Located at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, Central Asia plays a strategic role in promoting Euro – Asian connectivity, fostering peace and regional security. The EU, together with partners, contributes to these efforts and supports a broad range of sustainable connectivity projects in Central Asia and Afghanistan. Cross border cooperation, energy connections, as well as people-to-people contacts bring benefits to the countries of the region.
The Border Management Programme – together to security and sustainable development
One of the most successful regional programmes supported by the EU is the Border Management Programme in Central Asia (BOMCA). Since 2003, it is providing support in the five Central Asian States to address regional border security challenges. The Programme aims to improve cross-border cooperation and border management systems, strengthen institutional capacities and facilitate trade, based on international standards and best EU practice.
Since April 2021, the 10th phase of the programme, BOMCA 10, integrates Afghanistan, acknowledging the importance of border security in the country for the stability of the whole region. The EU-funded programme in Central Asia and Afghanistan (EUR 21.7 million) aims at improving border management, enhancing the fight against drug smuggling and trafficking as well as facilitating movement of goods and cargo across the borders to promote intra-regional trade. Building on the success of the previous phases, BOMCA 10 will boost connectivity in the region and will play a key role in fostering regional dialogue and ensuring peace and security in the region.
More than 3,300 state officials from the Central Asian beneficiary agencies were already engaged in BOMCA 9, and 223 individual activities were completed between 2015 and 2020. The Central Asian countries have benefited from assistance with the surveillance and control type equipment for the border checkpoints and modern technologies for the training entities. At the start of COVID-19 pandemic, BOMCA also gave its support and provided protective equipment for border guards.
Supporting the Economic Empowerment of Afghan Women through Education and Training
In Afghanistan, due to poverty, gender stereotypes, harmful social norms or security concerns, girls face challenges in accessing education. As they grow up, women face disproportionate barriers to education compared to men and endure persisting stereotypes that prevent them from attending university, realising their potential and pursuing economic opportunities. Less than 30 percent of the labour force in Afghanistan are women.
“*So many obstacles had to be overcome on my path to acquiring a technical degree. I am convinced that if women push forward hard enough, they have the power to change the world and to make it a better place for today and for future generations*”, says Asifa Afzali, an Afghan student from the Mining Faculty at Satbayev University, Almaty.
The EU-funded project on “Empowering Afghan Women”, implemented by the UNDP helps them fulfil their dreams and aspirations. Until 2025, 50 Afghan women will receive scholarships to pursue degree studies in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, and complete their studies. Women, participating in the programme, will be equipped with adequate employment skills. They will enhance their employability and increase their chances of getting decent jobs. Upon returning to their homeland, empowered women will have the potential to contribute to Afghanistan’s economy and their livelihoods.
The Central Asia-South Asia Electricity Transmission Project – improving electricity access for greater living conditions and development
In Central Asia, the Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan have some of the world’s most abundant clean hydropower resources, enabling them to enjoy a surplus of electricity during the summer season. On the contrary, the South Asian countries of Afghanistan and Pakistan suffer from chronic electricity shortages and struggle to meet their citizens’ electricity needs, facing a growing demand. Altogether, non-access to electricity and frequent power cuts are detrimental to the citizens’ quality of life, business and industry.
The Central Asia-South Asia Electricity Transmission Project (CASA-1000), supported by the European Investment Bank (EIB) and other lending institutions, connects the four countries to create the conditions for sustainable electricity trade and regional autonomy. CASA-1000 helps the two Central Asian countries to make the most efficient use of clean hydropower resources through the transfer and sell of their electricity surplus. The project includes construction of high voltage transmission infrastructure as well as technical assistance and community support programs.
By enabling to fill the electricity supply gaps in the South Asian countries and increasing export revenues for Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, the project helps alleviate poverty in some of the poorest parts of the world and encourage economic growth. It complements the countries’ efforts to improve electricity access, integrate, and expand markets to increase trade. The project enhances energy security and regional stability, and paves the way for the creation of a regional electricity market.
The EU stands committed to maintaining this level of engagement in the region and supporting its partners with its expertise, investment, norms and standards, for the benefit of the people and of the region.