On November 18, 2022, the ancient city of Samarkand, will host another important summit and will once again reveal to the whole world that it has become an important platform where regional-global issues are discussed. The summit in question will be held under the title of “European Union (EU)-Central Asia Connectivity Conference: Global Gateway”. Thus, the conference in Samarkand will be the first gathering following the adoption of the EU’s “Global Gateway Strategy” on December 1, 2021.
The summit will bring together the leaders of Central Asian countries and the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Joseph Borrell, as a result of the President of Uzbekistan, Mr. Shavkat Mirziyoyev’s constructive efforts. In his article on the meeting, Borrell stated that three main themes will be discussed at the summit. These themes are transportation link, energy link and digital link. Essentially, these three themes make it possible to understand the EU’s opening to Central Asia.
Currently, the most important agenda item of the EU is overcoming the energy crisis caused by the Russia-Ukraine War. In this context, the association continues to seek alternative energy suppliers. In this regard, Central Asia stands out both in terms of its rich resources and in terms of the safe, short and low-cost route it offers through the Middle Corridor. Therefore, it can be stated that the main issue on Borrell’s agenda is the intensification of Caspian-based energy projects.
Another agenda item is transportation corridors due to the importance of establishing the connection between Asia and Europe, and especially between China, one of the world’s production workshops, and Europe. As a matter of fact, considering the congestion in the Northern Corridor due to the Russia-Ukraine War, it can be said that strategies to use the Middle Corridor much more effectively are important for the EU. Undoubtedly, such a vitality in the Middle Corridor is also in the interests of the regional states. Because Central Asian states are in an effort to attract foreign investment. Strengthening transport links will mean deepening of economic relations. This means that the contribution of the EU to the development of the region will increase even more.
Between 2014 and 2020, the EU provided 1.1 billion Euros to Central Asian countries through various funds. It is foreseen that this figure will be 390 million Euros between 2021-2024. The strengthening of transport and energy connectivity can be interpreted as increasing the trade volume in relations, as well as aiding much more than the stated amounts due to the aid to be provided for the development of infrastructures. The process initiated through the EU-Central Asia Economic Forum and as well as the inaugural meeting scheduled for 5 November 2021 in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, confirm this.
The main purpose of the reform processes currently carried out by the countries of the region is to create a prosperous future for their people. It can be said that the reforms carried out in this context have the aim of liberalization and their direction is the West. Therefore, it can be argued that the relations that will deepen through the energy and transportation corridors will serve the expectations of the region regarding the development goals. As a matter of fact, Borrell expressed his support for the reforms made by the regional states.
At this point, it is possible to interpret the Trans-Afghan route within the framework of the Middle Corridor when the issue of the security of the corridors is on the agenda more frequently. At the same time, the security of the corridors requires the stability of Central Asia. For this reason, it can be stated that the Afghan Question will also be discussed at the summit. In this context, it can be said that in line with the general approach of the Central Asian states, projects that will bring Afghanistan to the table of international cooperation will be on the agenda and it will focus on humanitarian aid activities aimed at increasing stability in the country in question. In his statement on the issue, Borrell said, “we want to speed up our cooperation on the situation in Afghanistan.”
The third theme to be discussed within the scope of the summit is the digitalization of economies and societies in accordance with the requirements of today. Because with globalization, access to information becomes easier all over the world, and digital systems also contribute to the elimination of paperwork in the service of states to their citizens through systems such as e-government. A similar issue exists in banking, security, and so on, and digitization affects every element of life in some manner. However, it is obvious that digitalization includes various threats, especially cyber terrorism. In this sense, Europe wants to present its technological level as a tool that contributes to the digitalization of Central Asia and to increase its influence in the region in this way. This is why this issue was one of the main themes of the conference in Samarkand.
In addition to all these, it was announced at the Samarkand Summit that in the context of climate change, which is another global problem, green economy targets will also be evaluated. Although the EU’s dependence on fossil fuels is the determining factor in the Central Asian orientation of the EU, both the states of the union and the region are determined to reach their climate targets in the medium and long term. Therefore, the green economy goal is a factor that contributes to the development of the union’s relations with the regional capitals.
In conclusion, the EU-Central Asia Connectivity Conference, which will take place on 18 November 2022, indicates that the links between Central Asia and the EU in the fields of transportation, energy and digitalization will be strengthened. Moreover, this is not just for EU-Central Asia connectivity; it shows that important opportunities have emerged that can contribute to the East-West interaction, especially through the Middle Corridor. Therefore, the issue of the security of the corridors, which came to the fore with the Russia-Ukraine War, has made Caspian-based initiatives more important than ever. For this reason, the EU is accelerating the “Central Asian Initiative”.
 Joseph Borrell, “Josep Borrell: We Are Well Underway To Build A Stronger, Broader, More Modern Partnership with the Five Countries of Central Asia.”, EEAS, https://www.eeas.europa.eu/delegations/uzbekistan/josep-borrell-we-are-well-underway-build-stronger-broader-more-modern_en, (Date of Accession: 15.11.2022).
 “Central Asia: Remarks by High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell to the Press”, EEAS, https://www.eeas.europa.eu/eeas/central-asia-remarks-high-representativevice-president-josep-borrell-press_en, (Date of Accession 15.11.2022).
 Borrell, op. cit.