The new recommendation

On the 5th of Decem­ber, the Euras­i­an Coun­cil of For­eign Affairs (ECFA) pub­lished the recom­mend­a­tion for EU’s new strategy on Cent­ral Asia at the annu­al meet­ing in Cliveden House. As a stu­dent from Cent­ral Asia, I was extremely excited to be invited to the meet­ing as a part of the Cent­ral Asia For­um (CAF) del­eg­a­tion and to be one of the first few to get to know the poten­tial roadmap of the future EU-Cent­ral Asia rela­tion­ships.

The press con­fer­ence was presen­ted by ECFA Advis­ory Coun­cil Chair Dr Ben­ita Fer­rero-Wald­ner, Former For­eign Min­is­ter and Cham­ber Pres­id­ent of the Itali­an Coun­cil of state Mr Franco Frat­tini, the EU Spe­cial Rep­res­ent­at­ive for Cent­ral Asia H.E. Ambas­sad­or Peter Buri­an and the Man­aging Dir­ect­or of Rus­sia and Cent­ral Asia at EBRD Ms Nat­alia Khan­jen­kova. Deputy Min­is­ter of For­eign Affairs of Kaza­kh­stan Mr Roman Vassi­len­ko also con­trib­uted towards the dis­cus­sion.

Dr Fer­rero-Wald­ner sum­mar­ised the main points of the newly pub­lished ana­lys­is: more focus on the ‘soft power’, the reduc­tion of the num­ber of pri­or­it­ies and the res­ults-driv­en, more prag­mat­ic approach – com­bat­ing traf­fick­ing, ter­ror­ism and tack­ling the chal­lenges of water and energy.

Mr Frat­tini noted that the recom­mend­a­tion is to learn from the past and step away from the ‘Christ­mas tree approach’, when too many goals are set, and the focus is widely dis­persed res­ult­ing in the low vis­ib­il­ity of the EU in Cent­ral Asia. Mr Frat­tini also poin­ted at the Euro­centric ‘Teach and Preach’ approach that  “ in some cases made our inter­locutors quite reluct­ant to fully engage in an open cooper­a­tion with European insti­tu­tions”. The recom­mend­a­tion is that the new approach should be more prag­mat­ic, state-by-state with great vis­ib­il­ity to ordin­ary people.

From the left to the right: R. Vassi­len­ko, N. Khan­jen­kova, P. Buri­an, B. Fer­rero-Wald­ner, F. Frat­tini — photo from Jibek Nur

Peter Buri­an reit­er­ated the need for the reduc­tion of the num­ber of pri­or­it­ies and poin­ted towards the main object­ives– secur­ity and sus­tain­ab­il­ity. He also raised thepoint that there should be great­er syn­ergy with Rus­sia and China as influ­en­tial act­ors in the region.

The rep­res­ent­at­ive of Kaza­kh­stan, Mr Roman Vassi­len­ko­ex­pressed the enthu­si­asm about the future part­ner­ship and the desire for more ambi­tious plans. The region­al pro­jects, he stated, arewel­comed, espe­cially on main­tain­ing the rule of law, edu­ca­tion, private enter­prises.

Rep­res­ent­ing the EBRD,which holds great interest in Cent­ral Asia, Ms Nat­alia Khan­jen­kovastressed the import­ance of the EU sup­port for the invest­ment espe­cially in private sec­tor devel­op­ment and edu­ca­tion or ‘capa­city build­ing’.  The devel­op­ment pro­jects, MsKhan­jen­kova out­lined, will also bene­fit from the great­er con­nectiv­ity of coun­tries in the region as well as from the great­er con­nectiv­ity of for­eign investors. She expressed pos­it­ive expect­a­tions for investors syn­ergy. Com­ing from the invest­ment for­um in Beijing, she claimed that the Chinese investors are open for the cooper­a­tion.

Over­all, the report is the res­ult of the eval­u­ation of the pre­vi­ous 2007 strategy which was very broad. The recom­mend­a­tion seems to primar­ily focus on the devel­op­ment approach which could be great for the cooper­a­tion as Cent­ral Asia nations greatly wel­come this tra­ject­ory of the EU sup­port. The devel­op­ment pro­jects, as the recom­mend­a­tion urges, should be in a great­er cooper­a­tion with Rus­sia and China, without the ‘unne­ces­sary com­pet­iton’.  After all the com­mon goal is to increase sta­bil­ity and secur­ity in the com­ing future of the region.