Uzbekistan is in a period of great change and this transition is creating many opportunities. Tourism and international business potential are receiving attention and a concerted effort to expand these sectors to accommodate Belgian tourists and businesses is underway. Speaking to Brussels Express, Abdujabar Abduvakhitov, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Uzbekistan, talks of the recent developments and the future relations between the Kingdom of Belgium and Uzbekistan.
What are the goals of your visit in Brussels?
Well, we have here political consultations with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Belgium. This year we hope to boost our relationship with Belgium and fill the empty spaces in our international relations. We consider Belgium as an essential bridge to help us connect with the European Union, and In many fields: political, cultural, economically, and investment. We are learning a lot from our connections in Belgium.
Is it easy for a Belgian company to invest in Uzbekistan nowadays?
We have now created some conditions to make it easier for Belgian companies to be active in Uzbekistan. We are considering more actions as we realise doing business in Uzbekistan should be directed into earning money. We want to help the connection in where we can make money from these joint connections.
Do you have any concrete example in mind of a successful Belgian company who invested in Uzbekistan?
Today, we consider one company along with many others who are actively looking at the potential of having businesses in Uzbekistan. One company we have had the chance to talk to is Victor Buyck Steel Company. this is a good company for linking Belgium to Uzbekistan. However, this is not limited to one project, it is just used as an example to show how the connections between our two countries can be made. We hope this will continue.
Do you think Belgian companies are afraid to invest in Central Asia?
There is a certain experience that Belgian companies have acquired in the region in the latest years. They find the conditions to be acceptable but the process has not so far been permanent. So we will be doing additional steps to secure international investments because when we talk about investors from Belgium, we are talking about the possibility of having partners.
Belgium is conducting a lobbying campaign in order to become a non-permanent member of the United National Security Council. Is Uzbekistan supporting Belgium?
We are supporting Belgium, but not just because we are trying to establish trading links, but because we have such a record between Uzbekistan and Belgium that we support them. And also, Belgium was one of the first countries that recognised us as an independent country in 1991.
There was a change of Presidents in Uzbekistan 2 years ago with the election of Shavkat Mirziyoyev. What are the new priorities of this new administration?
The priority is on our foreign policy. It is becoming more of a priority because, together with our neighbours, we are creating a new dimension initiated by our President. Safe and stable relations with our neighbours in Central Asia and even to bring in Afganistan to the equation and help them become part of our interactions.
How is the border with Afghanistan?
It’s not a large border, but we have these good relations with all our neighbouring Republics; so if Afghanistan will be stable, we want to extend our relations to them. Our Central Asian nations have our ethnic peoples spread all over each other’s countries and thus it benefits us if they remain secure.
Kazakstan has the task within the United Nation, as a non-permanent member of the Security Council, to have an overview about Afghanistan. Do they coordinate the work with their neighbours?
The relations are much better with Kazakstan – partly thanks to the new president. The level of integration is better. We have found ways to deal with issues that are important, for instance, the water pipeline from Tajikistan.
You were saying the priorities are – to have good relations with the neighbours. About foreign policy, what is the priority for the President? relations with the US, Russia, the EU?
We want it to be balanced between the nations. I said about foreign policy, but it means investment, and not limited to private business, it could be state business.
I understand Uzbekistan set for this year the goal of receiving 10 million tourists to the country. How do you see this strategy and how do you think you will achieve this figure?
We have the potential and the willingness to reach this goal. It is not just going to be Uzbekistan alone in this pursuit, it will be in tandem with other countries. But for our own side, we will be creating more services and infrastructure to improve the experience of tourists. Hotels, highspeed trains, roads etc. We will try everything with our partners to achieve this.
What would you say to convince Belgians to visit Uzbekistan?
Come Belgium! Visit Uzbekistan, and enjoy yourself!