The European Parliament sent a delegation to Turkmenistan April 26-29 to perform a fact-finding mission on the situation of human rights, eurasianet.org reported. The visit was a prelude to a parliamentary vote coming up in June to sign a Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA), which will replace the Interim Trade Agreement now in place. While signed back in 1998, the PCA was not ratified due to grave concerns about Turkmenistan's human rights record under past dictator Saparmurat Niyazov. After his death in 2006 and the coming to power of President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, the European Union was hopeful that reforms might begin in earnest, and has taken the pledge of transformation of the autocratic system as sufficient to begin greater engagement. Of course, the need to lessen energy dependence on Russia -- felt by both the EU and Turkmenistan -- is paramount in the relationship, and at times human rights have taken a back seat.
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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