The overthrow of the regime of President Askar Akaev in Kyrgyzstan in March has rekindled EU interest in the entire Central Asian region. However, although most EU actors agree the region has great strategic importance, there appears to be no strategic vision of how to promote political and economic reforms in Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan. Addressing the European Parliament in Strasbourg today, EU officials painted a bleak picture of the current situation in the region and said instability and turmoil are a real threat.
Everyone in the European Union agrees that the bloc has an enormous stake in the stable and democratic future of Central Asia.
At a debate at the European Parliament in Strasbourg today, that case was made most incisively by Elmar Brok, chairman of the parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee. In the debate, Brok also represented the most populous political family in the chamber, the conservatives.
"It is a region that today has great strategic significance. It has strategic significance when it comes to gas and oil and other such matters to do with energy provision -- [given the backdrop] of a growing Chinese interest in the region; rising Islamic fundamentalism; and also because of the drug-trafficking routes that pass through parts of these countries," Brok said.
Pointing to Kyrgyzstan, Brok warned that one of the greatest sources of instability from the point of view of EU interest is presented by repressive regimes. As long as these regimes persist, the threat of instability and large-scale unrest remains.
"I believe that we must try and work out a common interest with these countries in which they are considered something more than just a short-term basis camp for Afghanistan," Brok said.
Although Kyrgyzstan has played a major role in galvanizing EU interest in Central Asia, officials had little to say about the country's prospects. It appears the EU has no information regarding the longer-term intentions of the new leadership of the country.
The situation in the other four Central Asian states is even bleaker.
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