simply not enough," he emphasized.

"There is a clear need for more knowledge on Central Asian societies, especially in relation to security issues and complex economic realities on the ground," he said.

A concrete step, in his words, would be the establishment and funding of a Central Asia-Europe think tank by the EU, which should be based in the region while having institutional links with European think tanks, in order to develop research that can inform policy-makers while, at the same time, strengthen ties between Central Asian and European researchers.