On 29-30 October, the 5th EU-Kyrgyzstan Civil Society Seminar (CSS) was held in Osh in south Kyrgyzstan. This year’s topic was the ‘Prevention of Torture’, which is one of the priorities of the EU’s human rights policy in Central Asia, and is particularly relevant in the case of Kyrgyzstan after the 2010 ethnic violence.
EU neighbourhood policies have produced few results in the tumultuous South and have been derailed both by Russia’s assertiveness and by very uneven local commitment in the East. A thorough review of the EU’s approach should be a top priority of the new EU foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, and neighbourhood commissioner Johannes Hahn.
The eighth Ukrainian parliament will be pro-Ukrainian, pro-European and hopefully pro-reform. The composition of the new parliament should enable a strong pro-European majority to carry out promised reforms. These include the fight against corruption, reform of the judiciary and law enforcement agencies, public administration reform and decentralisation, tax reform and business deregulation. Public pressure, also reinforced by civil society activists and journalists within the parliament, will be strong, but trust in the new government will not last for long. Ukraine does not have much time to start changing itself, and the costs of not reforming could become toxic for its statehood.
The challenges – internally and externally – for the new European legislature are numerous. Despite being only a small part of the puzzle, Central Asia should also be on the agenda. Authoritarianism remains on the rise and human rights and democracy are in decline throughout the region.
The Ukraine crisis has exposed Turkey’s efforts to avoid direct involvement in Russia-EU tensions. Ankara essentially hovers between gaining economic advantages from cooperation with Moscow and counterbalancing Russian assertiveness in the region. But Turkey's relatively neutral position will not be sustainable if it’s vital energy and security interests in the Caucasus are threatened. An alignment of EU-Turkey tactical cooperation and strategic thinking towards the Black Sea region has been distinctly lacking, but Turkish societal links with East European and South Caucasus countries could become an asset for Turkish-EU cooperation.
The EUCAM ‘European national policies series’ focuses not only on the policies of EU member states towards Central Asia, but also on those of other European actors outside the Union. Here, Russia is the main actor. What is Moscow’s approach in the fields of politics and values, trade and energy, security, development assistance, and cultural exchanges?