The EU should avoid creating new “dependencies” and offer an alternative to partner countries, reshape its diplomatic approach after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, declared in an interview with EURICTV on the sidelines of the ministerial summit “European Union – Central Asia”, which is taking place in Samarkand, the bloc’s chief diplomat Josep Borrell.

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“We are not looking to crowd out other partnerships and certainly not interested in creating new dependencies,” Borrell said, when asked if he saw a risk that the Europeans might repeat their mistakes with Russia in relations with China.

According to him, the bloc should stop concentrating the supply of raw materials and goods on one single supplier. “That’s the lesson I think we’ve learned from gas crisis“, he stressed.

“We will always have dependencies – we cannot go from an open to a closed market overnight, we need a balanced approach,” Borrell explained. “We need to learn to adapt.”

“It is worth paying attention to how quickly Europe adapts, and how quickly we moved from 40% to 7% dependence on Russian gas“, – he said.

Speaking about relations with Central Asia, Borrell noted that the countries of this region want to have such relations with Europe that could balance other players.

“But if we do nothing, then of course others will have more influence than we do,” Borrell said.

The war in Ukraine, long considered part of Russia’s sphere of influence, has led to a change in the position of Central Asian governments, which quietly drifted away from Moscow and began to look for opportunities to cooperate with other countries.

“A year ago we were invited to a Southeast Asia liaison summit with our Russian and Chinese counterparts – they were surprised by the EU’s presence,” Borrell said. “But this week the conference in Samarkand was only between us, which is a political signal that the EU and Central Asia want to work together,” he stressed.

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Borrell, however, acknowledged that “for most of our Central Asian partners this is a very delicate situation” based on their economic, cultural, political and demographic ties with Russia, but they also advocate the idea of ​​territorial integrity and oppose the use of their territory. to circumvent Western sanctions.

Asked if he really sees the EU as an attractive partner for Central Asia, Borrell said the EU’s new linkage strategy, dubbed Global Gateway“this is our way of showing political presence and ambition.”

If we want to exist in a political sense, we have to do something – that’s why we stand for the Global Gateway for everyone who is interested in it, and they are interested because they need a counterweight,” he said.

However, the €300 billion initiative has been criticized for not providing enough financial strength to counter China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

“It is true that the Global Gateway is only at the beginning of its journey,” Borrell said, adding that, however, “at the moment we are already the most important investor in Central Asia collectively, and this will continue.”

“We are here to spark a momentum for greater engagement because we are still a first customer, but China is just on our heels,” he added.

According to Borrell, “It’s not just about ‘good’ or ‘bad’ partners.

“When COVID-19 hit, we realized that we weren’t making paracetamol, but it was being made in India, which is a reliable supplier under normal conditions, but becomes an unreliable supplier in a crisis,” Borrell said. “That’s why we need diversification, more partnerships and a set of tools to ensure that new dependencies and new needs are met in a more sustainable way in the future.”

Our dependence on Russian gas was also sold as pragmatism by some in the beginning. — ignoring who Putin is, what he does, and in favor of cheap gas — so let’s not be too pragmatic“, he urged.

Asked if he thinks the EU’s attitude to power has changed, Borrell recalled that the bloc “cannot pretend to behave like a state” and its diplomacy is “a patchwork of 27 member states”. “.

“But there is a lot we can do with our persuasion potential, and we have to do it. Strength is not only military power,” he stressed.

Recall, Borrell during the meeting in Samarkand noted the importance of creating a Trans-Caspian transport corridor bypassing Russia and the role of the Central Asian states as suppliers of energy and other strategic resources.

From November 17, 2022, a ministerial meeting in the format “European Union – Central Asia” is being held in Samarkand.

The ministers of the countries of Central Asia and the European Union discussed the current state of relations and prospects for strengthening cooperation between the two regions in the political, trade-economic and water-energy fields, as well as security issues, combating terrorism and extremism, climate change and exchanged views on international and regional topics.