Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

Interim Trade Agreement with Turkmenistan

Delivered in Plenary - 25th March 2009

Mr President

There is a lot more to mysterious Turkmenistan than just oil and gas. That is not to say that the countryís hydrocarbon resources are not important. In fact they are of vital strategic value to the EU, given the Unionís wish, and Turkmenistanís apparent desire, to move out of Russiaís shadow when it comes to energy supplies.

Turkmenistanís immense and clearly accessible gas resources are enough on their own to demand a closer relationship with the EU. Nevertheless there are other reasons as well for which I believe we should be seeking an interim trade agreement with Turkmenistan. The country is a prime example of a peaceful and stable Muslim country with a secular government committed to fighting Islamist terrorism in Afghanistan, where we have a war going on.

Of course there are still serious concerns about human rights, democracy and political freedoms, but such concerns also exist with regard to Russia and China, and I do not remember the Socialists raising this over the Tibet debate recently. Yet we maintain strategic relations with both these large countries.

We will encourage further change in Turkmenistan through dialogue and partnership, not by isolation. Therefore I generally support better relations between the EU and central Asian countries.