Index 
 Previous 
 Next 
 Full text 
Procedure : 2011/2008(INI)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : A7-0338/2011

Texts tabled :

A7-0338/2011

Debates :

PV 14/12/2011 - 22
CRE 14/12/2011 - 22

Votes :

PV 15/12/2011 - 9.10
CRE 15/12/2011 - 9.10
Explanations of votes
Explanations of votes

Texts adopted :


Debates
Wednesday, 14 December 2011 - Strasbourg OJ edition

22. EU strategy for Central Asia (short presentation)
Video of the speeches
PV
MPphoto
 

  President. – The next item is the report by Nicole Kill-Nielsen, on behalf of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, on the EU strategy for Central Asia (2011/2008(INI)) (A7-0338/2011).

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Nicole Kiil-Nielsen, rapporteur.(FR) Madam President, a great deal has been achieved in the four years since we implemented the EU strategy for Central Asia. The Union has established a continuous political dialogue and regular dialogues on human rights. Initiatives and important programmes have been activated in support of the EU’s seven priority areas.

However, in light of the Arab Spring, and in the context of the withdrawal of international forces from Afghanistan, which is already under way, bearing in mind the tragic events of southern Kyrgyzstan in June 2010, the limitations of our strategy are much more visible today, and this requires a major re-assessment on our part.

The strategy is due to be reviewed by the European External Action Service in 2012, and we therefore considered that some key recommendations should be set out in the report, based on the following observation: the EU is unable to reconcile its values and interests in effective programmes that are adapted to the realities and developments in the region. Europe lacks visibility there. Its presence is still in its early stages. The funding devoted to the strategy is modest and would even appear to be under threat. We do not give sufficient open support to civil society, independent media or human rights defenders. Sometimes, in fact, it is pro-government foundations that benefit from European financial support, much to the frustration of genuine NGOs.

In the light of this situation, the European Parliament is convinced that it should develop a new EU approach based on human security and regional cooperation. All our actions, projects and initiatives should follow the guiding principle of promoting human rights, the rule of law and democracy. Europe and its Western partners, who are bogged down in the quagmire of Afghanistan and concerned about their military bases in the region, have, for too long, given priority to the stability of the regimes in place rather than human rights. However, stability based on repression does not last long, and the Arab Spring is proof of that.

We should be careful not to make the same mistakes twice, and we must be capable of better responding to the political vacuum that a similar change could trigger in Central Asia, in a context of ethnic and regional conflicts. In Kazakhstan, trade unions in the oil sector have been on strike for more than six months despite merciless repression. Early legislative elections will be held on 15 January 2012, against a backdrop of unprecedented social tension and the banning of political parties. Will we have the courage and honesty to tell the Kazhak Government that the EU will draw the appropriate conclusions from these events during negotiations on future partnership and cooperation agreements?

We are alarmed by the Human Rights Watch report published yesterday on the indescribably cruel torture that is carried out in Uzbekistan prisons. In Tashkent, human rights defenders have just been arrested. We were happy to hear Baroness Ashton, in Parliament, insisting that human rights should henceforth form the backbone of all of our external action. We therefore recommend carrying out a review of our strategy for Central Asia.

I am especially proud of the fact that Parliament has put conditionality and the principles of differentiation and ‘more for more’ at the heart of its new approach, while recommending that we should enhance our support for civil society and independent media organisations. The EU cannot be honest in one part of the world while failing to respond to violations of its values in another.

Lastly, we should consider regional cooperation. The challenges these countries are facing call for a concerted approach: ethnic conflicts, water resource management, security problems, circulation of arms and trafficking of drugs and people. These threats directly affect the security and stability of Central Asia, and also of Europe. We therefore recommend that the EU should play the role of mediator and facilitator. In order to promote dialogue between these countries, we recommend establishing an ad hoc parliamentary forum, which the EU, through the European Parliament delegation, could propose to the parliaments of the five Central Asian countries. MEPs would thus be able to share their experience and expertise while meeting with their counterparts.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Seán Kelly (PPE). – Madam President, I rather like this report. I think it has much to offer both in terms of the European strategy, and particularly in the five countries involved. Indeed it must be recognised that the European Union, since it developed this strategy in 2007, has made much progress in Central Asia.

That needs to continue. We can do so much to help the lives of the people in all the fields that are important – the rule of law, human rights, water quality, transport, energy, etc. – and we must avail ourselves of that opportunity. This is an area that is of strategic importance to us and, particularly by developing closer relations with it, the entire area can benefit. Particularly, I would like to see regular EU-Central Asian summits. In that way, one could engage better, have an overall view and see what progress needs to be made in the future.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Silvia-Adriana Ţicău (S&D).(RO) Madam President, in light of the commercial and energy security potential of Central Asia and the interest shared by the countries of Central Asia and the European Union in diversifying export routes and cooperating on energy and environmental sustainability, I support the need to develop strategies associated with the EU’s programmes and strategies in the Caucasus and Black Sea regions.

The countries in the Caspian region and the Middle East, such as Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan, have the largest natural gas deposits in the world. I should emphasise the importance of the Nabucco project, which will ensure the transport of gas from the Caspian Sea region, Central Asia and the Middle East to the European Union. This project will contribute to the European Union’s energy security.

There are 3.5 billion people living in countries rich in oil, gas and minerals. Good governance in utilising these resources can generate substantial incomes so as to boost economic growth and reduce poverty. This is why I support the signing of long-term supply agreements targeting the principles of environmental sustainability, as well as the initiative on transparency in the mining industries, aimed at consolidating governance by improving transparency and accountability in the mining industries.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Sonia Alfano (ALDE).(IT) Madam President, Commissioner, there are many facts that unfortunately lead us to the conclusion that human rights and freedom of expression are constantly being violated in Kazakhstan.

I can give an actual example, to back up my statement. On 26 October 2011, cameraman Asan Amilov and journalist Orken Bizenov were the victims of an armed attack in the district of Mańğystau. Their newspaper Stan.kz first went into print in March 2007 with a network of correspondents throughout Central Asia, providing prompt and professional information about what was going on in Kazakhstan and its neighbouring countries, and winning a positive response from the people.

It is surely no coincidence that the attackers took the journalists’ laptop, which contained important video footage from the strikes of the oil company workers in Mańğystau. This is just the latest of many examples of intimidation which all too often involve the public authorities.

I call on the Commission to take a decisive stance in condemning such practices and to take their attempts to violate the freedom of the press into due consideration in the EU’s negotiations with these countries.

Finally, I support the proposal to organise a round table at EU level between the Kazakhstan authorities, the workers’ representatives in the province of Mańğystau and the oil company representatives, in order to find a solution to the serious situation that emerged with the strikes of May 2011.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Piotr Borys (PPE). (PL) Madam President, I would like to thank the rapporteur very much for this report. I am a member of the Delegation for Central Asia and am happy to accept the underlying principles of this strategy. In the area of democratisation and human rights, we must ask ourselves whether the European Union wishes to be a global player that fosters precisely those values associated with human rights and freedom. To this end, we must resolutely join forces with the UN and the UNDP, because these activities run in parallel and are often not connected. We can increase efficiency if we act together. This is the first and an important consideration. In the economic field, there is the matter of energy and the Nabucco pipeline. Unfortunately, our action has come a little too late. The Chinese, who have an extra pipeline of their own, have taken advantage and are ahead of us in this regard. We should be more active in the area of energy and in our entire strategy regarding rare earth metals.

In my opinion, we are able to pass on a very large amount of experience to these new states, each with varying degrees of democratisation, in the area of building democracy. Let us put this great asset to effect. Let us also use it to ensure that action is taken in parallel on economic issues and human rights. This strategy will then surely be effective.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  Jaroslav Paška (EFD). (SK) Madam President, we need to understand that Russian influence and a traditionally Russian style of governing are relatively strong in this area. This means that if we want to help this region, we should stay put and remain active there, because if we pull out, as the rapporteur suggests, we will surrender the entire area to the control of powers such as China and Russia, and the people living in the area will have no alternative, and they will not have the vision of a better society that we are holding out to them. From this perspective, I believe we should stay in this area, but we should try a combination of commercial and economic cooperation and link this to human rights. If the governments in the region see some profit from our projects, and a better standard of living, then they will think more about what we want from them in the area of human rights, and if these economic projects are advantageous and profitable for them, they will be willing to accept our view of the world and our human rights criteria, and to change the structure of their society. We therefore need a combined approach. We must not expect success right from the start.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  László Andor, Member of the Commission. – Madam President, I welcome the European Parliament draft resolution on the implementation of the EU strategy for Central Asia. It is a timely contribution for the review of the strategy which will be undertaken over the coming year.

Central Asia is a region of growing importance to the European Union. The region borders Afghanistan and faces security threats with implications for the EU. These implications include terrorism, drug trafficking and other cross-border crime.

Widespread poverty in some countries and incomplete political and economic reform processes pose challenges, not only for the countries themselves, but also for regional cooperation and security. At the same time, the region is rich in resources and has the potential of diversifying energy export routes to the EU and contributing to EU energy security.

There is significant interest among the countries in the region to strengthen relations with the EU. Since the adoption of the strategy on Central Asia by the European Council in 2007, the EU has managed with limited resources, and within a relatively short time, to significantly increase its role in central Asia.

Our key role in close cooperation with the OSCE and the UN in helping the Kyrgyz Republic to overcome its crisis last year and supporting the development of a parliamentary democracy there is a good example of the importance of our increased engagement.

The strategy on Central Asia has led to other important developments worth noting. We have established regular high-level political dialogue between the EU and Central Asia regionally, at the level of foreign ministers. We have established regular human rights dialogues with all five countries. On energy, we are closer than ever to making our trans-Caspian pipeline a reality, with the participation of Turkmenistan in the southern energy gas corridor.

In the sensitive area of water, we are now engaging in water policy dialogues to improve domestic water management polices, as has been done in Eastern Europe and the Caucasus.

On education, more Central Asian students than ever are coming to the EU and the EU is heavily involved with education sector reform in several countries.

Our technical assistance programme to support border management reform and combating drug trafficking remain among the leading international programmes in the region.

As regards international financial institutions, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development continues to be a leading investor, to develop the private sector primarily, and we have expanded the mandate of the European Investment Bank to cover Central Asia, with a focus on energy and environment.

We have managed to open new EU delegations in the region: in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, and hopefully also in Turkmenistan in the not too distant future.

The region more broadly continues to face difficult chapters and much remains to be done in terms of our relations with the region.

The human rights situation is of general concern, as has been pointed out by Ms Alfano, and we need to see how best to make more of our engagements in this sensitive but very important area.

As noted, we need to open delegations in all countries, which is important for increasing EU visibility and for promoting EU programmes, views and interests more efficiently. And given our admittedly limited financial resources for the region, the coordination of assistance with other international donors is crucial and has to be intensified continuously. The fact that our resources are limited has also made it increasingly important to focus our assistance, as the European Parliament report rightly points out. This is already taking place with a limited amount of focal sectors per country.

Poverty alleviation remains a key objective and the poorest countries in the region – the Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan – remain the primary beneficiaries of EU assistance.

The region is diverse and, while we promote regional cooperation, notably on crucial issues such as water management, border management and drug trafficking, we have bilateral agendas with the five countries following their respective tracks, depending on individual needs and ambitions in terms of moving towards the EU and reform objectives.

With Kazakhstan, for example, we just recently opened negotiations on an enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, which will be a first for the region.

Let me conclude by saying that the European Parliament has an important role to play as we move forward in our relations with Central Asia. We strongly welcome European Parliament visits to the countries and regular interparliamentary dialogue and the increased parliamentary engagement that the report envisages. Again, we welcome Parliament’s report which provides important input for our upcoming review and I congratulate the rapporteur.

 
  
MPphoto
 

  President. – The debate is closed.

The vote will take place at 11.30 on Thursday, 15 December 2011.

Written statements (Rule 149)

 
  
MPphoto
 
 

  Paolo Bartolozzi (PPE), in writing.(IT) Four years after it was first introduced, the European Parliament is examining the status of implementation of the EU strategy for Central Asia. In the light of major developments in Europe and the world, the EU has summed up its achievements in its relations with this part of the world.

This report underlines the need for a new approach focusing on strengthening long-term cooperation and a mutual strategic commitment in order to deepen the political, social and economic relations. The text also highlights the need to maintain a high level of commitment in all areas of society, thanks also to more financial resources, funding and programmes.

Furthermore, the report draws attention to the institutional value of the partnership and cooperation agreements (PCAs) as the basis for exchanges with these countries and of the Parliamentary Cooperation Committees as tools that can guarantee a regular platform for strengthening bilateral relations with countries in Central Asia.

To sum up, the new strategy has a fundamental role in the creation of increasingly stable cooperation with this sensitive region, with which dialogue and the mutual exchange of knowledge will guarantee ambitious results in terms of economic cooperation, the promotion of development and defence of human, social and cultural rights.

 
Last updated: 19 March 2012Legal notice