A fact-finding mission by members of the European Parliament (MEPs) visited Turkmenistan in late April to assess human rights conditions. Possibly because the group was divided on its impressions, and the head of the delegation was not available, the press conference following the trip got little press coverage. The delegation's members said officials in Ashgabat hampered their ability to interview Turkmen citizens and visit sites of concern, including the Ovan-Depe high security prison where some political prisoners are said to be held.
The MEPs’ visit came at a time of debate within EU countries over how to approach Turkmenistan effectively given European values for democracy but geopolitical needs for diversification of energy supply and regional security. Currently, the EU has an Interim Trade Agreement (ITA) and is due to vote in June on a Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) after hearing the results of this fact-finding mission in a report in late May.
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Catherine A. Fitzpatrick compiles the Turkmenistan weekly roundup for EurasiaNet. She is also editor of EurasiaNet's Sifting the Karakum blog. To subscribe to the weekly email with a digest of international and regional press, write email@example.com