156 CDSDG 08 E rev 1 - Democracy and Security in Central Asia: What Policy for NATO and the EU?
Rapporteur: Marc ANGEL (Luxembourg)
TABLE OF CONTENTS
II. DEMOCRATIC GOVERNANCE IN CENTRAL ASIA: ASSESSMENT AND CHALLENGES
III. DEMOCRATIC GOVERNANCE AND SECURITY IN CENTRAL ASIA: TRANSATLANTIC APPROACHES
1. Central Asia, which traditionally comprises Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, has in recent years been the subject of growing interest in the West, arising in part from a realization of the region’s critical position in relation to current global security concerns: energy security, the global fight against terrorism and religious extremism, operations in Afghanistan, the efforts to combat nuclear proliferation and to prevent various forms of trafficking. Furthermore, with the recent enlargements of the European Union and NATO, Central Asia becomes a priority arena for the efforts aimed at ensuring stability at the frontiers of Europe.
2. At the same time, the EU and NATO find themselves facing a major challenge in their relations with the states of Central Asia. Whereas the two organisations are able, to a significant degree, to influence reforms in the states of the Balkans or the South Caucasus, where the prospect of future accession is a crucial factor, “the carrot of enlargement” does not seem to work in the case of Central Asia. These states have generally demonstrated an interest in the advantages and expertise that the EU and NATO can offer them in the economic sphere or that of security, but it is much more difficult for these organisations to promote in-depth political change that would lead these states to establish genuinely free and democratic institutions.
3. The dilemma of how the EU and NATO are succeeding (or not) in reconciling their security interests in Central Asia on the one hand and promoting democracy on the other hand is a central theme of this report. The report will firstly examine the governance models chosen by the states of the region and describe the outcome of the political transitions in Central Asia. It will then turn to the policies pursued by NATO and the EU in the region and the importance they attach to the promotion of democratic governance. The last section lists some principles that might form the basis of a consistent and coordinated transatlantic policy in Central Asia.
4. The NATO Parliamentary Assembly (NATO PA) has devoted several of its earlier publications to Central Asia. This Rapporteur would like to mention, in particular, the reports of Mr Vitalino Canas, General Rapporteur of the Committee on the Civil Dimension of Security in 2005, “NATO and Kazakhstan” [165 CDS 05 E], and of Rafael Estrella, Rapporteur of the Sub-Committee on NATO Partnerships, “NATO and Central Asian Security” [175 PCNP 06 E], the excellent Rose-Roth seminar entitled “Security in the Caspian region”, organised in Azerbaijan in March 2008, and the visit by José Lello, the President of the NATO PA, to Kazakhstan in June 2008.
II. DEMOCRATIC GOVERNANCE IN CENTRAL ASIA: ASSESSMENT AND CHALLENGES
A. THE POST-SOVIET TRANSITION IN CENTRAL ASIA: COMMON FEATURES AND CHALLENGES
5. A feature of the early 1990s in Central Asia was the concern of the authorities in place to assert the national and state identity of the new entities that had emerged from the break-up of the Soviet Union. The Central Asian republics are, in fact, recent creations. As brilliantly explained in “The New Central Asia,” a book by Olivier Roy, Research Fellow at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris, the identity of the populations of Central Asia, which goes back to the confluence of Persian and Turkic influences in the 14th century, does not relate historically to their belonging to a particular ethnic or linguistic group. Rather, up until the modern period, it was infra-ethnic, “clan”-based identities (tribal, regional, religious, family, socio-economic, etc.) that distinguished the different groups present on the territory of Central Asia. As a result of the Russian conquest of Central Asia and Soviet nationalities policy, a sentiment of national identity progressively emerged among the local populations. Fearing the development of a pan-Islamic movement in Central Asia, which would undermine Moscow’s rule, the Soviet authorities created new administrative divisions which, at the end of the 1930s, became the five republics that we know today. This strategy progressively turned against Moscow as a common identity began to develop in the republics of Central Asia based, in part, on anti-Russian and anti-Slavic solidarity.
7. As they attained independence, Central Asian states have also faced a number of challenges, linked inter alia with defining national identity, with national security and with economic development. The exposition below gives a quick overview of these various challenges, which arise in a more or less acute form in all the states in the region.
8. Two important questions may be mentioned with regard to defining the foundations of national identity in newly independent states in Central Asia: the place of ethnic minorities and the role of religion. The history of the region, forged by successive waves of migration, as well as the borders drawn during the Soviet period, have resulted in the creation of territories with highly heterogeneous populations. The most homogeneous populations are found in Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Kazakhstan, on the other hand, is made up of over 100 different ethnic groups. Moreover, several ethnic groups in the majority in one country form substantial minorities in neighbouring states.
Ethnic groups in Central Asian states
Kazakhstan (source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs):
Kyrgyz Republic: (source: 1999 census):
Uzbekistan (source: 1996 official estimates):
Tajikistan: (source: 2000 census):
Turkmenistan (source: 2003 census):
Note: official statistics should be used with caution, because ethnic affiliation is sometimes a source of controversy and is used for political purposes.
10. Governments in the region have also had to redefine the place of religion in the new states. The predominant religion in Central Asia is Sunni Islam. In the latter years of the Soviet era the region experienced a religious awakening, which has accelerated since independence. Islam is present in some very different forms – official religious authorities, local mullahs, foreign religious groups, radical Islam; its role is thus multifarious and sometimes difficult to define precisely. Islam has certainly carved out a place for itself within the political elite, who saw it as an additional means of consolidating national identity. At the same time, Islam has also become a significant social force, providing a support network for the populations that have fallen victim to the economic transition and corrupt regimes. In these closed political regimes, where the official opposition is strictly controlled, it may have appeared as the only organised social force capable of providing an alternative to the established power. Nevertheless, only Tajikistan has experienced the rise to power of an openly Islamic party. By contrast, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan adopted secular constitutions.
11. Furthermore, the states of the region have had to deal with the emergence of a radical Islam, which combines local roots and foreign influence, and whose geographical centre is the Ferghana Valley – the meeting point of the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. In response, they have, in general, adopted a repressive policy – of which the extreme example is that of Uzbekistan – which defines the threat in very broad terms. The question of religious extremism has become a national security issue, and likewise a question of border protection. It has sometimes created tensions between neighbouring states. Thus, the attacks launched in 1999 and 2000 by the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, from Afghanistan and Tajikistan, led Uzbekistan to take unilateral measures to protect its territory, including the mining of part of its border with Tajikistan. Similarly, the Uzbek government has accused the Kyrgyz authorities of allowing into the country Hizb-ut-Tahrir militants fleeing from Uzbekistan after the events in Andijan in May 2005, when troops opened fire on a crowd protesting against the jailing of a group of businessmen charged with religious extremism, gunning down hundreds of civilians.
The principal radical Islamic movements in Central Asia:
- the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) was regarded as the principal threat at the end of the 1990s, particularly in Uzbekistan. Enjoying outside support and rear bases in Afghanistan and Pakistan, it committed inter alia a series of violent attacks in Tashkent in 1999. Today its actual strength is difficult to assess. Experts are generally in agreement that the IMU is very much weakened and incapable of mounting large-scale operations. However, some observers stress that the movement may revive as the situation on the Afghan-Pakistani border is deteriorating.
- Hizb-ut-Tahrir (HT) is a radical movement advocating non-violent action. Though banned in several states in the region, it is perhaps the most influential Islamic movement there. The Uzbek government suspects the HT of involvement in the Andijan uprising and of seeking to overthrow the regime in order to set up an Islamic caliphate; much doubt has been cast on these suspicions by several Western experts.
- the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) is on the United Nations list of terrorist movements; it is active mainly in border areas with China and is linked to Uighur separatism.
12. Generally speaking, border management and protection is a major challenge for the states in the region, and the repercussions of the conflict in neighbouring Afghanistan have made this task even more difficult. Tajikistan, which shares a border of about 1,200 km with Afghanistan, is particularly vulnerable to cross-border movements of persons and illegal goods. It is also the main route for the trade in opium products from Afghanistan to Europe and Russia. Although opiate production in the five states is relatively low, the increased rate of drugtrafficking in the region has led to a rise in drug consumption by the local populations.
13. The management of natural resources, in particular water and fossil fuels, is another challenge which the states in the region have had to face. The Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan both have substantial reserves of water derived from the glaciers which tower over the Central Asian plateau. Water is also used as a source of energy in both states, which are short of fossil fuels. Tensions have become apparent in the management of water resources in the region since the break-up of the Soviet Union, and the potential risk of conflict should not be underestimated. In particular, the differing needs of the five states are at the root of the problem: water needed for crops in summer in the states downstream – Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan; water needed for power generation in winter in the states upstream – the Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan. Generally speaking, water resources are badly managed in the region. Thus the UNDP estimates that Tajikistan's hydroelectric power production is at no more than 5% of its potential capacity.
14. Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan have substantial reserves of fossil fuel. However, the benefits derived from exploitation of this resource have often gone to enrich the dominant elite instead of being efficiently reinvested in the economy. Kazakhstan is an exception to this rule only in part. The country has complied with international standards regarding transparency in the mining and extraction industries. It has also adopted a long-term national strategy for economic diversification and created a national fund, which receives part of the profits of the energy industry and is used to finance development projects.
15. Poverty and underdevelopment linger however in parts of the region. In 2007, national income per capita ranged from $453 in Tajikistan to $6,252 in Kazakhstan.1 In 2003 the World Bank estimated that 64% of the population of Tajikistan was living in poverty. The economic situation in the Kyrgyz Republic is hardly any better. The states rich in energy resources are, in general, better off, the more so because they also have the advantage of better conditions for agricultural production: however, many problems and inequalities remain.
16. The situation of women in Central Asia presents a mixed picture. Even though in practice many inequalities remain, the communist regimes were based on strict equality of the sexes in the public domain. Since independence the position of women in society has worsened somewhat in economic, social and political terms and with regard to security.2 First of all, the transition period saw a marked increase in unemployment and the suppression of a certain number of essential social services. Moreover, a return to more conservative traditions, affecting rural areas in particular, was a feature of the post-Soviet period. The collective effect of these phenomena was to change, and quite often to limit, women's participation in economic activities, even though, by and large, the rate of female employment in Central Asia is still quite high. In particular there has been a reduction in the employment of women in the official economy, while more women are turning to the informal economy. Women are also more exposed to poverty, and the reduction in pensions has a disproportionate effect on elderly women.
17. The record shows that women's participation in political processes is also relatively low. Women hold from 15 to 17% of the seats in these national parliaments, with the exception of the Kyrgyz Republic, where they now hold a quarter of the seats, having been completely absent from the parliament in 2005. The new Kyrgyz electoral law, passed in 2007, goes even further, introducing a quota of 30% women. Uzbekistan had also introduced a 30% quota in 2004, but this is not complied with in practice. It is also interesting to note that, within civil society, groups are being organised for the defence of women's rights. Thus, it is estimated that over half of the human rights defenders in Central Asia are involved in gender issues. However, although all the states have created official institutions for the protection of women's rights and the law guarantees equal rights and non-discrimination, inequalities still exist in practice.
18. Reported violence against women is also on the increase. Domestic violence, forced marriages and polygamy persist, especially in the countryside. Prostitution is widespread and many women are still victims of trafficking, mainly for purposes of sexual exploitation.
19. Child poverty is still a serious problem in several states. Thus it is estimated that in the Kyrgyz Republic over half the children live in poverty. Child poverty is also widespread in Tajikistan, where children under 15 years of age account for 35% of the population. The rates of school enrolment in the region are relatively high, but UNDP statistics indicate a significant difference in the enrolment rate for girls between Kazakhstan and Kyrgyz Republic on the one hand and Tajikistan and Uzbekistan on the other. If this downward trend in school attendance by girls is confirmed, it is likely to reinforce the socio-economic inequalities between the sexes, which are becoming apparent. Moreover, the educational systems in the poorest states face a significant shortage of resources.
20. It should also be noted that official statistics regarding school enrolment do not always reflect the fact that child labour is still a problem mostly in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. International child protection organisations have put pressure on governments in the region to acknowledge the extent of the problem and undertake to solve it. All of them have now subscribed to various international conventions against child labour and condemn these practices, at least verbally. However, they have limited resources and sometimes lack the political will to actually fight this phenomenon. In most cases it is family poverty that compels children to contribute to the household income. Thus, UNICEF estimates that 200,000 children under the age of 15 are working in Tajikistan. Many children are used, in particular, for harvesting cotton, an important source of revenue in several states in the region. The situation in Uzbekistan, where the practice is almost institutionalised, is the greatest cause for concern.
21. The child protection organisations also stress that trafficking in children is still a problem in several states in the region, as well as, more recently, the recruitment of children by religious extremist movements. Although governments in the region have developed programmes for the protection of children, the resources available often remain very limited.
22. Over and above, despite common characteristics and challenges of the transition processes in these Central Asian states, the progress of political reform differs significantly from one state to the next. The following sections review the situation in each of them.
Head of State: Nursultan Nazarbayev
Sources: Bilan du Monde (European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), International Monetary Fund (IMF)
23. It is undeniable that Kazakhstan has established a stable political system, which in many regards appears strikingly more open and competitive than that of certain neighbouring states. Thus, the decision of the Ministerial Council of the OSCE to grant the presidency of the organisation to Kazakhstan in 2010 recognizes the genuine efforts of the Kazakh authorities. The discussions surrounding that decision and the commitments that Kazakhstan had to undertake in return nevertheless highlight the fact that far-reaching reforms are still needed in a large number of areas: institutional framework, local autonomy, media, human rights, participation of civil society in democratic processes, fight against corruption, etc.
24. The Republic of Kazakhstan proclaimed its independence in December 1991, adopting the model of a unitary republic, featuring a strong presidential regime. The current president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, has held the position since 1989. He was first elected to the presidency by the Supreme Soviet of Kazakhstan in 1991, then confirmed in his position by a series of referenda and elections. The most recent presidential election, organised in December 2005, witnessed the reelection of Nazarbayev with 91% of the votes. At that time the international observers of the OSCE Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) suggested that, despite some improvements in the handling of the pre-electoral period, this election did not meet a number of commitments and standards relating to the organisation of democratic elections.
25. In the words of the Head of State himself, Kazakhstan has chosen a model of democratization based on a “progressive approach” and the “principle of ‘first economics, then politics.’” According to this approach, which provides a real ideological anchor for the regime, in order to be established on a long-term footing, democracy requires a given level of economic development. Consequently, the economy has to be prioritised and political reforms introduced only gradually. This principle justifies the preponderance of the presidential power, which so far has characterised the political system of Kazakhstan.
26. In March 2006, President Nazarbayev decided to initiate a process of revision of the constitution, which resulted in a series of amendments that were adopted by Parliament in May 2007, following a particularly brief debate. These amendments reinforce some of the oversight powers of the parliament with respect to the government, as well as the role of the political parties, but they do not challenge the pre-eminent role of the president of the republic at all. While the presidential period of office has been shortened from seven to five years, the limit of two consecutive terms has been eliminated, thus entitling the current president to stand for an unlimited number of terms.
27. The OSCE has been critical of the new Constitution, notably with regard to the modification of the composition of Parliament. In the new Constitution, the number of deputies in the lower chamber, the Majilis, has increased from 77 to 107. However, if in the past they were all elected by direct universal suffrage, now nine of them are appointed by a consultative body - the Assembly of the Peoples of Kazakhstan - the members of which are, in turn, appointed by the president of the republic, who heads it. The number of senators has increased from 39 to 47, with 32 of them being appointed by the locally elected members by indirect suffrage. The remaining 15 (compared with seven before) are appointed by the president. The OSCE stresses that with the introduction of appointed deputies within the Majilis, neither of the two chambers of Parliament is entirely selected by universal suffrage. Even if the stated objective of this measure is to allow representation of Kazakhstan’s national minorities, the OSCE notes that other measures, more observant of democratic principles, could have brought about a similar result.
28. The OSCE is also critical of the new electoral law, some provisions of which are considered to be contrary to the Copenhagen principles or to create excessive distortions: freedom for the political parties not to observe the order of their list in appointing deputies, a prohibition on independent candidacies, the 7% threshold that the political parties must exceed in order to be able to be represented in Parliament, and so on.
29. While these reforms were introduced, the presidential party was strengthened as it absorbed several other small parties. Since the new Constitution abolished the clause that made the president an institution above the political parties, Mr Nazarbayev was elected in July 2007 as the head of the new consolidated party, renamed Nur Otan.
30. The first parliamentary elections under the new Constitution were held on 18 August 2007. The international observers of the OSCE/ODIHR concluded in their preliminary report that “While these elections reflected welcome progress in the pre-election process and during the conduct of the vote, a number of OSCE commitments and Council of Europe standards were not met, in particular with regard to elements of the new legal framework and to the vote count.”
31. Before the election, seven political parties campaigned, but only the presidential party, Nur Otan, which received more than 88% of the votes, succeeded in getting over the 7% threshold, thereby securing all of the seats attributed by universal suffrage. The second was well behind with 4.5% of the votes. The opposition party, Ak Jol, which, with a single seat, had been the only other party represented in Parliament, came in only third, with 3% of the votes.
32. While the reform undertaken in March 2006 may well have had the claimed objective of achieving a more balanced institutional system, in fact its implementation appears to have resulted in a consolidation of presidential power and of the control exercised by the presidential party, as well as the elimination of all parliamentary opposition. Thus, the country has gone from a situation in which the Parliament was divided between a coalition of several progovernment parties, independent deputies primarily favourable to the government, and one opposition deputy, to a parliament entirely dominated by one large presidential party. Additionally, there are no members of the opposition among the senators elected by indirect suffrage on 4 October 2008 to fill the 16 seats up for election in the Senate.
33. Within the context of the commitments undertaken in relation to the Kazakh presidency of the OSCE in 2010, the authorities have announced a revision of the electoral law, as well as the rules relating to the registration of political parties, by the end of 2008. Working groups have been set up to study these issues. A draft law on political parties is now before the lower chamber of Parliament. It provides in particular that no less than two political parties should be represented in the Parliament at any given time. Additionally, it is interesting to note that Kazakhstan has undertaken not to question the mandate of the ODIHR, even though some months earlier, Astana had supported a Russian initiative to carry out a thorough review of the mandate and powers of this organisation.
34. The media scene in Kazakhstan is highly developed, with many different public and private information sources. Nevertheless, some problems remain. The organisations for protection of media freedom continue to complain of close links between the media and the business world, as well as the existence of legal and extra-legal obstacles to media activities; they call for complete decriminalization of media law and elimination of the special protections enjoyed by public leaders. The Kazakh authorities have announced that the media law will be reformed in 2008. That is one of the other commitments undertaken in relation to the accession of Kazakhstan to the presidency of the OSCE in 2010. Here again a working group has been set up to propose amendments to the existing legislation, and a draft law has been submitted to the lower chamber of Parliament.
35. There is also a large number of active NGOs in Kazakhstan. However, despite the fact that the state has put in place various official mechanisms for consultation with civil society, human rights organisations continue to report various obstacles and hindrances to NGO activities.
36. The future Kazakh presidency of the OSCE will be an important indicator of the authorities' political will to reform their institutions. Nevertheless, it should be stressed that the Madrid commitments, though substantial, are not exhaustive and that, in the long run, reforms would also be desirable in a certain number of other areas.
Head of State: Kurmanbek Bakiev
Source : Bilan du Monde, EBRD, IMF
38. In the early years following independence, President Askar Akayev introduced a number of liberal reforms, which allowed both a relatively active opposition and independent media to emerge. However, he also reinforced the presidential office through a series of revisions to the constitution, and in several cases annulled some liberal freedoms that had been granted. Allegations of fraud in the legislative elections in February-March 2005 resulted in the fall of an increasingly unpopular regime, following events that were given the name, perhaps a little hastily, of the Tulip Revolution. The early presidential elections of July 2005 brought to power Kurmanbek Bakiev, a former prime minister and a native of the south of the country who had resigned under Akayev, and Feliks Kulov, a popular figure within the opposition and a native of the north, who was appointed prime minister. However, the new executive accepted that the parliament that resulted from the disputed election of March 2005, which was dominated by supporters of the defeated former president, should remain in place.
39. Inevitably, tensions rapidly emerged between the executive and an increasingly hostile parliament, within which alliances had been formed between supporters of the former president and other opposition groups. The discontent was stoked by: a series of unpopular measures (the redistribution of assets and companies privatized by the previous regime and to agrarian reforms); by incidents (a revolt against the conditions of detention in prisons, assassinations of political personalities); and by accusations of corruption and ongoing links between the regime and organised crime. But it was, above all, the reluctance of the president to undertake the revision of the Constitution promised when he had come to power, which acted as a rallying cause for the opposition. This situation gave rise to a political and legal conundrum, punctuated by the adoption of two concurrent texts in November and December 2006, by demonstrations organised by the opposition, and by the resignation of three governments in turn. After the rejection of these first two texts by the Constitutional Court, the president decided to submit a third text, which was adopted by referendum on 21 October 2007.
40. The Council of Europe’s Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission) is highly disapproving of this text. In an opinion drawn up at the request of the Speaker of the Kyrgyz Parliament, the Commission concluded that “In general, while there are some advances in the text as regards human rights and the independence of the judiciary, the excessive concentration of powers in the hands of the president and the lack of checks and balances give rise to serious concerns.” The experts of the Commission continued: “Formally the Constitution establishes a semi-presidential system but in reality the powers of the president are almost unrestricted.” “The position of the Jogorku Kenesh [the Parliament] is not strong enough for it to function as an effective counterweight to the powers of the president.”
41. Following the referendum, President Bakiev decided to dissolve the Parliament and to call early elections on 16 December 2007. The new electoral law established a proportional representation system within a single national electoral district comprising the 90 deputies of the unicameral parliament. This new system does, however, contain multiple restrictions, in particular the introduction of two separate thresholds for obtaining seats, one of 5% of the voters registered at national level and one in each of the nine regions (oblasts), which corresponds to 0.5% of voters registered at national level. This second threshold caused vehement dispute, with several parties pointing out emphatically that it was ridiculously high in the regions with small populations. The opposition instituted proceedings in the Constitutional Court, which disagreed with the way in which the 0.5% regional thresholds were calculated; however, this did not prevent the official declaration of the results by the Central Electoral Commission.
42. The preliminary report of the OSCE/ODIHR concluded that the elections “failed to meet a number of OSCE commitments. This was despite respect for some commitments that underscore existing pluralism. [ … ] Overall the election represented a missed opportunity.”
43. The elections brought victory to the Ak Jol presidential bloc, which was reinforced shortly beforehand by an alliance among several parties and which, with 48% of the votes, took 71 of the 90 seats in parliament. The two other parties securing seats were the Communist Party of the Kyrgyz Republic (5.12% of the votes, 8 seats) and the Social Democratic Party (5% of the votes, 11 seats). The latter is the only real opposition party in the new Parliament. Owing to the double threshold, the Ata-Meken opposition party, which had received 8.3% of the votes, but had not succeeded in overcoming the regional thresholds, was disqualified. The party of former Prime Minister Kulov, ArNamys (Dignity), also failed to gather a sufficient number of votes.
44. The post-electoral period has given rise to new disputes and accusations of fraud voiced by the opposition. Early in 2008 the opposition set up a parallel parliament and cabinet. Overall, however, the opposition was greatly weakened and divided following the elections. It also seemed to have difficulty rallying its forces again. Numerous irregularities were again reported during the local elections held on 5 October 2008.
45. The outcome of the Tulip Revolution is thus disappointing. The new government has appeared weak and indecisive, lacking the political will to introduce the necessary reforms. With a new constitution confirming the authority of the president and a parliament largely in the hands of the presidential party, Mr Bakiev’s power is enhanced. But to judge by the results in its first few months, Mr Bakiev's new consolidated government does not seem to be in a better position to bring in the necessary reforms, especially in the economic field. On the contrary, the economic situation has deteriorated, with inter alia a serious energy crisis forecast for the winter and an appreciable increase in the price of foodstuffs. At the same time, the privatisation projects that were to have been one of the new government's priorities have been postponed. There has also been a certain retreat with respect to the protection of fundamental freedoms, with amendments to the laws on the media and on freedom of association, widely criticised by competent international bodies. In this context it is quite possible that the government may be faced with a new popular protest, such as that which had enabled Mr Bakiev to become president.
Head of State: Islam Karimov
Source : Bilan du Monde, EBRD, IMF
47. Although the executive dominance over Uzbekistan’s political system, and even over the routine aspects of daily life, is pervasive, several recent reforms may provide the institutional basis for some changes. An important development in this regard has been a constitutional amendment that provides for the election of regional governors or khokims. Another important development has been the introduction of a bicameral parliament.
48. Uzbekistan’s Supreme Assembly or Oliy Majlis consists of an upper house, the Senate, that includes 84 senators indirectly elected by regional councils and 16 appointed by the President, and a lower house, the Legislative Chamber, with 120 members elected in single-mandate constituencies. However, the Assembly meets only a few days a year and has no real power to shape laws. The judiciary is also under the tight control of the executive, which has the unencumbered power to appoint, dismiss and punish all local and regional judges. It is therefore unsurprising that courtrooms are often used by the executive to harass and persecute those who question the regime. Uzbekistan’s criminal code allows detention without judicial review of anyone who is deemed a “witness” to a crime. It also provides for so-called administrative detentions for administrative violations for a period of up to 15 days. This leads to widespread abuses. Individuals in custody have no right to counsel and are often subject to the use of torture, which, according to the UN special rapporteur, is systematic in Uzbekistan. Yet there have also been important reforms, such as the abolition of the death penalty and the transfer of the right to issue arrest warrants from the prosecutor to the courts.
49. President Islam Karimov has been the head of state since March 1990, when he was elected by the then Supreme Council. He remained in power through a series of referendums and elections. Although the president's term of office expired in January 2007, the authorities, exploiting ambiguities in the law, set the date for the presidential elections in December 2007. Several international bodies questioned President Karimov's right to stand for a fresh term of office, given the constitutional provision limiting the number of successive presidential terms to two. Four candidates in all were authorised to stand. Mr Karimov was re-elected with 88.1% of the votes, while voter turnout was over 90%. The OSCE/ODIHR statement concluded that the election was “held in a strictly controlled political environment, leaving no room for real opposition”, and that it “generally failed to meet many OSCE commitments for democratic elections”.
50. The third parliamentary elections since Uzbekistan gained independence in 1991 were held on 26 December 2004. The OSCE/ODIHR mission reported that these elections – as all the previous ones – fell significantly short of OSCE commitments, as well as other international standards, despite minor improvements in the election law. Only five parties with stated propresidential views were registered and could participate in the elections. All other political parties or initiative group candidates, who exhibited some critical attitude towards the regime, were denied registration.
51. Although many forms of media operate in Uzbekistan, there is not really any question of pluralism or of free and independent media. As was carefully observed by the OSCE, “selfcensorship is a common practice inherited from Soviet times, and a long list of ‘sensitive’ issues are unofficially banned from public discussion”. In the aftermath of an uprising in Andijan persecution and harassment of independent journalists and NGOs have intensified. Thus, since 2005, Uzbekistan’s extremely poor record of human rights has only worsened. Uzbek sources state that as many as 251 persons were sentenced to prison terms ranging from fourteen to twenty years in relation to Andijan. Hundreds of refugees fled Uzbekistan following the events, including journalists, human rights activists, members of the political opposition, and relatives of the accused persons. An amendment to the criminal code making it a criminal offence for private citizens to give information or support the work of international organisations, introduced a further assault on civil society. Uzbekistan ranked as the most corrupt Central Asian state, 175th of 180 states and territories surveyed in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index (CPI) for 2007.
52. Religious freedoms are also severely constrained. The government imposes strict rules for registration of all religious groups and controls even private religious activities, such as pilgrimages to Hajj. Not only non-traditional religious groups face harassment and arrest but also the mainstream Muslim population who are labelled, if necessary, as extremists and terrorists. The government justifies its policies citing dangers stemming from radical Islamist groups such as Hizb ut-Tahrir and the IMU.
Head of State: Imomali Rakhmon3
Source : Bilan du Monde, EBRD, IMF
54. Imomali Rakhmon has been ruling the country since December 1992. After a liberal period following the Moscow peace agreements, the president sought to consolidate his power, relegating to impotency his political rivals, and has legitimized authoritarian rule and the status quo by capitalizing on fears of political turmoil. The weak and divided opposition has been unable to offer any credible alternative to the present government.
55. The 1994 Constitution provides for the separation of powers, but concentrates almost all power in the hands of the president, who is the head of state and the chairman of the Majlisi Oli – the Supreme Assembly – with a broad authority to appoint and dismiss officials at all levels of government. A 1999 referendum extended the presidential term from five to seven years. It also provided for the creation of a bicameral parliament and religious-based political parties. The parliament’s lower chamber – the Assembly of Representatives – consists of 63 members elected by popular vote for a five-year term; an upper chamber, the National Assembly, is composed of 34 members, of whom 25 are selected by local assemblies and 8 are appointed by the president. A package of 56 constitutional amendments, reportedly approved by 93% of voters in a 2003 referendum, contained a controversial provision enabling the president to run for two additional seven-year terms, thereby allowing the current president to remain in office until 2020. Skilfully using the widespread fear of renewed civil unrest, President Rakhmon explained that the change was necessary to ensure Tajikistan’s post-conflict stability and state building.
56. Patronage networks and regional affiliations provide an essential basis for the presidential power in Tajikistan. At the same time, members of the opposition have been excluded from major government positions, even though the power-sharing agreement – part of the 1997 Moscow peace agreements – guaranteed them 30% of government posts.
57. Although the Constitution provides for an independent judiciary, the legal system is subject to strong influence from the executive as well as criminal groups. Reportedly, arbitrary arrests and police torture to extract confessions are widely practiced. Corruption has encumbered the judiciary and is pervasive at every level of the government. In 2007, Transparency International ranked Tajikistan 150th on the CPI.
58. Large-scale irregularities were reported in the February 2005 parliamentary election, in which the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) received 74.9% of the votes, while the opposition Communist Party and the Islamic Renaissance Party (IRP) received 13.6% and 8.9%, respectively. 5 independent candidates were also elected to the House of Representatives. The OSCE noted that improvements in the legislative framework were not fully implemented in practice, and the election itself fell short of democratic norms.
59. Prior to the presidential election of 6 November 2006, Mr Rakhmon had embarked on a campaign highly nationalistic in tone to marginalize the opposition. Many figures of the opposition were sentenced on various accounts and some jailed. At the same time the opposition was weakened by several splits; thus the Democratic Party broke up to form three different parties between August 2006 and January 2007. Mr Rakhmon also allegedly replaced dozens of highlevel officials, and reinforced his control over local governments. In the end, only pro-regime parties ran in the election, the opposition parties having decided either to boycott them or to put forward no candidate. Unsurprisingly, Mr Rakhmon returned to office with 79.3% of the vote: the turnout was officially declared to be over 90%. In its postelection statement, the OSCE/ODIHR emphasised “a lack of genuine choice and meaningful pluralism” and identified many serious shortcomings. The partial parliamentary elections organised in five constituencies in March and May 2007 confirmed the presidential party's dominant position: all were won by the PDP, with a majority ranging from 90 to 95% of the votes.
60. Since 2005, the government has progressively curtailed certain fundamental freedoms. The government is also carrying out a particularly harsh campaign against religious extremism and a new law on freedom of conscience and religious organisations is currently being prepared, which should make the legislation in this area somewhat harsher.
61. The Tajik authorities have also continued to restrict freedom of speech. The civil war, in which many journalists were killed, has had a devastating impact on the country’s media. In recent years, many independent newspapers have been forced out of circulation. A positive development has been the launch of three independent TV stations in the cities of Isfara, Panjakent, and Istaravshan. Nonetheless, harassment of independent media, the detention of journalists, and selfcensorship, remain widespread features of Tajikistan’s media landscape. Moreover, the new laws in 2007 on NGOs and freedom of association, both of which make existing provisions harsher, have been severely criticised by the competent international bodies.
62. As in the Kyrgyz Republic, the combined effect of several phenomena – the consolidation of political power, the concentration of wealth in the hands of the elite, the deterioration in the economic situation and repercussions from the instability in neighbouring Afghanistan, particularly in terms of drug-trafficking – might imperil the present regime in the long term.
Head of State and Prime Minister: Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov
Source : Bilan du Monde, EBRD, IMF
63. Enacted on 18 May 1992, the Constitution of Turkmenistan provides for the separation of powers. However, in practice, the real power lies exclusively with the executive branch. The 50member unicameral parliament has been gradually supplanted by a fourth branch, the People’s Council or Halk Maslakhaty, born out of the wish to restore Turkmenistan’s national tradition of dealing with problems in tribal assemblies. A 2003 constitutional amendment raised the Council’s status to the country’s supreme representative body, empowering it to pass constitutional laws. The 2,507-member People’s Council consists of the president, members of the Parliament and the Council of Ministers, the chairman of the Supreme Court, the prosecutor general, local officials, the chairmen of officially recognized political parties, as well as representatives of the Council of Elders, trade unions, and youth and women’s associations. In practice, the People’s Council serves to legally approve policies of the president, who also chairs the Council. It meets only once a year and cannot therefore form a basis for any genuine legislative activity. The president remains the author of almost all major and many minor decisions. He also appoints all judges for five-year terms. Almost entirely unreformed since Soviet times, Turkmenistan’s legal system, although formally independent, acts as an important instrument of repression for the regime.
64. Turkmenistan’s first post-independence president, Saparmurat Niyazov, who ruled the country for 21 years, died on 21 December 2006. Since independence in 1991, all aspects of life in Turkmenistan were dominated by his monopoly on power. Niyazov was elected president of the Soviet Republic of Turkmenistan in 1990, confirmed as president of independent Turkmenistan in 1992 and later again by referendum. He headed the only registered party in the country, the Democratic Party of Turkmenistan (DPT), a post-independence re-embodiment of the communist Party. In 1993, Niyazov declared himself Turkmenbashi, the father of the Turkmen nation. In 1999, he was proclaimed president for life. The personification of Niyazov’s rule went hand-in-hand with the institutionalization of an immense cult of his personality. This meant to give visibility to his political power, legitimize the social and political order, and serve as a symbolic embodiment of the Turkmen nation.
65. The central role in the nation-building process and the construction of Niyazov’s cult of personality was assigned to Ruhnama – the so-called moral code of conduct allegedly authored by Niyazov. Ruhnama presents a rather mythical view of Turkmen history, glorifying the ancient past of the Turkmen nation, and providing moral and ethical guidelines to be followed by every Turkmen. Knowledge of Ruhnama was an imperative for entire categories of the population, from pupils to civil servants. No sphere of public or private life has proved impervious to the effects of Niyazov’s rule. Furthermore, the consolidation of the national identity has been accompanied by severe restrictions placed on religious freedoms, and by the forced Turkmenification of ethnic minorities.
66. Niyazov’s Turkmenistan had one of the worst human rights records. The OSCE, the European Parliament, the Office of the UNHCHR, and the UN General Assembly adopted numerous resolutions condemning the country’s abysmal human rights record, particularly its persecution of political figures. Unsurprisingly, there is no real political opposition to speak of. The weak and divided opposition operates principally abroad.
67. Niyazov left no chosen successor. Two figures emerged in the transition period, Deputy Prime Minister, Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, and the head of the presidential guard, Akmurat Redzhepov. The enlarged and re-shuffled People’s Council hastily enacted a number of constitutional amendments, which eliminated the legal barriers on Berdymukhammedov’s way towards the presidency and ensured that the opposition would not be able to contest the election result. Allegedly, some 100 officials were arrested to secure the realization of this succession plan.
69. Since assuming office, the new president has initiated positive changes in a number of areas (education, pensions). He established an intergovernmental commission to improve his country’s compliance with its international human rights obligations and a Commission on the Actions of Law Enforcement Bodies. He has had meetings with international human rights delegations and a human rights dialogue with the European Union and also agreed to a US proposal to send a mission to Turkmenistan focusing on democracy and human rights. The new government has adopted a more benevolent attitude to the country's ethnic minorities. More than 12,000 prisoners, including a small number of high-profile political prisoners, have benefited from presidential pardons. The situation has also slightly improved with regard to the right to free movement. During the Niyazov era there were blacklists with thousands of people unable to travel abroad. Today restrictions are confined to some activists, relatives of political opposition members, religious minorities, and journalists.
70. In the spring of 2008, President Berdymukhammedov initiated a constitutional review, presented as evidence of his commitment to the market economy and the principles of liberal democracy. The new constitution, which was approved by the People's Council on 26 September 2008, includes several important new provisions. In particular the People's Council should disappear, to be replaced by a Parliament enlarged to 125 members. The constitution also recognises the right of every citizen to form a political party. At the same time, a number of competences, such as the nomination of regional governors, are restored as presidential prerogatives. President Berdymukhammedov's willingness to reform the country's institutions is a positive sign in itself, and should be welcomed. However, it is still early for an assessment of the scope and actual impact of this reform. The parliamentary elections will be another important step; these should be held in December 2008 and should provide more guidance on the government's intentions regarding the political development of the country.
71. Over and above a far-reaching reform of the institutions, much remains to be done, because Turkmenistan’s regime remains one of the most repressive in the world. NGOs are few in number and are under supervision. The population has very limited access to information. The Turkmen media scene is relatively undeveloped; all broadcast, print and electronic media remain stateowned and tightly controlled. The government also controls the work of foreign press agencies and journalists stationed in the country. President Berdymukhammedov has made increased access to Internet one of his priorities. However, only a very small segment of the population uses this media outlet, which incidentally is still subject to a number of restrictions.
III. DEMOCRATIC GOVERNANCE AND SECURITY IN CENTRAL ASIA: TRANSATLANTIC APPROACHES
A. NATO, SECURITY AND DEMOCRATIC GOVERNANCE IN CENTRAL ASIA4
72. It should be noted by way of preamble that evidently the primary goal of NATO is not to promote democracy. However, as NATO's partnerships have evolved in order to respond to the requests and requirements of the states concerned, they have made more and more room for respect of democratic principles. Particular stress is laid on democratic control of the defence sector and of security. The level of requirement obviously varies according to the closeness of the partnership. It is greatest in the case of states that aspire to membership. However, NATO has also sought – more or less successfully – to encourage its other partners, including in Central Asia, to implement democratic reforms.5
73. Central Asian states were integrated relatively early into the NATO partnership structures. Four of them joined the Partnership for Peace programme (PfP) as early as 1994, with Tajikistan doing so later, in 2002. However, it is primarily since the launching of the Allied operations in Afghanistan that NATO has become aware of the essential role that the states of Central Asia can play with regard to the stability of the region. More recently, the importance attached to the question of energy security has once again placed the region at the centre of Allied concerns. Therefore, the final communiqué of the Istanbul Summit in 2004 underlined the need for action “in particular through a special focus on engaging with our partners in the strategically important regions of the Caucasus and Central Asia.” This commitment to Central Asia was reaffirmed by the Heads of State and Government of the Alliance at the Bucharest Summit in April 2008; they called for a strengthening of liaison arrangements in this region and continued dialogue on Afghanistan.
74. For their part, the states of Central Asia also have a direct interest in the stability of Afghanistan. They have also seen in NATO’s greater engagement in the region an opportunity to benefit from the organisation’s expertise to modernize their armed forces and upgrade their capacity to respond to regional security challenges. The development of relations with NATO also constitutes a counterweight, or at least a useful alternative, to their relations with Russia. Nevertheless, it is clear that none of the states of Central Asia ultimately aims to join NATO.
75. This new mutual interest is reflected by enhanced co-operation in several spheres. The states of the region have involved themselves, to differing degrees, in initiatives related to the operations in Afghanistan (permitting fly-overs or transit flights, allowing the use of military bases, reconstruction assistance), to the fight against terrorism (within the context of NATO’s Partnership Action Plan Against Terrorism), to the destruction of surplus armaments (within the framework of the NATO trust fund),, to civil emergency planning, and to scientific co-operation. Additionally, NATO has appointed a Special Representative for the Caucasus and Central Asia and a liaison officer based in the area, who jointly make it possible for NATO to have greater visibility and continuity in its dialogue with the governments of the region.
76. Overall, however, co-operation with the states of Central Asia has remained limited to and focused on a restricted number of key areas. It is even virtually non-existent or at least “on standby” with Uzbekistan, as a result of the situation in that country in terms of democracy and human rights. This was also the case with Turkmenistan until recently, but under President Berdymukhammedov relations have been revived somewhat. The fact remains that initiatives in more demanding or more sensitive areas, such as interoperability with NATO or defence reform, proposed within the context of NATO’s Planning and Review Process (PARP), have been undertaken only with Kazakhstan, and the Kyrgyz Republic since 2007 (Uzbekistan also participated in the PARP from 2002 to 2005). Finally, only Kazakhstan entered into a full partnership with NATO in 2006, under an Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP), which comprises a complete programme of political consultations, reforms and joint initiatives. Kazakhstan will also be the first Central Asian country to host a Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council Security Forum. This high-level event will take place in the summer of 2009 in Almaty, and will be organised jointly with a NATO PA Rose-Roth seminar.
77. This brief overview illustrates first of all that, in its relations with Central Asia, NATO has preferred a flexible, customized and individualized approach, one which takes into account the specific interests of each partner. However, this does not mean that NATO has totally ignored the regional dimension of security in Central Asia; regional projects have indeed been put in place, for example in the scientific sphere (the “Virtual Silk Road” aims to improve Internet access in the region), in the fight against drug trafficking (by way of a training initiative launched in the framework of the NATO-Russia Council), or in the prevention of and response to natural disasters.
78. The fact that these co-operation initiatives with the states of Central Asia are restricted to specific areas limits the impact that NATO can have in terms of reforms, including those intended to promote the reorganisation of its defence institutions and democratic control of the armed forces. They differ significantly from the partnerships established with the states of the Balkans or even of the South Caucasus. In that sense, the declarations regularly made by NATO, recalling that the PfP is based on a community of shared values are not very meaningful in practical terms. The principal tool available to NATO to exert pressure on the states of the region is in fact a negative incentive, i.e. strict minimum co-operation with the most reprehensible regimes, as in the case of Uzbekistan, or until recently Turkmenistan. However, to date, NATO has never yet officially decided to break off its relations with any of these regimes entirely.
79. In the light of these developments, the relationship between NATO and the states of Central Asia may appear somewhat one-sided, with NATO’s interest in a close co-operation with these states being more immediate and pressing than that of these governments, who, in any event, have other partnership alternatives. This is only partially true. One must not underestimate the interest of the states of the region in the menu of security co-operation activities offered by NATO. However, it would undoubtedly be counterproductive to overestimate the impact that NATO can have in terms of democratization in these states. It is therefore essential to properly balance NATO's offer of assistance and the conditions attached to it. The fact that NATO remains synonymous with military and security co-operation does in fact give it a certain added value relative to other organisations, which have a mandate more closely linked to the promotion of democracy. This specific feature of NATO makes it possible for it to engage the states of the region in bilateral and regional dialogue, with the hope that this will ultimately result in a deeper partnership of the IPAP type.
80. The NATO PA also has its part to play in this process. Up to now the Assembly has developed relationships with parliaments in the region that are tentative only. Only Kazakhstan has official status as an Assembly observer and regularly takes part in its activities. Moreover, the Kazakh parliament seems ready to develop even closer relations with the Assembly, as demonstrated by the Assembly President’s visit to Kazakhstan this year and the organisation of a Rose-Roth seminar next year. The Assembly must be capable of responding to this renewal of interest, and of exploring possible links with other parliaments in the region that may ask for them.
81. The co-operation between the European Union and the states of Central Asia has developed progressively since the mid-1990s and today covers a variety of policies and instruments. The Partnership and Co-operation Agreements (PCA), signed with the five states, form the main framework for these relations (however, the agreements with Tajikistan and Turkmenistan are not yet ratified). These agreements define the principles, the institutional mechanisms and the fields of co-operation with the states that wish to establish relations with the EU, but cannot aspire to become members or to join the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP). Furthermore, the Technical Aid to the Commonwealth of Independent States (TACIS) programme finances a certain number of programmes related to regional co-operation, regional policies and poverty reduction. Finally, the EU also finances certain projects in Central Asia by way of its development assistance and democracy promotion programmes. All of these instruments incorporate a dimension related to the promotion of democracy and fundamental freedoms.
82. Overall the results of this relationship have been mixed. Initiatives have been developed in several areas, but they remain fragmented and lack an overall coherence and a long-term view. The EU has excluded the states of Central Asia from the remit of the ENP and has encountered difficulty in defining the strategic objectives of its relations with this region.
83. EU achievements in the sphere of the promotion of democracy and fundamental freedoms are even less impressive.6 The political dialogue has not really borne fruit, suffering from a lack of commitment and continuity on the part of the EU, as well as from the low level of interest of most regimes in the region. In particular, the EU has lacked a visible presence in Central Asia; this is changing, however, with the opening of diplomatic representations in the states of the region and the creation in 2005 of the post of EU Special Representative for Central Asia. Furthermore, the funds allotted to the initiatives in support of democracy and good governance have been extremely limited by comparison with those allocated to other regions (notably the Balkans and the South Caucasus). Additionally, emphasis has been placed on good administration and good governance rather than on democratization and promotion of freedoms as such. Finally, the EU has made only hesitant use of the conditionality policy, with the recent exception of the sanctions applied against Uzbekistan following the Andijan events in 2005 (arms embargo, refusal of visas for certain highranking Uzbek officials, and a freeze on highlevel talks). But even these sanctions have been suspended under pressure from some governments that have stressed their ineffectiveness and their possible counterproductive effect. On 13 October 2008, the EU Council decided to extend the arms embargo, but did not renew the travel restrictions it had previously imposed on several Uzbek officials in recognition of “the progress achieved in Uzbekistan in the last year with regard to respect for the rule of law and protection of human rights”. This decision has been heavily criticised by human rights organisations, which have pointed out that the progress mentioned by the EU represents only minor concessions and does not change the highly repressive nature of the Uzbek regime.
84. Awareness of the growing strategic importance of Central Asia for the EU, in particular in the energy field, as well as political events in the Kyrgyz Republic (the Tulip Revolution) and in Uzbekistan (the Andijan massacre in 2005) led the EU to undertake an in-depth review of its activity in this region. This process resulted in the adoption by the EU Council in June 2007 of the “Strategy for a New Partnership.” This undertakes, for the first time, to define the strategic interests of the EU in the region and to redefine the parameters of a long-term commitment. It is complemented by the European Commission’s new Regional Strategy Paper for Assistance for the period 2007-2013. The strategy relies on three interdependent pillars, which represent the three strategic objectives of the action of the EU: to promote security and stability; to develop the rule of law; and to strengthen economic and energy-related co-operation. These objectives are subdivided into seven topics of priority co-operation: human rights, rule of law, good governance and democratization; youth and education; promotion of economic development, trade and investment; strengthening energy and transport links; environmental sustainability and water; combating common threats and challenges; and inter-cultural dialogue. The budget devoted to Central Asia has been doubled. Seventy per cent of the assistance will go to bilateral projects, while the remaining 30% will be devoted to regional projects (in the areas of energy, transport, environment and education).
85. It is interesting to note also that the Commission’s strategy paper acknowledges existing links between the relations of the EU with Central Asia on the one hand and those that it maintains in the framework of the ENP and through its interaction with Russia on the other. In particular, the paper stresses that the states of Central Asia “have essentially become the neighbours of the EU neighbourhood.” Consequently, it will be possible for certain benefits of the ENP to be extended to them.
86. These new documents indicate a clear political will on the part of the EU to adopt a more consistent and balanced approach to Central Asia. On 24 June 2008 the Council and the Commission submitted an initial report assessing the implementation of the new strategy. This document stresses that the quality of co-operation has definitely improved. In particular, the goal of developing an enhanced political dialogue has been achieved, both at the highest level and at the technical follow-up level. Documents on bilateral priorities have been prepared to coordinate EU action with that of its member states. Two major regional initiatives should be launched before long, one relating to education and the other, to the rule of law. Progress in the six priority areas has been uneven. However, one of the aspects regarded as particularly positive has been the launch of structured dialogues on human rights with all the states in the region. At the same time, the document recognises that much remains to be done, and sets new priorities in the various areas of action.
87. Analysts, for their part, have generally been more severe in their criticisms of the European strategy.7 Some stress that this is not so much a real change of course as a mere reformulation, not a real strategy, but rather a framework and a list of priorities. In particular they deplore the lack of analysis of the geopolitical environment in the region and the role of the other great regional powers. More specifically with regard to action relating to human rights, several writers deplore the fact that this area is dealt with in isolation, that the EU has not really defined any criteria to measure progress and that it does not attach more importance to dialogue with civil society. The EU’s decision to give its Special Representative for Central Asia, Pierre Morel, a second role of Special Representative for the Crisis in Georgia, is also somewhat surprising. At a time where the Union boasts of having finally established an ongoing deep dialogue with Central Asia, Ambassador Morel’s double-hatting sends a rather clumsy and inopportune political signal
88. Furthermore, while the Council’s strategy appears to place the three objectives – security, the rule of law, the economy – on an equal footing, it does not give any clear indication as to how these elements will be weighted in the relations with each individual country. The Council’s strategy and the Commission’s paper seem, in fact, to adopt somewhat different approaches. The first indicates that the development of a stable political and economic framework depends on the establishment of the rule of law and of democratic institutions, while the second emphasises the reduction of poverty as a condition for political and economic transition and for the consolidation of democracy and the rule of law. This question of priorities will certainly continue to crop up as the new strategy is implemented. It will then be important for the EU to demonstrate its capacity to coordinate the different pillars of its action towards the objectives identified in the new strategy – a capacity which has been found lacking in the EU in several other areas. The EU will also have to prove that it is capable of going beyond its immediate geopolitical interests (notably in the field of energy) to put in place the wider dialogue that the strategy calls for. The issue of conditionality is also not dealt with clearly in the new strategy, which simply notes that “the intensity of the co-operation will reflect the commitment to transition and reform of each country.”
89. The strategy places the EU’s action in the context of the promotion of democracy and fundamental freedoms, but concentrates on the less sensitive areas of the rule of law and the reform of the justice sector, where the EU can contribute its expertise. Indeed, one of the first regional initiatives focused on this area. This prudent approach acknowledges the fact that the EU has limited means of exerting pressure or providing positive incentives in this area and that laying the emphasis on complete and immediate democratization would doubtless be counterproductive. It now remains to be seen whether by taking this route the EU can indirectly influence the evolution of the political systems in these states.
90. A further challenge will be to allow for a customized approach, taking into account the expectations of the various states and the progress made by each of them, without going so far as to dilute the overall consistency of the strategy. Kazakh authorities for instance have made clear their interest for deeper relations with the EU, in particular through their country’s inclusion in the ENP. They have adopted in response to the new EU strategy a national programme entitled “Path to Europe”.
91. Finally, it will also be interesting to see how the links between the strategy for Central Asia, and the European Neighbourhood Policy on the one hand and relations with Russia on the other, will be developed in practice.
C. THE OTHER REGIONAL PLAYERS
92. The states of Central Asia have adopted a multi-vectored foreign policy, based on cooperation with all the major players present in the region. Thus the development of relations with NATO and the EU is counterbalanced by close relations with other powers in the region, in particular Russia and China.
93. Russia is a natural partner for the Central Asian states, given their geographical and historical ties. Even if in the past Moscow has shown fluctuating interest in the region, it is now actively involved there in several areas. All the Central Asian states are members of the Commonwealth of Independent States and of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation, with the exception of Turkmenistan. Moreover, Russia has signed military co-operation agreements with several states in the region, under which they also maintain several bases. Russia also has substantial economic interests in the region and is still its main trading partner, investing in the energy sector in particular. Furthermore, the presence of Russianspeaking ethnic minorities in several states in the region, particularly in Kazakhstan, gives Moscow another potential source of influence.
94. Russia has not directly opposed the rapprochement that has taken place between Alliance governments and those of Central Asia for allied operations in Afghanistan. It even agreed to participate, in co-operation with NATO, in certain regional projects, such as the training of border guards and the combating of drug-trafficking. At the same time, however, Moscow has also stepped up its co-operation with governments in the region, particularly in the anti-terrorism area.
95. Moreover, Russia has acknowledged the growing influence of China in Central Asia and has sought to take advantage of their convergent interests in the region. The creation of the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation (Russia, China, Central Asia, apart from Turkmenistan) in 2001 is the clearest expression of this rapprochement. It should be noted, however, that there are still substantial differences of opinion between Moscow and Beijing as to the purpose of that organisation.
96. There is an ever-increasing Chinese presence in Central Asia, both in the economy (trade, energy, Chinese migrant workers in Central Asia, etc.) and in the area of security. In particular, the Chinese authorities wish to avoid any potential threat to stability in the Xinjiang-Uighur Autonomous Region, which borders Central Asia and where Beijing is facing separatist claims. It is worried about flourishing drug and arms trafficking in the region and fears the formation of an "Islamic corridor" across Central Asia, which would facilitate the movement of militants, weapons and explosives and would be likely to destabilise states in the region.
97. As well as Russia and China, Iran, India and Pakistan also have important interests and a substantial presence in the region. However, this merger of interests does not mean that we are witnessing the emergence of a new "Great Game" in Central Asia. While there is a degree of competition between the principal regional players in Central Asia, especially in the energy field, there are no major tensions overall. However, one may wonder what the repercussions of the war in Georgia will be on interactions between them. It is to be noted that the Central Asian governments were only half-hearted in their support to Russian operations in Georgia at the recent Shanghai Co-operation Organisation Summit in Dushanbe in August 2008.
D. TOWARDS A COORDINATED, CONSISTENT AND EFFECTIVE TRANSATLANTIC STRATEGY?
98. The developments above demonstrate clearly that the EU and NATO share many of the same interests and challenges in their relations with the states of Central Asia. This Rapporteur is convinced that a coordinated approach on the part of these two organisations (and their member states) would give them greater leverage, thus strengthening the influence that they are able to exercise with regard to their partners in Central Asia.
99. The EU and NATO both have a clear interest in stable, prosperous and democratic states in Central Asia. Both also have a major need to cooperate with these states in terms of security (regional and global) and energy. At the same time, NATO and the EU are facing common challenges in their relations with these states. They have to define a perspective that is appealing to governments that do not intend to join either of the organisations, but are expressing a degree of interest in limited co-operation in a number of specific areas. NATO and the EU have also been faced with the difficulty of finding a suitable balance between, on the one hand, the strategic and economic interests of their member states and, on the other, the long-term objective of promoting fundamental political reform in the states of the region. Furthermore, they have had to reconcile regional and bilateral approaches to take into account the highly divergent interests of very different states. Finally, and not the least of the challenges, they have had to deal with growing competition from other actors, notably Russia and China, with whom co-operation may sometimes seem more attractive and less conditional.
100. Despite these common interests and challenges, for the present there is no real coordination between NATO and the EU in Central Asia. While the European Strategy mentions NATO as one of the EU's potential intergovernmental partners in the region, it may be noted that the June 2008 follow-up document omits all reference to the Alliance. In the light of the challenges listed above, it is important to avoid sending ambiguous or contradictory signals. By acting in concert, NATO and the EU can create a positive synergy and amplify the effects of their respective policies. Together they can also have a more nuanced and subtle approach, since they can then call on a more varied range of instruments. The lack of a formal forum for political discussion between the two organisations should not prevent informal contacts and exchanges of ideas in order to bring closer the two organisations' policies in Central Asia. This requires, in particular, a closer co-ordination of European and American policies in the region.
101. What, then, should the pillars of such a coordinated strategy be? Generally speaking, it is important for the two organisations to design their action for the long term and to clearly define their strategic interests in the region. Furthermore, an individualized approach, one that takes into account the specific features and interests of each country, seems the most effective instrument. It would be utopian and counterproductive to try to develop a dialogue of equal depth and in the same terms with states whose ambitions and paths are so different. On the contrary, it may be preferable to favour those states which demonstrate a genuine desire for reform and to encourage them to abide by the standards to which they have committed themselves. This means, for example, co-operating more actively with Kazakhstan on the basis of the commitments it undertook with a view to the presidency of the OSCE and the interest that it shows in a deeper partnership with NATO (involvement in the IPAP programme) and the EU (interest expressed in participation in the ENP).
102. More specifically, with regard to the promotion of democracy and human rights in the region, it appears particularly important for the EU and NATO to have clear and transparent objectives in order to avoid misunderstandings or suspicions. The West’s actions in this sphere is often perceived in the states of the region as an aggressive policy, which seeks to bring about regime change. The EU and NATO should avoid listing non-negotiable demands, and rather place emphasis on a step-by-step, flexible approach, developing at the same time, if possible, a dialogue both with the authorities and with independent groups and civil society. It would also be useful to re-evaluate the impact of conditionality and sanctions, and to adopt a coordinated, consistent policy.
103. The establishment of more direct links between democratic governance and security would be useful for both organisations in their relations with the states in the region. The development of democratic institutions and the rule of law should be seen as a way to better guard against possible internal and regional instability and to respond to it more effectively.
104. In the long term it would perhaps be in the interests of both organisations to clarify the link between security and democracy in their respective partnership policies. The adoption by NATO of a Charter on Atlantic Security at the Strasbourg-Kehl Summit in April 2009, as well as the preparation of a new strategic concept, might serve to better define the place of democratic reforms within NATO partnerships, and more specifically in Alliance interests in Central Asia. This review should be coordinated with that of the EU's European Security Strategy. It is interesting to note that the current version of the strategy, which dates from 2002, does not even mention Central Asia once.
105. Similarly the EU and NATO should explain more clearly what their added value is relative to the other regional powers, emphasising how they can assist states in the region to respond to common security challenges, as well as their role in facilitating thorough, sustainable modernisation based on democratic principles. There are signs of renewed interest from governments in the region in response to the conflict in Georgia. However, a clarification of what the EU and NATO can each offer must go hand in hand with the search for areas of agreement with Russia on Central Asia, in order to dispel the impression of a zero-sum game in the region and instead to create a positive process, beneficial to all.
106. Another area of agreement between the EU, NATO and the Central Asian states is their common interest in ensuring a stable, prosperous Afghanistan on good terms with its neighbours. Although Afghanistan cannot aspire to be included within the framework of the partnerships that have been developed with Central Asia, at least for the time being, the EU and NATO have shown that they can play a useful part in facilitating the organisation of regional co-operation projects on matters of common interest, such as border management, combating drug-trafficking, or even civil emergency planning.
107. Nevertheless, certain Central Asian states are generally cautious not to appear to be providing direct support to international operations in Afghanistan. The five governments have also adopted fairly different approaches towards that country, which reflect their diverging interests and vastly unequal means. Kazakhstan, for instance, seems interested in contributing to economic reconstruction, while Tajikistan’s priority in relations with Afghanistan is security and border control. One issue of common interest to all countries in the region is drug trafficking from Afghanistan. Besides poppy-based products, the growth in production of heroin is a worrying trend, which itself relies on increased trafficking in chemical precursors. A more active co-operation between Central Asian countries and Afghanistan would thus be particularly needed in this field. However, this would require a clear and concrete commitment by all countries to crack down on a highly profitable industry, a condition that has yet to be fully met. The first EU-Central Asia Forum on security issues held in Paris on 18 September 2008 is a helpful initiative, which has allowed participants to identify several areas of dialogue and potential co-operation, including over Afghanistan. The international conference in Dushanbe on 21-22 October 2008 on border management and the fight against trafficking in Central Asia is also a timely event, which should help draw attention to the important security challenges that countries of the region face, and co-ordinate regional efforts and international initiatives.
108. When the Sub-Committee visited Turkey in March 2008, it heard a convincing case for the country’s firm resolve to play a bridging role between Europe on the one hand, and the Caucasus and Central Asia on the other. Turkey has strong links with the states of the region, which the end of the Cold War has, to some extent, made it possible to re-establish. Although the dream of rebuilding a grand alliance of Turkic-speaking peoples has not materialized, Turkey has developed close cultural, economic and political bonds with Central Asia. It also holds itself up as an example – a rarity in the region – of a primarily Muslim country that is democratic, stable, secular and prosperous. Accordingly, NATO, of which Turkey is an active member, and the EU, which Turkey hopes to join eventually, would both have an interest in more actively taking advantage of the positive role that Ankara seeks to play in the region.
1 Source: The Military Balance, International Institute for Strategic Studies, 2008.