Germany and the EU are ready to help the Central Asian countries improve the region’s water management. Minister of State Gernot Erler underlined this during the second EU-Central Asia conference at ministerial level in Brussels. In 2008 Germany, already recognizing
the problem, started the Central Asia Water Initiative.
For Erler the water problem in the region is one of the central security issues in Central Asia alongside the economic and financial crisis. While there were many initiatives, commissions and international arrangements, he said, there was still conflict in the region about water as a resource.
Central Asia is one of the regions which, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), will be most severely affected by global warming and the related effects on the local water cycle. Regional cooperation between the Central Asian countries to protect and jointly use that resource is only just beginning.
For Erler one thing is clear, “An equitable solution must be based on equal consideration for the interests of all countries concerned as well as on universally recognized principles and the relevant international conventions.” It was obvious that the task was not to impose solutions on the Central Asian countries, and there was no intention, Erler went on, to further politicize the water issue.
During Germany’s Council Presidency in 2007 the European Union for the first time drew up a Strategy on Central Asia, which devotes special attention to the themes of water and the environment and proposes a regional approach to the cross-border challenges of water shortage and environmental pollution. That approach includes the promotion of integrated water management, broad support for promoting and protecting water resources, and close cooperation on climate protection.
Minister of State Erler underlined Germany’s efforts to tackle the region’s water problem and pointed to the German-led Central Asia Water Initiative which was set in motion in 2008, saying, “We do not want to implement these projects alone but in coordination with other partners, with the EU above all, of course, but also with the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), which as co-implementer is already closely involved in our project work.”
Regional cooperation can work
Erler emphasized that no-one today can claim to have revolutionary solutions. The task was rather, he went on, to give the Central Asian countries a helping hand so as to enable them to achieve their own sustainable political solution as quickly as possible. He particularly called for giving regional institutions real decision-making powers and sanction options. There were some examples of successful regional cooperation, he continued.
Erler represented Germany at the second EU Foreign Ministerial Conference with the five Central Asian states. He also had bilateral talks with the foreign ministers of Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan as well as with the deputy foreign minister of Kazakhstan.
In addition to cooperation in the area of water and energy management, the meeting focused on security policy issues and the effects of the economic and financial crisis on the region.
On the sidelines of the Ministerial Conference, Erler also met the director of the Europe and Central Asia division of Human Rights Watch to discuss the human rights situation in Russia and the Central Asian states.