Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

Co-operation agreement with Tajikistan

Delivered in Plenary - 16th September 2009

Madam President

Tajikistan is not blessed with the energy and mineral resources of other countries in Central Asia. However, that is no excuse for marginalising Tajikistan at the expense of its wealthier and larger neighbours.

Central Asia is a region vital to the EUís political and energy security. In terms of strengthening relations with the EU, some countries in the region will progress faster than others. That is inevitable. But we must retain a sense of collective engagement as we continue to improve ties with what was, until quite recently, a diplomatically isolated and largely overlooked region, particularly by the European Union. Favouring some countries in Central Asia over others risks creating a discord and division in the region. In particular, Islamist terrorists in the region have shown a determination to exploit poverty and inadequate governance to radicalise the people and spread their message of hatred.

The Government of Tajikistan has rejected extremism and, with the help of the international community, is seeking now to consolidate its nationís democracy. Tajikistan still bears the scars of a brutal civil war between secular and Jihadi forces that erupted after the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. People in Tajikistan have no wish to see the return of bloodshed, which is why they have given courageous support to NATO operations against the Taliban in Afghanistan. The ISAF mission in Afghanistan is vital to Tajikistanís long-term future and its desire to find a security anchor westwards.

It is fair to say that Tajikistanís record in democratisation and human rights is imperfect, but I am convinced that dialogue and engagement on the EUís part will encourage Tajikistan towards positive change. Certainly that seems to be the European Unionís view with regard to Belarus and Uzbekistan, so Tajikistan deserves to be treated in the same way. The ECR Group therefore supports a deeper strategic political and economic partnership with Tajikistan based on a commitment of progress towards openness, democracy and higher standards of human rights.