BRUSSELS -- Austria, the chief of the rotating European Union presidency, says the "overall human rights situation” in Uzbekistan has shown improvement in the last two years.
"We see a release of most detainees who have been on the EU list of prisoners of concern. I am aware of one person who is left on that list, and it would be definitely very helpful if these lists were [no longer] needed and if all persons released were fully rehabilitated,” Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl said on November 22.
She made the comments at a press conference with Uzbek Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov after an EU-Uzbekistan Cooperation Council meeting in Brussels.
Kneissl said the European Union “will do [its] utmost” to support “the very ambitious reform program” the Uzbek government has launched.
“It was confirmed to us in all the details that it is ambitious and we wish the government all success in order to implement it in an effective way,” Kneissl said.
“What we have been observing...shows that things are on the right track,” she added.
Kamilov said Uzbekistan is “going through a very responsible, transitional, and critical point.”
Kamilov said the country has a "great amount of work ahead” but it also has a “clear strategy.”
“And, as [Uzbek] President [Shavkat Mirziyoev] has said, we have made our choice and there is no turning back,” Kamilov said.
Mirziyoev, who came to power in 2016, has sought to open up Central Asia's most-populous country and move away from oppressive policies of his late predecessor Islam Karimov.
While praising many of the efforts, rights groups have continued to express concerns about free speech, censorship, and the prosecution of journalists in the country.
On November 22, Kneissl also chaired an EU-Tajikistan Cooperation Council meeting in Brussels.
The Tajik delegation was led by Foreign Minister Sirojiddin Muhriddin. The meeting focused on the implementation of the EU-Tajikistan partnership and cooperation agreement.