Asia and Central Asia are crucial partners for the European Union, economically, politically and culturally. The region accounts for more than half of the world’s population, a quarter of the global economic wealth created every year, and it holds key energy resources.
Poverty remains a significant challenge as this region remains home to two-thirds of the world’s poorest people. Other challenges, such as climate change, environmental degradation, avian flu, and illicit trade, exist in many countries but have also become regional issues.
In January 2007, the Development Co-operation Instrument (DCI) became the legal basis for EU-Asia development co-operation, replacing the ALA Regulation for Asia and the TACIS Regulation for Central Asia. A global allocation of €5.187 million has been made to Asia for the next seven years, 2007-2013. The programmable funding is allocated as follows: 81% to development assistance for individual countries, 16% to regional assistance, and 3% as a reserve.
The overarching objective of the DCI is to help eradicate poverty in partner countries and regions. It is guided by the pursuit of the Millennium Development Goals(MDGs), and serves to promote democracy, good governance and respect for human rights and the rule of law. By 2006, 40% of assistance given in the Asia region was already targeting one or more MDG, and over €2 billion will be targeting the MDGs in Asia and Central Asia over the four-year 2007-2010.
The DCI includes geographic programmes for Asia and Central Asia complemented by the following five, global, thematic programmes: Investing in People (diseases, health, gender, education, culture, employment and youth); Environment (and sustainable use of natural resources); Non-State Actors/Local Authorities in Development; Food Security; and Migration and Asylum.
The European Commission set out a co-operation strategy with Asia based on a partnership approach in its Communication Strategic Framework for Enhanced Partnerships (2001). Other sub-regional or thematic strategies complemented it by providing a basis for the establishment of a series of regional, sub-regional and country assistance programmes. During 2002-2006, the Commission committed €1.14 billion for co-operation with Asia under both the ALA and TACIS Regulations. In 2007, a Strategy Document for EU-Asia Cooperation [77 KB] and a separate Regional Strategy Paper for Assistance to Central Asia were published to cover the period 2007-2013, with an indicative budget of €775 million. In addition, the strategies for development co-operation with individual countries were presented in bilateral country Strategy Papers (2007-2013).
The regional strategy involves dialogue with sub-regional partners, such as the Association for South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the South Asia Association for Regional Co-operation (SAARC), and policy fora such as the Asia-Europe Meeting(ASEM) and the Asia Regional Forum (ARF).
The Regional Strategy Paper for Assistance to Central Asia (2007-2013) [277 KB] aims to promote the stability and security of the countries of Central Asia, to assist in their pursuit of sustainable economic development and poverty reduction, and to facilitate closer regional co-operation both within Central Asia and between Central Asia and the EU. It has an indicative budget of €719 million.
Bilateral co-operation between the EU and individual countries accounts for most support and is programmed in line with EU country strategies which tally with the partner country's own national development and poverty reduction plans.
Both the regional and the country strategies are accompanied by Multi-annual Indicative Programmes, clearly identifying the objectives, available funding and areas for programme or project development for two periods: 2007-2010 and 2011-2013. Finally, Annual Action Plans are compiled every year, once again for the region and for each partner country, with details of the specific projects and programmes to be supported. The Annual Action Programme is approved by the EU Member States acting through the DCI Committee and the European Parliament has the right of "democratic scrutiny".
In addition to the support outlined above – directly for EU-Asia cooperation – the Thematic Programmes established under the DCI facilitate funding at a global level and are therefore also available for organisations working in Asia.