The European Union and Uzbekistan held the eight round of their Human Rights Dialogue in Brussels on 18 November 2014. The meeting was organized as an open exchange of opinions on recent developments including a number of human rights issues such as the freedom of expression, womenâ€™s rights, freedom of association, and the treatment of detainees. Uzbekistan was represented by Nigmatilla Yuldashev, Minister for Justice, and Akmal Saidov, Director of the National Centre for Human Rights, as well as other senior officials. The EU delegation was led by Silvio Gonzato, Director for Human Rights and Democracy at the European External Action Service. The EU praised the major efforts that Uzbekistan had made to eliminate the use of child labour in the country, and supported Tashkent to continue its collaboration with the International Labour Organization (ILO) on forced labour issues. The EU moreover prompted Uzbekistan to move forward with the adoption of a National Action Plan on Human Rights, and to think about issuing invitations to UN special procedures.
Brussels also encouraged Tashkent to take further steps towards relaxing restrictions on the media and facilitating the establishment and activities of independent civil society organizations. Furthermore, the country has been motivated to ensure better protection for the right to freedom of religion and belief. The EU emphasized its serious concerns about ongoing reports of maltreatment and torture of detainees. The EU also strongly encouraged the country to use prison amnesty as much as possible. Bilateral relations between Uzbekistan and the EU have been governed by a Partnership and Cooperation Agreement since 1999. The EU provides also development cooperation under the Development Cooperation Instrument focusing on rural and local development, rule of law, trade facilitation, and support to the private sector. The next round of the Human Rights Dialogue should take place in Uzbekistan in 2015.