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Wednesday, 11 May 2005 - Strasbourg OJ edition

4. Situation in Kyrgyzstan and Central Asia

  President. The next item is the Council and Commission statements on the situation in Kyrgyzstan and Central Asia.


  Nicolas Schmit, President-in-Office of the Council. (FR) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I am particularly pleased to have been given the opportunity to speak on behalf of the Council about these important matters with regard to the vital region of Central Asia. That region is important for the European Union from several points of view: geopolitically, geostrategically and also economically.

Despite a certain degree of improvement recently, the situation in Kyrgyzstan remains critical. The new political dynamic is structured according to personal and regional allegiances and the political parties have a purely nominal role. The presidential election is scheduled for 10 July, and the second round could take place on 24 July. The risks connected with security and the uncertain economic situation could complicate the presidential campaign. Indeed, the presidential election campaign is increasingly turning into a competition between the two main candidates on the political scene in the country, namely Mr Kulov and Mr Akaev.

Because of this, the stability of the country depends to a considerable extent on a possible rapprochement between these two political leaders. A compromise between them could include a commitment to respect the election result, which should be the usual case in a democracy, on the condition that the losing candidate can take the position of Prime Minister. However, at the moment, informal contacts between the two camps have not yet produced tangible results. On this matter, the main message from the international community, including the OSCE and the European Union, during this presidential campaign should stress the importance of holding free and fair elections.

Nevertheless, the holding of democratic elections will not automatically guarantee that the democratisation process is completely successful. Many political issues will remain on the agenda, in particular constitutional reform, the expected parliamentary elections, the independence of the media and the development of a political system based on the natural development of political parties.

The issue of constitutional reform has already been mentioned in the electoral debate. The parliament has set up a constitutional council, which is to set out the principles for constitutional reform to be implemented following the election results. Nevertheless, various political players are taking completely opposing positions in this regard. The economic climate is not improving significantly and public order is still precarious. The seizure of land around Bishkek increases the risk of disorder. Ethnic issues are at the heart of political debate. In general, the situation for ethnic minorities remains a cause for concern.

All the most important international players, including Russia, favour the maintenance of internal security and stability in Kyrgyzstan. The new leaders of the country have successfully maintained good relations with all their neighbouring countries, particularly with Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. The OSCE’s work for Kyrgyzstan will soon be finalised and the Kyrgyz Government will need to approve it in the coming days. The European Commission recently announced its intention to allocate EUR 25 million to Kyrgyzstan in 2005.

As you know, the general situation in Central Asia remains a matter of concern. A number of factors are creating an atmosphere of uncertainty around the countries in that region. First of all, the most serious threats to regional stability in Central Asia are a lack of economic reform, the continuance of authoritarian regimes and the widespread phenomena of corruption, organised crime and drug trafficking. We spoke yesterday about the problem of drugs in Afghanistan. Well, these countries are on the drug-trafficking route.

The political rights of the people are being eroded in the majority of these countries. Regional cooperation has not reached an adequate level due to the lack of trust and of political will among the states in the region. Poverty and lack of growth in the countries of Central Asia have exacerbated socio-economic tensions. The geopolitical proximity of Afghanistan and certain domestic factors have allowed Islamic extremism to spread and, as I have just stated, have increased drug trafficking. Potential conflicts on the doorstep of the States in the region and between them could be stirred up by the mixing of ethnic minorities on the territory of these countries.

Various specific issues need to be raised with regard to the situation in certain countries in the region. I will summarise them briefly. In Kazakhstan, the parliamentary elections which took place in September 2004 did not meet normally accepted international criteria. The opposition, in spite of growing support among the people, gained only one seat. The current President is inclined to call a presidential election before the end of his presidential term in January 2006. The government’s interference in the legislative process, the opposition, the media, civil society and the financial systems is worrying. The human rights situation is getting worse.

In Uzbekistan, the legal opposition was unable to participate in the parliamentary elections on 26 December 2004. The programme of reform in the country has not moved forward and poverty has increased further. There is a real risk in that country that Islamic fundamentalism will spread further and further within the population.

In Turkmenistan, the lack of freedom of expression and of democratic debate, the impossibility of maintaining an effective opposition to the government and the non-existence of any programme of structural reform are major causes for concern.

Finally, the situation in Tajikistan is characterised by two main problems: endemic squabbles between provinces and a prolonged economic crisis.

In spite of the problems and difficulties in the region, as I have just detailed, the European Union believes that relations with the region are of vital importance and is prepared to support the transition of these countries to effective market economies and also to functioning democracies.

The Deputy Director-General for external relations of the European Commission recently visited four republics in Central Asia. On 12 May, the EU-Turkmenistan Joint Committee will meet in Ashgabat. In connection with the joint committee, an ad hoc meeting will be held with the aim of advancing the dialogue on the issue of human rights. A European Union troika will meet the representatives of five countries in the region in Tashkent at the end of the month. In Brussels, the EU-Kyrgyzstan Cooperation Council will take place in June and the EU-Kazakhstan and EU-Kyrgyzstan Cooperation Councils will take place in July.




  Albert Jan Maat (PPE-DE). (NL) Mr President, before the Commissioner takes the floor, I think some more clarity is what is needed, because I have heard two dates for presidential elections in Kyrgyzstan, namely 10 and 18 June. These are, as far as I am aware, obsolete. As far as I know, the presidential elections will be held on 10 July. Before the parliamentary debate starts, I think it would be useful, if the Council or the Commission … (The President cut off the speaker)


  President. Mr Maat, that is not a point of order.


  Joaquín Almunia, member of the Commission. (ES) Mr President, it is an honour for me to be here at this plenary sitting to discuss with you the situation in a region of great strategic importance: Central Asia and, in particular, the situation in the Republic of Kyrgyzstan.

Following the overthrow of President Akaev, as a result of the mass protests of 24 March, which were caused by the violation of international and OSCE standards in the parliamentary elections of February and March, both the EU’s High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, Mr Solana, and the Commissioner for Foreign Relations, Mrs Ferrero-Waldner, who is unfortunately unable to attend this debate, have urged the Republic of Kyrgyzstan to seek a path towards national reconciliation based on the construction of a dialogue and a consensus allowing progress in the process of political reform.

The Republic of Kyrgyzstan has a unique opportunity to establish a genuine multi-party democracy in Central Asia and to eliminate the corruption that contributed so much to the recent crisis. This opportunity is in the hands of the political leaders of that country, who must demonstrate their firm commitment to true progress in the field of political reforms. The best way to achieve this is to take measures to guarantee the establishment of a multi-party democracy, respect for human rights and the existence of the rule of law, in accordance with the international commitments made by Kyrgyzstan.

I would like to emphasise that political liberalisation and the preparation and holding of free, fair and transparent elections must be applied to the coming presidential vote; according to our information they are going to take place on 10 July. These elections will be closely observed by the Union and by the whole of the international community. The democratic credentials of the Republic of Kyrgyzstan will improve if the interim government applies the recommendations of the final mission report of the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, published in March of this year.

Under the umbrella of the OSCE, the Union is preparing, by means of its rapid reaction mechanism, a range of measures for assisting in the elections and in legislative reforms in the electoral field.

The Union is urging Kyrgyzstan to create an environment in which the media and journalists of that country can exercise their rights and freedoms fully, in accordance with international commitments. I believe that the OSCE is in a position to provide the authorities with advice in this field.

It is important to fight more effectively against corruption in all the countries of Central Asia, since this has been identified as one of the main causes of the events in Kyrgyzstan.

I would now like to talk to you about cooperation between the Union and all the countries of Central Asia. At the end of last year, the Union launched an initiative intended to improve political dialogue with the region. To this end, the Troika of the Union’s Regional Directors met with their Central Asian counterparts last December in Bishkek.

This political dialogue between the European Union and Central Asia can undoubtedly help to change the future of the relations between the two regions, provided that it takes place in a constructive manner. The Commission takes a positive view of the interest demonstrated by the five countries of Central Asia in this process.

The success of the dialogue depends on the extent to which both parties are involved in it. In this regard, the Union will always be in favour of economic liberalisation and, of course, of political democratisation in Central Asia. The process of dialogue could focus on concerns that are common to both regions: the fight against terrorism, trafficking in drugs and people, money-laundering, illegal immigration, energy, transport and increasing economic cooperation.

The political dialogue between the Union and Central Asia would facilitate regional integration in the area and would provide a political orientation for the cooperation between the two regions.

The Union is studying which steps to take next. The meeting between the Union's Troika and the Foreign Affairs Ministers of Central Asia that will take place at the end of June in Tashkent will be a good opportunity to continue discussing the process of dialogue.

The Union is urging the five countries of Central Asia to persevere in the process of political liberalisation. The only way for a country to prosper to the benefit of its citizens, to enjoy stability and security, and to significantly promote regional integration, is to ensure that economic development goes hand-in-hand with political liberalisation, the rule of law and the development of an active civil society, one of the essential components of which is freedom of the press. I am convinced that that is the best way to strengthen the links between Central Asia and the Union.

The Commission is expecting an improvement in cooperation between the European Union and the countries of the Caspian Sea region, as agreed at the ministerial conference on energy and transport that took place in Baku in November of last year. From a political point of view, energy has become a security issue. It is in the interests of both regions to cooperate in order to achieve more effective and in-depth integration of our systems and our energy markets.

The intensification of cooperation between the Union and Central Asia depends on both political and economic aspects and, within this context, the Union remains willing to assist in this important region.


  Elmar Brok, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. (DE) Mr President, Mr President-in-Office of the Council, Commissioner, we often overlook this region because it was formerly hidden in the shadows of the Soviet Union, and did not therefore develop in any independent way. Today, however, the region is of enormous strategic importance due to its reserves of gas and oil, and its significance in terms of energy supplies and so on. This strategic importance is also a result of China’s increasing interest in the region, the rise of Muslim fundamentalism and the fact that a number of these countries are getting caught up in the drug trade.

We must face up to the fact that this erosion of democracy, of the rule of law and of human rights is making it increasingly difficult to cooperate with the region, to honour existing partnership and cooperation agreements and to conclude or ratify new agreements. We must also realise that regimes of this kind are turning into islands of instability rather than stability, as we have seen from the elections in Kyrgyzstan and the earlier events in Ukraine.

The more unstable the situation in a region of such critical geographical importance, the greater the impact will be on our interests. It is for this reason that I should like to invite the House to think much more along the lines of a common strategy on this matter rather than tackling individual issues, and I would emphasise how important it is that genuine support be provided for the democratic process in these countries.

My next comments are intended for the Council and the Commission. As I see it, it is in everyone’s interest for us to reach an agreement with the United States, which no longer merely views the country as a short-term base camp for Afghanistan, and with Russia, whose attitude towards developments of this kind is often influenced by old beliefs. It is in the interests of all three partners that the region should be stabilised, but we will be able to achieve this only if we work together to establish democracy and the rule of law. We should make this a new priority.


  Jan Marinus Wiersma, on behalf of the PSE Group. (NL) Mr President, I think that we are all readily agreed that we are obliged, in view of what is happening in Kyrgyzstan, to face facts with regard to the entire region and to have a debate on what should be done about Central Asia, what the EU’s interests are and what we can do to improve the situation and make the region more stable. The developments in Kyrgyzstan are, in themselves, memorable; there is a striking resemblance to what we saw in Ukraine. At the same time, we have to remember that what happened in Kyrgyzstan, was, of course, not an orange revolution and we have to wait and see how the developments in that country will pan out, particularly in the light of the fair and free elections that are due to be held there. While I am on the subject of the elections, the European Union and the OSCE must play a central role in observing them, thereby giving the people of Kyrgyzstan the subsequent certainty that the elections were fair and that the government in power is legitimate and capable of contributing to that country’s development.

Should all of this go to plan, we think that the European Union should also give some thought to how it can help Kyrgyzstan in its new circumstances, for this will have a positive effect on other countries in the region. Without entering into a long analysis of how Uzbekistan and other countries in Central Asia are doing, I would like to mention the fact that Kyrgyzstan’s neighbouring countries also have major problems about which the European Union should be concerned. This is, indeed, our key question to the Commission: we have a strategy for Russia and we have the new Neighbourhood Policy for many countries, but what to do about Central Asia? To what initiatives, partly geared towards supporting the developments in Kyrgyzstan, can we look forward in the next few years? As we see it, this is not just about safeguarding the energy supply, but also about whether we can strengthen ties with those countries and how we can, to some degree, Europeanise Central Asia, by which I mean spreading and anchoring values that we in the European Union, the Council of Europe and the OSCE share. We hope that the Commission and the Council will table further initiatives in this respect.


  Ona Juknevičienė, on behalf of the ALDE Group. (LT) I am the head of the delegation to the republics of Central Asia and Mongolia, and shortly we will be going to this region, to Central Asia and, namely, to Kirghizstan. Most of the representatives of Parliament believe the news that has spread over the world about a tulip revolution in Kirghizia. I would like to express my opinion on this matter, maybe from a slightly different perspective. I think that indeed a movement took place in this country, a movement of people; however, to name that a revolution, which has happened in the Ukraine or Georgia, would be hasty, to my mind, and I would invite Parliament to be more careful by choosing such words. Why do I say so? Because the role of the people is not clear enough. What does the nation want and what do the leaders want? This is the point where a difference should be seen.

However, this region is particularly important to the European Parliament and to the European Union for two reasons. Firstly, some countries in Central Asia, namely, Kazakhstan, is one of the biggest trading partners with the European Union in the field of energy resources. As you might know, the neighbouring countries of this region, such as China, are also very interested in attracting them to their side. Therefore, we have to pay particular attention to our regular cooperation, purposeful cooperation in helping those countries to create democracy. We have to learn from the United States of America in respect to active participation in this region, and it is a pity to say that the European Union is not really very active, is not really effective with its programmes; we have to admit that. Although the Commission states that we are one of the main financial supporters in this region, that is, we accomodate large financial funds, from the point of view of effectiveness those funds are not appropriately used. What is our objective? What objective should the European Union pursue in Central Asia, in all countries and in particular today in Kirghizstan? That is ensuring democracy, stability and order. That is close cooperation between those countries. As I have already mentioned before, the visit of the delegation will take place on 14 - 20 May. After the visit we will be able to inform the Members of Parliament of the real situation in Kirghizstan and in the region. I would also like to mention that on the 2 June a meeting with the US representatives on coordination of activities in this region will take place. I invite all the Members of Parliament to participate.


  Cem Özdemir, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. (DE) Mr President, Mr President-in-Office of the Council, Commissioner, as I have only one minute in which to speak, I should like to focus on just one aspect of this issue. I would endorse the comments made by the previous speakers, as I too believe that our primary concern should be to acknowledge the key role played by the OSCE in Central Asia. This holds particularly true for conflict prevention, but it also applies in the case of crisis management and enforcement of the rule of law, human rights and democratic standards. We should not forget that the OSCE also does a great deal in other fields, such as support for civil society or measures to protect minorities.

We should particularly welcome the OSCE’s activities in this region, especially those relating to election observation and preparations for the forthcoming elections, due to be held in Kyrgyzstan in June 2005. The aim of these activities is to ensure that the elections can be held in accordance with international and European standards. The issue of police training also plays a key role in this connection, particularly in Kyrgyzstan.

In conclusion, I would ask the Council, and the Commission too, to ensure that we cooperate closely with the OSCE. In particular, we should put to good use the experience gained in this field by Mr Peterle, who is the OSCE special envoy for the region.


  Jiří Maštálka, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. (CS) Ladies and gentlemen, I should like to thank the Commissioner for his introductory remarks. I should also like to say how much I welcome the political changes that have taken place in Kyrgyzstan, as they will also provide us with an opportunity to clarify our foreign policy goals.

At first glance, everything would appear to be quite straightforward. Elections held in Kyrgyzstan were rigged, following which the president was forced from power by popular protests, with Bishkek the next to be hit by the domino effect that had already seen the governments in Tbilisi and Kiev overthrown. Moscow backed an undemocratic president, and suffered defeat.

Yet at the same time, it is also becoming apparent that there was a strong social dimension to the revolution in Kyrgyzstan, which was very much an uprising against the rule of an oligarchy that had come into being during privatisation. This has in fact been a common phenomenon in all post-socialist countries, where groups have existed that were or are at the centre of political power, whether as a result of their past contacts, or their ethnic or party-political ties to those currently in power. The members of these groups made undreamt-of fortunes from privatisation, which not only caused major rifts in society, but also gave them the necessary means and the desire to enter into politics.

There are however further aspects of the uprising in Kyrgyzstan that distinguish it from others of its kind. This uprising took place in the country with the most liberal regime in Central Asia. The conclusion that any oligarchy would draw from this would be that the more restrictions are imposed on a society’s freedom, the greater the chances it has of remaining in power. Furthermore, the situation in Kyrgyzstan differs from that in Ukraine, for example, because Russophobia played no part in the Kyrgyz uprising.

In this connection, I should like to reiterate my call for us to ensure that EU policy reflects the fact that the European Union is an institution that upholds the ideals of the rule of law and social justice. We should therefore support those forces that wish to strengthen constitutional order and social justice, both in Kyrgyzstan and elsewhere.


   Johannes Blokland, on behalf of the IND/DEM Group. (NL) Mr President, at a time like the present, when we are celebrating the Allied Forces liberation of Europe from Nazi Germany, many Europeans will do so with mixed feelings. After all, throwing off the German yoke cleared the way for decades of oppression by the Soviet Union, which was endured also by Central Asia. Last month, Kyrgyzstan disposed of an authoritarian leader following unfair elections. Both those in government and the people of that country are fearful of the possibility that Muslim extremists will take advantage of the politically unstable situation. Islamic terrorist organisations in particular, Hizb ut-Tahrir among them, which pursue Islamic domination worldwide, constitute a threat to the whole of the Central Asian region. It is therefore to be welcomed that the region, in the fight against international terrorism, combats this Islamic radicalisation.

Unfortunately, the authoritarian regimes in the region are not addressing this issue appropriately, with the consequence, among others, that they face many problems in the area of religious freedom. It is right that the Central Asian governments should try to keep a grip on radicalising developments within Islam, but to require Christian churches to register with the government is, in my view, excessive. There should not be any fear of attacks from that quarter.

On a regular basis, we receive reports that both registered and non-registered Christian communities are faced with major problems, including persecution. Allow me to quote just one example. In Kazakhstan, Valery Pak of the non-registered Baptist community of Kyzyl-Orda has been threatened and persecuted for years. This must end, for indeed, all Central Asian countries make provision in their constitutions for religious freedom. I would urge the Council and Commission to support those countries in their fight against Muslim fundamentalism, while also calling them to account about the problems related to religious freedom, the requirement that churches be registered, and particularly the situation of the non-registered Baptist communities, as well as the wrongs committed against Valery Pak and others.


  Anna Elżbieta Fotyga, on behalf of the UEN Group (PL) I should like to start by congratulating the presidency on its excellent work drawing up a detailed analysis of the situation in Central Asia, and in particular in Kyrgyzstan. If I may, I should like to make a number of additional comments regarding the situation in that country.

Although over one and a half months have passed since the coup in Kyrgyzstan, the situation there is still far from stable, and this is a source of much unrest in neighbouring countries. We have noted a number of encouraging signs that things are returning to normal, and I believe that one such sign is the fact that a diarchy has not been established at either parliamentary or Head of State level. Here I refer primarily to President Akayev’s resignation in April. Yet events have also taken place that could cause a great deal of disquiet. These include a number of incidents surrounding a mysterious and politically motivated death, which have meant that an increased number of questions have been asked about the real nature of the changes that have taken place. In my opinion, the way in which the forthcoming presidential elections are conducted will serve as a litmus test for these changes. At this point, I should like to highlight the key role that the OSCE has played, is playing and undoubtedly will continue to play with regard to Kyrgyzstan. Monitoring of the pre-election situation and of the elections themselves should be particularly focused on those aspects of the electoral process which were a direct cause of the protests in Kyrgyzstan and which led to the coup, such as the exclusion of candidates and vote buying. The Kyrgyz authorities’ attitude towards the calling of early parliamentary elections will also be a key yardstick.

If I may, I should like to make one further comment on the basis of my own experience of public life in Poland. Once a society begins to fight for its inalienable rights, this becomes an irreversible and inevitable process, no matter how long the struggle lasts. The support provided by the EU for these changes should therefore make allowance for this fact, and it should be focused on civil society. I am in favour of the EU providing financial support, but this should be conditional on compliance with criteria relating to human rights and the rule of law.


  Ryszard Czarnecki (NI).   (PL) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I still have vivid memories of the visit I made to Kyrgyzstan a few years ago. It is a country of great natural beauty and boasts an abundance of water, which is a great natural resource in that part of the world. The eyes of the world were recently drawn again to Kyrgyzstan when its long-time leader, President Akayev, was overthrown. Some people, including some of those present in this Chamber, have rather naively interpreted this as an event similar to those that had previously taken place in Georgia and Ukraine. The truth is rather different, however. The new Georgian and Ukrainian governments are going to great lengths to ensure that their countries pursue policies of independence from Moscow. In Kyrgyzstan, however, the new political set-up is just as pro-Russian as its predecessor, if not more so. The situation in the country remains far from stable, as evidenced by the recent assassination attempt on Mr Erkinbayev, who is running for president. Current events in Kyrgyzstan cannot be viewed in black and white terms, even though some Western observers appear to wish that this were the case.

It is essential for the EU to play a more active role in this part of the world, and it must not leave the peoples involved to the mercy of the Russians and the Americans. That said, we should of course cooperate with both of the latter on this issue.


  Albert Jan Maat (PPE-DE). (NL) Mr President, I am pleased that the Commission has cleared up the misunderstanding about the Council’s communication with regard to the election date: it is 10 July. All credit to the Commission, therefore, which was better informed. I should like to echo the words by the chairman of the Delegation for Central Asia who has already indicated that we should be careful not to compare the situation in Kyrgyzstan with that in Ukraine. Time will tell whether the revolution is the same, or whether a number of leaders have brought another process in motion. The situation in Kyrgyzstan is significantly different: its democracy is divided along ethnic and regional lines, which does not, in itself, make matters worse, nor does it alter the fact that the European Union would do well to invest in Central Asia. At the moment, too little is being invested and the striking thing is that until recently, the two poorest countries, Mongolia –a country deserving credit for the absence of any problems in the areas of democracy and human rights – and Kyrgyzstan, were doing best of all.

Now that a revolution in Kyrgyzstan is underway, we should capitalise on it. I am pleased with the 25 million from the Commission, but it does seem to be a pittance. In the short term, the European Union should do as follows. I call upon the Council and the Commission, together with Parliament, to invest in the elections by sending a solid observation delegation on 10 July and by supporting the OSCE, to ensure that the elections go well. Indeed, elections that go well will instil trust in the people, also for subsequent parliamentary elections. In addition, it is important for the European Union to invest more in education and economic cooperation, because it is too crazy for words that the lion’s share of foreign investments in education are currently being made by fundamentalist Islamic groupings. That situation must end. It is a challenge for Europe to invest more in Kyrgyzstan, particularly in the areas of education and economic cooperation. The country also requires sound free trade agreements to this end.

I would like to add another critical note about that region. I should like to find out from the Commission what it intends to do about increasing repression in Kazakhstan, including the recent closure of the biggest opposition newspaper Republika and the imprisonment of its journalist Irina Petrusheva in Russia at the request of the authorities in Kazakhstan.


  Bernadette Bourzai (PSE). (FR) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, many things have been said in the previous speeches to which I will not return. Overall, I agree with the content of the draft common resolution that has been proposed.

Nevertheless, I would like to stress the importance of three points. First, economic and social difficulties were a major trigger for the events in Kyrgyzstan. This is because the situation of considerable uncertainty and poverty formed fertile ground, favourable to the spread of demonstrations and to the overthrow of the government of Mr Akaev, who had been making himself rich off the Kyrgyz economy since 1991. Unacceptable practices, including corruption and nepotism, increased the silent but legitimate discontent of the people, who aspire to an improvement in their situation, and we must pay attention to these aspirations. Thus, if we are going to support the ongoing process of transition to democracy, we must pay particular attention to the honesty and transparency of the elections, and to the implementation of a policy of dialogue and national reconciliation. Only a stable, legitimate government will be able to successfully complete the reforms that are necessary to improve the situation of Kyrgyz citizens.

Next, the stakes in relation to human rights and fundamental freedoms constitute another crucial aspect of the current situation. The European Union must satisfy itself that the democratisation process is based on true political pluralism and also allows the media and NGOs to operate freely and independently. The cooperation projects launched by the OSCE and as part of the TACIS programme must be supported and encouraged.

Finally, I think we need to broaden our thinking in relation to the events in Kyrgyzstan to a regional perspective encompassing the whole of Central Asia. The democratisation of Kyrgyzstan could thus be seen as a hope, an example that the other countries of Central Asia, suffering from violations of human rights, can follow. The recent toughening of legislation aimed at NGOs and opposition groups calls for an attitude of attentiveness and of particular vigilance by the European Union faced with the changing political situation in the region.


  Charles Tannock (PPE-DE). Mr President, Kyrgyzstan is a small, central Asian Muslim republic of incredible natural beauty and proud nomadic traditions. Kyrgyzstan was annexed by Russia in 1864, but it achieved independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. It has recently been in the news, following the 27 February parliamentary elections, when election irregularities caused widespread protest, starting in the south of the country. The president was forced to flee, accused of corruption and stealing the election.

Yesterday, on a state visit to Georgia, President Bush called for freedom and democracy everywhere in the Communist world. Kyrgyzstan is a poor, mountainous country with a predominantly agricultural economy, but it has carried out significant market reforms under ex-President Akaev. He has distinguished himself by adopting relatively liberal economic policies, and has introduced an improved regulatory system and land reform. Kyrgyzstan was the first CIS country to be accepted into the WTO, and most state companies have been sold off, although, regrettably, cronyism and corruption have been rife.

It is hoped that its revolution – if it is a revolution – will place it on a firm path to democracy, respect for human rights and good governance. It could be a model for surrounding states like Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan which maintain authoritarian systems that are only in partial transition. But border disputes between Kyrgyzstan and its neighbours are delaying the process of frontier delimitation with Tajikistan in particular, but also with Uzbekistan.

There is also the problem of the illicit cultivation of cannabis and opium poppies for the CIS markets and limited government eradication of illicit narcotic crops. Kyrgyzstan also serves as a transit point to south-west Asian narcotic markets and narcotics bound for Russia and the rest of Europe.

Presidential elections are scheduled for July: I have confirmed this from the Internet. The European Parliament should definitely send observers to watch Kyrgyzstan’s transition to democracy.



  Genowefa Grabowska (PSE).   (PL) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, it is plain to see that the European Parliament is very keen to cooperate with Kyrgyzstan, as well as with the other Central Asian countries. Evidence of this can be found in the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement concluded in 1995. Issues of interest to Parliament include human rights, the democratisation of everyday life, environmental protection and energy, and these should be the focus of particular attention.

A great many hopes were pinned upon the Kyrgyz Constitution when it was adopted in 1993. Even though it has since been amended four times, it would still appear to be a potentially good basis for further democratic changes in the country. Yet although according to the Constitution the judicial system is officially independent and responsible for ensuring that human rights are observed in the country, observers have made it clear that not enough reforms have taken place within it, that corruption is still endemic and that judges are not paid enough. According to these observers, the appointment by the president of the members of the Constitutional Court, the judges of the Supreme Court and the arbitrators of the Arbitration Court violates democratic principles. They have warned that human rights must not be curtailed on the pretext of combating terrorism.

The European Union can and should provide the financial support it always does in order to reverse these negative trends. Furthermore, it can and should provide its customary moral support by being present wherever it is needed and wherever democracy must be supported and the rule of law reestablished.


  Andreas Mölzer (NI). (DE) Mr President, the new millennium appears to have ushered in a wave of change, particularly in the successor states of the former Soviet Union. Outside factors, such as the struggle for power and for control over oil pipelines, were not the main cause of the ‘coloured revolutions’ in Central Asia, even though covert attempts were undoubtedly made by the USA and Russia to exert influence; instead, it is much more likely that these revolutions were a result of the gradual modernisation of the former Soviet republics. The peoples of Central Asia have grown frustrated with the old and rigid structures, and they want rapid change without bloodshed. Of course, the public also hopes that such change will result in an economic upturn and bring prosperity.

In principle, reforms of this kind can bring about positive changes. It would appear, however, that a partial power vacuum has now emerged in Kyrgyzstan, and this brings with it the risk that the mood will change and that the country will descend into chaos and civil war. It is in the EU’s interests to lend a helping hand and to offer advice in order to stabilise the political situation, but excessive interference on our part could have the opposite effect, by upsetting the balance that is gradually being established in the country. After all, Kyrgyzstan wants to prove that it is capable of pressing ahead with reconstruction measures under its own steam. The fact that a wave of revolution of this kind could spill over at any time should also give us pause for thought, as it would come as no surprise if this trend were to continue in other countries with similar conditions, such as Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. The EU should start preparing immediately for such an eventuality. I would also endorse the comment made by one of the previous speakers to the effect that this area must not be left to the sole care of the USA and Russia.


  Alojz Peterle (PPE-DE). – (SL) Following the political upheaval in Kyrgyzstan, which is not entirely comparable with the developments in Ukraine and Georgia, the key causes of instability in the economic, social and other areas are still in place. Of course the new government cannot resolve the accumulated problems by the presidential elections on 10 July, nor indeed for several months after that.

I myself experienced the revolution as a special envoy of the chairman-in-office of the OSCE, which in my opinion is working there quite successfully with the support of the European Union and the United Nations. I am grateful to you for the attentive words in connection with the work of the OSCE, which is currently striving primarily for fair elections, improvement of security and political dialogue between the presidential candidates. We know that there exist major differences between the north and south, and on this basis, although not only on this basis, political instability could arise before the actual elections. And after 10 July there will of course be an urgent need for long-term assistance from the international community to implement reform in the political, economic and social spheres.

I am very pleased that today Commissioner Almunia has already pointed out the strategic aspect, followed by Mr Brok and other speakers. I myself have advised several times of the need for the European Union to re-think its relationship with that area, which is not a part of the wider Europe but is closer to us than it might seem. I think that in this relationship, as Mr Brok already stated, we also need to take into consideration the trans-Atlantic and Russian dimension. In any case I am in favour of Parliament demonstrating its attention to Kyrgyzstan with a strong team of observers, and I would also like to assure you that the Kyrgyz parliament is eagerly anticipating the arrival of our parliamentary delegation.


  Panagiotis Beglitis (PSE).(EL) Mr President, the announcement of presidential elections next July does not constitute, for the time being at least, the sine qua non to the establishment of political stability and the democratisation of the country. All the members spoke earlier of the serious problems faced by Kyrgyzstan.

However, the European Union should work closely with the OSCE to organise and supervise the elections and increase humanitarian aid and financial support through the TACIS programme and the system of generalised preferences.

The region of Central Asia must not constitute new ground for conflict between the major powers – the United States, Russia and China – for strategic control of energy resources.

Within the framework of combating terrorism, Central Asia has become the host area for new military bases and its militarisation is being dangerously reinforced.

The European Union has an interest in being the stabilising force in the area. The strategy report adopted by the European Union in 2002, for the period from 2002 to 2006, for the countries in the area needs revising and enhancing, taking account of the new situation which is arising. I believe and I call on the Commission to start preparing a new strategy report for the area right now, without waiting for 2006.

Democratisation, regional cooperation, combating drug trafficking and rising religious fanaticism are important challenges which will need to be met over coming years. More active involvement on the part of the UN is considered important in this direction.


  Ursula Stenzel (PPE-DE). (DE) Mr President, the positive domino effect that began with the democratic awakening in Ukraine and Georgia has now spread to a third country. What has happened in Kyrgyzstan is another good example of the way in which the post-Soviet nomenklatura is falling from power, even though the events in these three countries are not necessarily comparable. The Akayev regime collapsed without any outside intervention, as a result of a spontaneous popular uprising. The public’s patience had quite simply been stretched too far by such things as electoral fraud and the enormous fortunes amassed by a nepotistic political family that treated the country as though it were its own private property.

The Soviet Union collapsed almost 15 years ago, yet this was not a geopolitical disaster, as the Russian President, Mr Putin, would have us believe, but a geopolitical opportunity. The much-needed action taken by the OSCE and the ODIHR, an OSCE agency currently headed by an Austrian, is the only external factor that can be said to have had any influence on events.

Putin would appear to have learned from the mistakes he made in Ukraine, and the Kyrgyz opposition also acted shrewdly by giving him advance notice of the then Head of Government’s imminent overthrow. It was for this reason that Putin neither intervened as a supporter of the system, nor backed the wrong horse, as he had done in Ukraine, even though President Akayev sought refuge in Moscow after he was toppled from power, and was in fact smuggled out of the country in a rolled-up carpet. Stable and non-corrupt democracies can only be good news for Russia.

What lessons should the EU learn from all of this? The first is that we must support democratisation in this area, and the second is that we should ensure that democracy is strengthened and civil society supported, particularly in Kazakhstan, so that financial assistance does not fall into the wrong hands. Kazakhstan is much larger, richer and a great deal more important in geopolitical terms than Kyrgyzstan, which, although scenic, is only a small country.


  Libor Rouček (PSE). (CS) As has already become apparent from this debate, there are two trends that can be observed in Kyrgyzstan, and indeed throughout Central Asia. The first of these is a deterioration in the political situation and an erosion of human rights and civil liberties. The second is the growing strategic importance of the area as a whole, a far from negligible cause of which is the energy resources located in countries such as Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.

As I only have one minute to speak, I should like to focus briefly on two areas where assistance should be provided by the European Union. There can be no question that the first of these is support for human rights, civil liberties, the electoral process in Kyrgyzstan and civil society.

The second area, and one that has not attracted so much attention in this House, is support for regional cooperation, or in other words for the Central Asian states in their fight against terrorism and drug smuggling, and in energy cooperation and water resource use, for example. Both Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan possess energy resources, and there are considerable water resources in Kyrgyzstan. To put it another way, I should like to know in what way the Commission believes that it and the European Union can support this regional cooperation.


  Jas Gawronski (PPE-DE). (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, as we must also discuss the resolution before us, and since I believe that no one has done so up to now, it would seem to me that the resolution is realistic and objective. I am pleased that it has been endorsed by nearly all of the political groups; that demonstrates the unity of the European Parliament and increases its credibility.

First and foremost, however, Europe’s decision to turn its attention to Kyrgyzstan is to be welcomed since, the European Union has been absent for far too long, as Mr Brok has just pointed out, and it has a certain share of responsibility for having tolerated the Akayev regime and other similar regimes in the area. It is also true that, when we met with Askar Akayev in Bishkek two years ago with the European Union delegation, he appeared sincere and convincing in asserting that his objective was a more democratic and transparent State. We perhaps believed him back then, but that is certainly no longer the case.

The resolution refers to the fragile situation in Kyrgyzstan and that is only right since, unlike the Ukraine and Georgia – as Mrs Stenzel has pointed out – the final outcome has by no means been achieved. At this moment in time, there is a dangerous power vacuum. A further issue pointed out in the resolution concerns the in-fighting within the opposition that would currently appear to hold power, united solely in its fight against the Akayev regime, whilst its democratic credentials are tainted by its former collaboration with the Akayev dictatorship.

For this reason, point 4 of the resolution is extremely significant, as by hoping for a substantial reform of the constitution, it warns against the dangers of a system of power taking over that is similar to its forerunner, differing only by way of the political figures involved. This danger exists; for many years the United States has provided financial and moral support for the democratic forces in Kyrgyzstan, and we must also begin to do the same.


  Olajos, Péter (PPE-DE). (HU) Mr President, the changes the NIS region has undergone during the past year indicate that the post-Soviet systems are facing a crisis and they have not met the expectations as far as economic, political and social reform are concerned. The most conspicuous example of this in Central Asia is Kyrgyzstan. Unfortunately, we are obliged to observe that some leaders have drawn the wrong conclusions from the colourful revolutions again, and instead of trying to mend their mistakes made apparent by the events, they have barricaded the possible roads leading out of crisis for themselves, their countries and their people.

We were sad to learn that the Kyrgyz developments forced the leader of neighbouring Kazakhstan to introduce certain rigorous measures. It seems that motions for a resolution amending the electoral process and the work of the media are leading in the wrong direction and that the draft bill on national security has been criticised by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe at an open forum. This is especially regrettable, as the international community has gladly acknowledged Kazakhstan’s progress in social and economic restructuring and in ensuring peace and harmony between different nationalities and denominations so far. We were filled with hope to see Kazakhstan be the first country from the NIS region to deserve the honourable and responsible appointment of Presidency. This is, perhaps, what makes it even more regrettable that the opposition paper, Respublica, has been shut down for a bogus reason, and the potential opposition candidate, Zharmakhan Tuyakbai, has suffered brutal physical attacks twice within less than a month. The fact that the police have done absolutely nothing while dozens of young musclemen have carried out assaults cannot be accidental. We can only hope that the Head of State has serious intentions to find and punish the perpetrators.

Democracy means honest competition between political opponents and such attacks are incompatible with it. We must declare that an authority is always responsible to provide the conditions for equal opportunities and honest means in political battles in its own country.


  Nicolas Schmit, President-in-Office of the Council. (FR) Mr President, I would first of all like to correct a mistake that I made with regard to the date of the elections in Kyrgyzstan. Mr Maat has said that these elections are scheduled for 10 July. This information was provided on 6 May; please therefore accept my apologies for this error.

I would also like to thank the honourable Members who spoke for all the analyses they put forward, which were very useful and completely appropriate to the importance of the region. The geopolitical and geostrategic importance of this region for the European Union has been clearly expressed; this means that the European Union must have a greater presence in the region. We all have an interest in seeing greater stability in this region, which first of all means that the aspirations of these countries to consolidate their fairly recent independence must be supported. I think that, in this context, the European Union can play an important part in maintaining the necessary balance between Russia, on the one hand, and the United States, and possibly China, on the other.

As several speakers have stressed, stability is all the more vital because these States are still internally fragile and are consequently particularly prone to the threats of terrorism and fundamentalism. We therefore need to work with these States so that they can evolve into democracies where human rights are respected to a greater extent and where the democratic system becomes stronger. This will only be possible if we help these States to promote economic growth. These countries are very diverse; the economic situation in a country like Kyrgyzstan is very different from that in a country like Kazakhstan, which could potentially be one of the richer States. In this regard, too, the European Union can play an extremely important role. We have had cooperation agreements with these countries since the 1990s and, within the framework of those cooperation agreements, we regularly hold meetings both with regard to the cooperation that we are in the process of building and with regard to a form of political dialogue.

The message that also came out in your resolution, which I welcome, is that the European Union has a very important political role. We can play this role in close cooperation, in particular concerning issues to do with human rights and democratic transition, with the OSCE.


  Joaquín Almunia, member of the Commission. (ES) Mr President, I too would like to thank all the honourable Members for their contributions to this debate, by means of their speeches, with a view to identifying the most accurate possible view, shared by all of the Union’s institutions, of the real situation, of the challenges and of the strategies and instruments available to us in order to bring freedom, a guarantee of human rights and a democratic process to the countries of Central Asia. For that, of course, will not only be crucial in terms of the aspirations of the citizens of that region; the stability, prosperity and democratisation of the States of that region will also undoubtedly be a very important element of our own security.

Firstly, the elections of 10 July are very important. It is vital that those elections take place in an atmosphere of tranquillity, with the guarantee that the will of the citizens casting their votes will be respected.

From that point of view, as I said in my initial speech, which many of you agree with, intervention by the OSCE is crucial, and the Commission believes that the role it must play in terms of the good conduct of those elections must be coordinated with the leading role played by the OSCE. In any event — as I also mentioned in my initial speech — the mechanisms available to us have been used and EUR 1.3 million has been allocated to ensuring that the electoral process takes place properly.

It would also be desirable, if there is not yet any decision in this regard, for a delegation from this Parliament to attend those elections as observers and to provide a guarantee, or try to improve the conditions, for the popular elections to be carried out with every democratic safeguard.

I would also like to make a second comment on the need for a regional strategy, a regional approach. Many of you have mentioned this and the Commission agrees and, since 2002, there has been a strategy drawn up following the visit of the former Commissioner responsible for foreign affairs adopted at the end of 2002. Its main objectives are to promote stability and security in the region, sustainable economic development, prioritising in particular the reduction of poverty and the defence of human rights.

In implementing that strategy, given that one of the European Union's main interests in the region, from an economic point of view, involves energy resources, the meeting of energy ministers that took place in November last year is very important, and we believe that we must continue to progress in that direction. Next June, the Troika and the foreign ministers of that region will hold another important meeting to assess the situation and to continue moving forward with the implementation of that strategy.

Anything, therefore, that means making progress on shaping the elements of our strategy, of a common regional approach for the region, with all its dimensions of democratisation, combating poverty, defence, guaranteeing our economic interests, the protection of human rights, will have the support of the Commission, of course, and all the contents of this Parliament's resolution will be welcome in this regard.

Finally, with regard to the particular case mentioned by Mr Maat in his speech — the case of violation of human rights — we do not currently have precise information about the case he has referred to. I would ask Mr Maat — although I know he is not present in the Chamber at the moment — to let us know so that our representatives in the area can gather all the necessary information, which we will then make available to this Parliament.


  President. I have received six motions for resolutions(1) to wind up the debate, tabled pursuant to Rule 103(2) of the Rules of Procedure.

The debate is closed.

The vote will take place tomorrow.

(The sitting was suspended at 11.10 a.m. and resumed at 11.30 a.m.)




(1) See Minutes.

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