Uzbek­istan Is a Spe­cial Coun­try for Me

Uzbekistan Today (English) - - МИР WORLD -

In early Novem­ber, Pres­i­dent of the Repub­lic of Latvia Rai­monds Ve­jo­nis as­sured the head of our state that friendly re­la­tions be­tween Latvia and Uzbek­istan will flour­ish. Such a state­ment was made in a mes­sage on the oc­ca­sion of the 25th an­niver­sary of the es­tab­lish­ment of diplo­matic re­la­tions be­tween our two coun­tries. To­day we have a guest - the new Am­bas­sador Ex­tra­or­di­nary and Plenipo­ten­tiary of Latvia Mikhails Pop­kovs, who can tell us how to achieve that goal.

- Mr. Pop­kovs, in Tashkent you have been work­ing since Au­gust, and the pe­riod of your ser­vice as Am­bas­sador has co­in­cided with a very ac­tive stage of re­form­ing in Uzbek­istan. What do you think about th­ese changes, be­cause to­day there are not so many coun­tries in the world where prac­ti­cally ev­ery sphere of life is ac­tively trans­form­ing?

- I have been work­ing in Uzbek­istan since quite re­cently, for about three months. Prior to that, I had headed diplo­matic mis­sions in Ukraine, Be­larus, Azer­bai­jan, worked in our Em­bassy in Turkey. In gen­eral, I have suf­fi­cient ex­pe­ri­ence in the CIS coun­tries. But as for Cen­tral Asia, Uzbek­istan is the first coun­try.

Al­though for me it is a spe­cial coun­try be­cause I was born and spent my child­hood here. I hope that my knowl­edge of men­tal­ity, cul­ture of the peo­ple and pos­i­tive im­pres­sions formed in my child­hood will help in my work.

I have not been in Uzbek­istan for more than 40 years, so es­sen­tially I came to another coun­try, it changed very much. I see that the coun­try is de­vel­op­ing, Tashkent has changed be­yond recog­ni­tion. Dur­ing this time, we man­aged to make a short visit to Sa­markand, tim­ing with the cel­e­bra­tion of In­de­pen­dence Day, and the city was stun­ningly beau­ti­ful. Al­though it is an­cient with amaz­ing his­tor­i­cal mon­u­ments, nev­er­the­less it has also been trans­formed. It can be seen that the rapid devel­op­ment is not lim­ited to the cap­i­tal; the coun­try is de­vel­op­ing as a whole and very in­ten­sively.

Due to the lit­tle ex­pe­ri­ence that I al­ready have dur­ing th­ese two-odd months, I want to un­der­line the re­forms im­ple­mented un­der the lead­er­ship of Pres­i­dent Shavkat Mirziy­oyev. They have ef­fect on vir­tu­ally ev­ery sphere of public life in the coun­try. Es­pe­cially im­por­tant, in my opin­ion, is the lib­er­al­iza­tion of mon­e­tary pol­icy, which not only opens up op­por­tu­ni­ties for at­tract­ing in­vest­ments and de­vel­op­ing ex­ports, but also, on the whole, will im­prove the busi­ness en­vi­ron­ment.

I should note that Uzbek­istan is Latvia’s lead­ing part­ner in Cen­tral Asia, there­fore the Em­bassy in Tashkent is a re­gional one, and from here we are in charge of co­op­er­a­tion with two other coun­tries of the re­gion - Ta­jik­istan and Turk­menistan.

- What do you think are the pri­or­ity chal­lenges fac­ing our coun­tries that await so­lu­tion, so that re­la­tions re­ally be­come pros­per­ous?

- The other day we marked a sig­nif­i­cant date - 25 years from the date of es­tab­lish­ment of diplo­matic re­la­tions. Per­haps, his­tor­i­cally, this is a small time in­ter­val, but for us this is a very sig­nif­i­cant pe­riod of devel­op­ment of in­ter­ac­tion. Dur­ing this time we have come a long way in the for­ma­tion of mu­tu­ally ben­e­fi­cial friendly re­la­tions. First of all, they are based on deep re­spect for each other’s in­ter­ests, es­tab­lish­ing ties and de­vel­op­ing con­tacts in var­i­ous fields.

The most suc­cess­ful and fruit­fully de­vel­oped is the po­lit­i­cal di­a­logue. Suf­fice it to say that in 25 years the Pres­i­dent of Uzbek­istan vis­ited our coun­try three times, and Pres­i­dents of the Repub­lic of Latvia trav­eled to Uzbek­istan also three times with a state visit. As far as we know, no such coun­try of the Euro­pean Union has had such an ac­tive ex­change of vis­its at the high­est level. This shows the high level of our re­la­tions, pri­mar­ily in the con­text of main­tain­ing po­lit­i­cal di­a­logue.

I can­not fail to note a lot of con­tacts at the par­lia­men­tary and gov­ern­men­tal lev­els. The joint in­ter­gov­ern­men­tal com­mis­sion in the field of econ­omy, science and cul­ture worked pro­duc­tively and ef­fec­tively.

As you can see, the coun­tries over this pe­riod have cre­ated a solid base, in­clud­ing the le­gal one, which al­lows us to look to the fu­ture with con­fi­dence and con­tinue to work both in the ar­eas where there is al­ready a suc­cess­ful ex­pe­ri­ence of co­op­er­a­tion and to seek new mu­tu­ally ben­e­fi­cial spheres.

I want to em­pha­size that the ef­forts of our state bod­ies were sup­ple­mented by public or peo­ple’s diplo­macy, which in­cludes cul­tural and hu­man­i­tar­ian bonds.

Ed­u­ca­tion is one of the bright­est spheres of our re­la­tions. The num­ber of Uzbek stu­dents in Latvia is con­stantly grow­ing. In re­cent years, it has in­creased sev­eral times.

The de­mand for higher ed­u­ca­tion in Latvia is en­cour­ag­ing. Well, for us, di­plo­mats, this is pri­mar­ily ad­di­tional work re­lated to visa is­sues and the con­sid­er­a­tion of ap­pli­ca­tions for res­i­dence per­mits. There­fore, we have plans to im­prove it, to carry out the re­con­struc­tion of the con­sular depart­ment in or­der to in­crease the ca­pac­ity and to en­sure com­fort­able con­di­tions for visitors.

We plan to con­tinue ac­tive cul­tural ex­change in the next year. In ad­di­tion, in 2018, the 100th an­niver­sary of the found­ing of the Repub­lic of Latvia will be cel­e­brated. This is a great event, a se­ri­ous cul­tural pro­gram is be­ing pre­pared, which will be im­ple­mented in the part­ner coun­tries. To­day, at the stage of dis­cus­sion with Uzbek friends are is­sues of cul­tural events in Tashkent and other re­gions of Uzbek­istan.

The first half of 2018 also in­cludes plans of visit by the chair­man of the Saeima of Latvia to Uzbek­istan. We also hope for gov­ern­ment con­tacts. Re­cently, our Min­is­ter of En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion and Re­gional Devel­op­ment Kas­pars Ger­hards vis­ited Uzbek­istan. We have a num­ber of pro­grams that are im­ple­mented in this field with the par­tic­i­pa­tion of Lat­vian ex­perts. By the way, re­cently an in­ter­na­tional round­table on im­ple­men­ta­tion of re­gional re­forms was held in Tashkent. Ex­perts from the Min­istry of En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion and Re­gional Devel­op­ment also par­tic­i­pated in it.

At one time in Latvia, we have come a long way in var­i­ous is­sues of im­ple­ment­ing re­gional re­forms and are pleased to have the op­por­tu­nity to share our ex­pe­ri­ence with Uzbek friends. In gen­eral, the is­sues of re­gional devel­op­ment are very im­por­tant for each coun­try, from how the so­cial se­cu­rity pro­gram is im­ple­mented there, the in­fras­truc­ture is de­vel­op­ing, how ef­fec­tively the lo­cal au­thor­i­ties work, the mood and well-be­ing of peo­ple, their power as­sess­ment in­dex as a whole, de­pend much on how ef­fi­ciently lo­cal bod­ies work.

Con­vinced that we have se­ri­ous achieve­ments, and in this di­rec­tion the work will con­tinue. Nat­u­rally, a lot de­pends on high-level vis­its, and we cer­tainly hope for them, be­cause they give a pos­i­tive at­ti­tude and cre­ate a fa­vor­able at­mos­phere for the fur­ther pros­per­ity of re­la­tions. In gen­eral, we are very op­ti­mistic about the fu­ture of our re­la­tions, given the solid le­gal frame­work that we have cre­ated over the past 25 years, the high level of po­lit­i­cal di­a­logue and mu­tual un­der­stand­ing be­tween the lead­ers of our coun­tries. And I am glad that op­ti­mism is based on con­crete deeds and con­crete projects.

- The Min­is­ter of For­eign Trade of Uzbek­istan, Elyor Ganiev, has re­peat­edly noted that trans­port and lo­gis­tics are fields that will pro­mote fur­ther growth of trade. By the way, this fig­ure in 2016 in­creased by 66.5% and amounted to ap­prox­i­mately $ 300 mil­lion. But this is still very small. And can you name other ar­eas than trans­port and lo­gis­tics that can pos­i­tively ef­fect this fig­ure?

- In ad­di­tion to lo­gis­tics and trans­port, I can name en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion, var­i­ous ar­eas of in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy, trade, agri­cul­ture, green tech­nolo­gies and Lat­vian ex­pe­ri­ence in im­ple­ment­ing ad­min­is­tra­tive re­forms, which, in our view, is very rel­e­vant for Uzbek­istan to­day, as promis­ing ar­eas for co­op­er­a­tion. By the way, I want to em­pha­size that we co­op­er­ate with Uzbek part­ners in those ar­eas where the prac­ti­cal im­pact of our in­ter­ac­tion is most ef­fec­tive. And we are ready to share not only pos­i­tive ex­pe­ri­ence of re­forms, but also to talk about the prob­lems and dif­fi­cul­ties that we en­coun­tered on this path and even, per­haps, some mis­takes that we made be­cause the ex­pe­ri­ence of re­forms is al­ways com­plex and am­bigu­ous.

Ear­lier this year, Uzbek­istan reg­is­tered the rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the Lat­vian Clin­tex clus­ter - an as­so­ci­a­tion of the largest or­ga­ni­za­tions that are en­gaged in green tech­nolo­gies, i.e. is­sues of en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion, the im­pact of in­dus­trial en­ter­prises on the en­vi­ron­ment, sewage treat­ment. They have iden­ti­fied the devel­op­ment of green en­ergy, the ef­fec­tive use of wa­ter re­sources, which is very im­por­tant for the Repub­lic of Uzbek­istan to­day.

And within the frame­work of this clus­ter we in­tend to closely co­op­er­ate. In par­tic­u­lar, in late Novem­ber - early De­cem­ber, we plan to make a visit to­gether with rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the clus­ter to Bukhara, Navoi and Karshi. And there al­ready on the ground will be dis­cussed spe­cific projects.

Co­op­er­a­tion not only bi­lat­eral co­op­er­a­tion plays a sig­nif­i­cant role in co­op­er­a­tion, but also Latvia’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in mul­ti­lat­eral projects in the frame­work of pro­grams im­ple­mented by the Euro­pean Union, the United Na­tions, USAID. In other words, we are lead­ing part­ners in the im­ple­men­ta­tion of th­ese pro­grams in a num­ber of ar­eas. For ex­am­ple, in BOMCA, the EU’s pro­gram for ef­fec­tive border con­trol and man­age­ment. It has a long his­tory, at the mo­ment its ninth stage is be­ing re­al­ized. In my opin­ion, even for Uzbek­istan, the is­sue of border con­trol is quite rel­e­vant. Last week, a sem­i­nar was held in Tashkent with the par­tic­i­pa­tion of a rep­re­sen­ta­tive del­e­ga­tion of Latvia, which in­cluded ex­perts from the border, mi­gra­tion ser­vices, and the IT sec­tor.

As you can see, the def­i­ni­tion of gained great po­ten­tial in the po­lit­i­cal, eco­nomic and cul­tural spheres is not just words, they are based on spe­cific con­tent.

But re­gard­ing eco­nomic re­la­tions and co­op­er­a­tion of our busi­ness­men, I must say that the dy­nam­ics here are am­bigu­ous. If in 2016 the turnover of goods was reg­is­tered by about 42%, then this year we see a slow­down in pos­i­tive dy­nam­ics. The ex­pla­na­tion for this is not an easy one; it’s a sep­a­rate is­sue, which is con­nected with lo­gis­tics, tran­sit and, of course, in­vest­ments.

How­ever, it is pos­i­tive that the mu­tual in­ter­est is grow­ing, on the part of Lat­vian en­trepreneurs; we see a sig­nif­i­cant in­crease in in­ter­est in co­op­er­a­tion and joint projects in Uzbek­istan, es­pe­cially in re­cent months, when a large-scale re­form be­gan to lib­er­al­ize for­eign trade ac­tiv­i­ties.

Af­ter all, mu­tual in­vest­ments di­rectly af­fect the in­crease in trade turnover. By the way, we have a num­ber of in­vest­ment projects in the tex­tile in­dus­try and phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals. Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal prod­ucts have al­ways been a sig­nif­i­cant part of Lat­vian ex­ports to Uzbek­istan. In this seg­ment, co­op­er­a­tion con­tin­ues and, we hope, will de­velop in a pos­i­tive di­rec­tion. At present, the cre­ation of joint projects in Uzbek­istan for the lo­cal­iza­tion of prod­ucts, which could be ex­ported to the world mar­ket, is be­ing dis­cussed.

By the way, in the field of joint ven­ture cre­ation we have an ex­cel­lent ex­pe­ri­ence. For ex­am­ple, at the ex­hi­bi­tion EXPO2017 in As­tana in the Uzbek pav­il­ion the prod­ucts of a joint Lat­vian-Uzbek en­ter­prise - elec­tric car were pre­sented. We can be proud of the fact that the joint ven­ture in a short time was able to cre­ate a prod­uct that Uzbek­istan con­sid­ered it pos­si­ble to present at a world­wide ex­hi­bi­tion.

We place great hopes on trad­ing houses. At the end of Au­gust, within the frame­work of the meet­ing of the In­ter­gov­ern­men­tal Com­mis­sion, it was an­nounced the es­tab­lish­ment of a Trade House in Latvia, which would spe­cial­ize in ex­port­ing Uzbek fruit and veg­etable prod­ucts. The in­crease in ex­ports in this sec­tor is very im­por­tant for Uzbek­istan; Pres­i­dent Shavkat Mirziy­oyev put this task be­fore the gov­ern­ment.

The trad­ing house is con­ceived as a kind of hub with well-thought-out lo­gis­tics, ca­pa­cious spe­cial­ized ware­hous­ing fa­cil­i­ties, and the cre­ation in Uzbek­istan of a lab­o­ra­tory for cer­ti­fi­ca­tion of prod­ucts supplied to Euro­pean mar­kets. That is, it will be a trade hub from where fruit and veg­etable prod­ucts could en­ter the Baltic mar­kets and fur­ther to the mar­kets of Europe, pri­mar­ily the North.

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