An EU Strategy for Central Asia
Delivered in Plenary - 19th February 2008
A partnership between the EU and Central Asia is long overdue, and I congratulate Mr Özdemir on his report. This vast and strategically vital region is being pulled three ways: by China, by Russia and by Europe. It is essential that we do all we can to ensure that central Asia’s rational choice is partnership with the European Union.
Turkmenistan’s gradual emergence from isolation provides the EU with a crucial window of opportunity. Ensuring regular, reliable supplies of ample Turkmen hydrocarbon resources will diminish Europe’s current overdependence on Russia. This will require a new trans-Caspian pipeline to link up with the Nabucco project.
Uzbekistan, which was rightfully ostracised following the Andijan massacre, has begun to engage in dialogue on human rights with the EU. This is a considerable step forward. Clearly there is much progress still to be made before Uzbekistan can be considered a properly democratic country. However, Uzbekistan is a vital ally in the war on international terrorism, especially with regard to Afghanistan.
For the EU, Kazakhstan should be considered the jewel in the crown of central Asia. The country’s vast oil, gas and mineral resources, including uranium, are an obvious attraction. Although Kazakhstan is not a western liberal democracy in our tradition, it is making considerable progress as a multi-religious, secular, Muslim-majority country. Given the fact that only 17 years ago it was a republic of the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan’s presidency of the OSCE in 2010 will further consolidate the momentum towards greater political freedom and human rights in that country.
As rapporteur of the eastern dimension of the ENP, I once suggested that Kazakhstan might one day become a member of the ENP. I believe that something rather like this arrangement, one day, will come to pass.