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European Union - Kyrgyzstan: We lose cognac and champagne. What do we get?

Negotiations between Kyrgyzstan and the European Union over a new agreement on expanded partnership and cooperation were completed last weekend. It is not available to the general public so far. But some details about development of relations between the EU and the Kyrgyz Republic in the coming years are known.

The agreement expands opportunities for entry of Kyrgyz goods into the European market. In addition, simplified visa regime is possible. However, our republic gets not only bonuses, but also obligations that must be fulfilled.

Negotiations in secrecy

Kyrgyzstan and the European Union began discussion of the new agreement in December 2017. It was decided to change it in order to create a new base for further bilateral partnership. The document determines that the main areas of cooperation between the parties relate to policy and reform, enhanced interaction in foreign policy and issues of security, justice, security and freedoms, as well as trade.

The agreement also significantly improves the basis for trade and economic relations in accordance with WTO rules and regional economic contracts.

In terms of cooperation in the areas of justice, security and freedoms, the main focus is the protection of personal data, migration, the fight against money laundering and terrorism, opposition to organized crime, corruption, and drug trafficking. Attention is paid to partnership in judicial reform and security of consular issues.

«The programs of the European Union on support of reforms of the electoral and judicial systems, law enforcement agencies, education, digitization, integrated water resources management are important for us,» said Foreign Minister of Kyrgyzstan Chingiz Aidarbekov after talks with the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini.

At the same time, the parties had the most of all disagreements in the trading part. It was discussed and supplemented almost until the very process of initialing the agreement.

«Now we have made significant progress, several rounds of negotiations have been completed. We are optimistic as soon as possible to complete the negotiations, if possible by the summer. There are only a few open questions left. They mainly relate to the trade part of the agreement, since the latter will be a new type of document, where a great emphasis is placed on trade and economic cooperation,» Peter Burian, the EU Special Representative for Central Asia, told 24.kg news agency in the spring.

Refuse cognac and champagne

The chapter on trade and sustainable development provides for improved protection of copyright and intellectual property, such as, for example, geographic names. The agreement stipulates that 167 geographical names existing in the EU will be directly protected by the rules of the contract. This document is the first of its kind in Central Asia.

This rule means that geographical names patented in Europe can not be used in the names of products manufactured in Kyrgyzstan.

Simply put, the words «cognac» and «champagne» cannot be used in the names of companies and products that will be sold in the territory of our country. These names are protected as French geographical indications. And this applies not only to goods of Kyrgyz origin, but also imported ones. Manufacturers are offered to rebrand, that is, for example, rename «cognac» to «brandy» and «champagne» to «sparkling wine».

The Kyrgyz business will have from 7 to 15 years of transition period to rename their goods.

And if we take into account the fact that the agreement has only been initialed, and its signing and ratification are ahead, then this period is extended by another two years. Producers of alcoholic beverages received the longest rebranding period — up to 15 years.

This means that during this time Kyrgyz brandy and sparkling wine producers can still use the names Cognac (Kaniak) and Champagne (Shampanskoe) and export them under the same conditions and with the same names like now.

The name of cheese «feta» will also be protected as a Greek geographical indication in accordance with the document. Transitional provisions for this type of product are also set at 10 years.

A transition period of 10 years is provided for calvados, iced tea and Czech beer.

But at the same time, Kyrgyz producers will be able to use terms such as gouda, edam, mozzarella. As for Dutch cheese (golandski syr), the agreement does not prohibit its use by Kyrgyz producers.

«Negotiations over this area of ​​the agreement were conducted by Kyrgyzpatent. However, as far as I know, the dates of the transition periods were agreed with the business. We will get intellectual property protection from the implementation of these standards, through which investments will come to the republic. A good investor goes where property rights are protected. From this point of view, such norms are beneficial for us,» Deputy Economy Minister of Kyrgyzstan Eldar Abakirov told 24.kg news agency.

What we will get in return

At first glance, it seems that Kyrgyzstan does not benefit from the new agreement. In fact, this is not true. Under this contract, the EU reaffirmed its commitment to provide financial and technical support to Kyrgyzstan.

«We see your ambitions. Work continues. The European Union will continue to support the country without any hidden agenda. We will always be your reliable ally in building a democratic society based on freedoms and democratic foundations,» Federica Mogherini said.

One of the bonuses that the Kyrgyz Republic expects to receive from cooperation with the European Union is visa facilitation.

Foreign Minister Chingiz Aidarbekov stressed that, despite the complexity of the issue as a whole, the European side agreed to include this issue as a conditional obligation for further study and negotiations with the Kyrgyz side.

This means that the EU is ready to discuss and negotiate over the visa issue precisely because this item is particularly important for the republic. In addition, optimism is also instilled by the fact that the European Union is adopting a new visa code. The document will greatly simplify the process of obtaining Schengen visas. But at the same time, the European Union does not hide the fact that visa and visa-free issues are still sensitive for the EU in terms of illegal migration.

Thanks to amendments to the visa code, it will become easier for residents of Central Asian countries to obtain visas for long periods and multivisas.

It is expected that, as a result of the implementation of the new agreement, Kyrgyzstan will get an improvement in the activities of the judiciary, strengthening of the rule of law and increase of transparency. This will improve the investment climate and business environment, open up new opportunities for small and medium enterprises, increase the number of jobs. And this is exactly what the state urgently needs now for economic development.

Even the difficulties that businesses will have to face due to the document will ultimately lead to the fact that the European market will become more accessible to us.

«In general, the agreement itself leads to strengthening of trade relations and simplification of trade procedures,» Eldar Abakirov, Deputy Minister of Economy of Kyrgyzstan, added.