A European Parliamentary delegation is due to arrive April 28 in Turkmenistan on a human rights fact-finding mission. The visit appears to be a prelude to a European Union upgrade of its economic ties with Ashgabat.
Currently, the EU has an Interim Trade Agreement (ITA) in place with Turkmenistan. In addition, a Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA), which allows for expanded trade relations, awaits ratification. The PCA was signed way back in 1998, but has never been ratified due largely to concerns over Turkmenistan’s human rights record. Ashgabat is consistently ranked by watchdog groups as one of the world’s most repressive states. The findings of the European delegation visit, however, could clear the way for PCA ratification as early as June.
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Deirdre Tynan is a Bishkek-based reporter specializing in Central Asian affairs.