The European Parliament (EP) held a hearing May 26 on the European Union’s Strategy for Central Asia. The discussions offered a reason to hope that the EU can refine its approach in a way that allows Brussels to play a more effective role in promoting regional stability and prosperity.
Over the years, it has been apparent that some MEPs are willing to overlook the deplorable human rights records of Central Asian states, arguing that engagement is crucial and that setting pre-conditions for such engagement makes little sense due to a lack of leverage. Others believe the EU will never be able to establish fruitful partnerships with Central Asian states unless those states are compelled to improve their democratization performance through the setting of benchmarks. These differences will soon resurface when the EP considers finalizing a long awaited Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with Turkmenistan. On May 25, the EP’s Foreign Affairs Committee moved to postpone that debate from June until at least July.
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Jos Boonstra is the head European Union Central Asia Monitoring (EUCAM) Programme, which operates under the auspices of the Madrid-based Foundation for International Relations and External Dialogue. EUCAM also receives support from the Open Society Foundations. EurasiaNet operates under OSF’s auspices.