It is appropriate that the word “Regional” is at the centre of our deliberations on Central Asia. The countries are diverse in many ways — and the development approaches there must be sensitive to divergent requirements. But these countries also have a common historical experience, including several centuries of shared Islamic heritage. Each of them has faced the need to build new political and economic institutions following the breakup of the Soviet Union. And, as the EU Strategy document emphasises, each of them can only optimise their development through a regional approach.
In this respect, the Central Asian experience parallels the European experience. In Europe, too, the end of the Cold War demanded new political and economic structures and it is striking how quickly Europe is now reaching out to Central Asia — offering, among other things, the great gift of a powerful regional example. Among other things, the European example demonstrates that a healthy sense of national identity need not be a barrier to constructive regional engagement….
The key to building partnerships, whether they are among social sectors or among countries, is a profound spirit of reciprocal obligation — a readiness to share the work, to share the costs, to share the risks, and to share the credit. In the end, what it will require most in Central Asia, as it has in Europe, is a spirit of mutual trust.
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