On December 8, Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio and Undersecretary Manlio Di Stefano travelled to Tashkent, Uzbekistan, to chair the second Italy-Central Asia Conference in the 1+5 format (Italy + Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan).
The Conference ensured continuity of the diplomatic action aimed at strengthening Italy’s presence in the region and in each of the 5 participating countries, adopting a regional approach that respects the specificities of each one.
As researcher Davide Cancarini explains in a report written for The Oxus Society, “once limited to energy, Italian ties to the region have grown exponentially covering business, economics, and security. Exactly one year ago, Italy even became the first European country to organize a multilateral foreign ministerial conference with the five republics in Rome”. Italy’s goal is to position itself as a privileged interlocutor in the region, while strengthening its presence on Asian markets.
The Foreign Ministers of the six states and the EU Special Representative for Central Asia, Ambassador Hakala, travelled to Uzbekistan to attend the conference. The meetings focused on the analysis of new opportunities and current challenges, with particular reference to Afghanistan, the development of economic and trade cooperation between Italy and Central Asia and the strengthening of international cooperation in the fight against the pandemic.
On the Italian side, participants included the President of the National Institute of Public Health, Silvio Brusaferro; the President of the Italian Trade Agency, Carlo Maria Ferro; the CEO of SIMEST, Mauro Alfonso, as well as senior officials from SACE, the Italian federation of employers Confindustria and research institute The European House Ambrosetti, which held a presentation titled “Italy is back on track: recovery, resilience and attractiveness”.
The economic session, moderated by Uzbekistan’s Deputy Minister for Investment and Foreign Trade, Obidov, and by Deputy Minister Di Stefano, presented the key promotional and financial tools available to companies to further develop economic cooperation between Italy and Central Asia.
The session dedicated to the fight against the pandemic shared opportunities for training and research in the field of public health and healthcare.
On the side-lines of the event, Minister Di Maio met separately with his counterparts present at the Conference, with whom he discussed the main aspects of bilateral relations on the eve of the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations in 2022. It was agreed to strengthen existing partnerships, giving priority to the political, economic and cultural dimensions.
The Foreign Minister also had an in-depth exchange of views on Afghanistan, bearing in mind that, for geographical reasons, the countries of Central Asia are among those most exposed to the consequences of the crisis.
Last but not least, a round table was dedicated to scientific and academic cooperation between Italy and Central Asia. The event was organised by the Marco Polo Research Centre of Ca’ Foscari University of Venice and the International Institute Center for Global Europe-Asia Connections in Tashkent.
The debate addressed issues such as the protection and promotion of cultural heritage, inclusive and sustainable development and prospects for further development of academic cooperation.