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Turkmenistan, which has the fourth largest natural gas reserves in the world, is opening up to new countries in a quest for more gas exports. Since Russia first reduced and later halted altogether its gas imports from Turkmenistan, China has become the main destination for Turkmen exports, and these are likely to increase further when the fourth line of the Central Asia-China Pipeline becomes operational. Turkmenistan is also spearheading the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline ...

The death of Uzbekistan's long-standing president, Islam Karimov, on 2 September 2016 threatened to trigger national instability. Despite initial fears of a conflict between the country's rival clans over his successor, the issue was speedily resolved with the appointment of Prime Minister Shavkat Mirziyoyev as interim president. Presidential elections are scheduled for 4 December 2016.

The European Union has been increasing efforts to maintain gas supply security especially vis-à-vis its main gas supplier, Russia. In that context, Eastern Partnership (EaP) countries, serving either as gas suppliers (Azerbaijan) or transit/corridor countries (all the others except Armenia), have an undeniable role for the EU. Security of gas supply depends on close EU cooperation with its EaP partners and interconnections between them. There have been some welcome developments, such as the Southern ...

The Turkmen government has introduced various reforms since 2008 and has expressed an interest in closer cooperation with the EU. Yet, the May 2016 debate in the European Parliament's Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET) on the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) with Turkmenistan highlighted Parliament's dissatisfaction with the reforms. On the grounds of severe human rights concerns, AFET suspended its approval of the PCA until the country makes satisfactory progress.

The biggest trading partner of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) is the EU, but third countries have made up an increasing share of EFTA's trade since it began exploring new markets through free trade agreements (FTAs) following the end of the Cold War. Since international trade accounts for a significant share of EFTA countries' national economies, boosting trade with new markets is a priority for the association. Trade between the EU and three of the four EFTA states (the EEA EFTA states ...

In June 2007, the EU adopted an EU Strategy for a New Partnership with Central Asia ('EU Strategy for Central Asia'), in recognition of the region's increasing importance for the Union's security, stability, governance and energy diversification. The strategy provides a framework for EU relations with Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. The European Parliament is due to discuss the implementation and review of the strategy during the April plenary session.

Tajikistan is facing both internal and external security challenges mostly related to the rise of religious extremism and terrorist groups, in particular the Taliban. Terrorist attacks in September 2015, followed by a military response and closure of the Islamic Renaissance Party raised concerns about instability. The Taliban seizure of Kunduz on Tajikistan's borders further alarmed the country. Russia, the country's main security provider, is likely to increase its military presence and influence ...

Russia's annexation of Crimea and the conflict in eastern Ukraine are worrying Kazakhstan, given its large Russian minority in the regions bordering Russia. Kazakhstan's proximity to Afghanistan exposes the country to threats such as religious extremism, drug trafficking and terrorism, particularly after NATO's withdrawal from Afghanistan. Russia is increasing its influence in regional security matters and pushing Kazakhstan for greater cooperation in the fight against shared threats.

Kyrgyzstan: Social situation

Lyhyesti 02-02-2016

Kyrgyzstan is the second most impoverished country in Central Asia, after Tajikistan. The country has made progress in many social areas, especially the health sector, with outstanding results in reducing child mortality and under-nourishment. However, the poorly performing education sector requires further attention and resources. Inter-ethnic tensions between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks threaten the already fragile political, economic and social stability of the country.

Kyrgyzstan: Economic situation

Lyhyesti 02-02-2016

Political instability in Kyrgyzstan – climaxing in two uprisings which ended with governments ousted, as well as an ethnic riot in June 2010 – has worsened the already fragile economic situation, with the country highly dependent on foreign aid, exports of gold and remittances sent home by migrant workers. The newest member of the Eurasian Economic Union, Kyrgyzstan has come under further economic pressure following Russia's economic slowdown.