Situation in Kyrgyzstan and Central Asia
Delivered in Plenary - May 11th 2005
Kyrgyzstan is a small, central Asian Muslim republic of incredible natural beauty and proud nomadic traditions. Kyrgyzstan was annexed by Russia in 1864, but it achieved independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. It has recently been in the news, following the 27 February parliamentary elections, when election irregularities caused widespread protest, starting in the south of the country. The president was forced to flee, accused of corruption and stealing the election.
Yesterday, on a state visit to Georgia, President Bush called for freedom and democracy everywhere in the Communist world. Kyrgyzstan is a poor, mountainous country with a predominantly agricultural economy, but it has carried out significant market reforms under ex-President Akaev. He has distinguished himself by adopting relatively liberal economic policies, and has introduced an improved regulatory system and land reform. Kyrgyzstan was the first CIS country to be accepted into the WTO, and most state companies have been sold off, although, regrettably, cronyism and corruption have been rife.
It is hoped that its revolution – if it is a revolution – will place it on a firm path to democracy, respect for human rights and good governance. It could be a model for surrounding states like Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan which maintain authoritarian systems that are only in partial transition. But border disputes between Kyrgyzstan and its neighbours are delaying the process of frontier delimitation with Tajikistan in particular, but also with Uzbekistan.
There is also the problem of the illicit cultivation of cannabis and opium poppies for the CIS markets and limited government eradication of illicit narcotic crops. Kyrgyzstan also serves as a transit point to south-west Asian narcotic markets and narcotics bound for Russia and the rest of Europe.
Presidential elections are scheduled for July: I have confirmed this from the Internet. The European Parliament should definitely send observers to watch Kyrgyzstan’s transition to democracy.