TRANS Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften 17. Nr.
Februar 2010

Sektion 1.5. Europe and Central Asia – More than Security and Energy? Defining an Emerging Partnership
Sektionsleiter | Section Chairs: Peter Felch (ARTilek, Vienna, Austria) | Gunther Neumann (Vienna, Austria)

Dokumentation | Documentation | Documentation

Analysıs of the EU’s Central Asıa Polıcy:
From Project Oriented Approach to New Strategic Partnership

Ertan Efegil (Beykent University)




Following the collapse of former Soviet Union in 1991, the Union immediately established bilateral and multilateral relations with the Central Asian states, especially within the framework of TACIS program.

In the period between 1996 and 2001, although the Union expressed that democratization and liberal market economy were integral part of its mutual relations, it obtained technical assistance primarily to economic and commercial reforms, state – building processes, and encouragement of foreign investments.

But after the September 11, 2001 attacks, the Union radically changed its Central Asia strategy. In its new regional strategy adopted in 2006, by giving priority to the political issues, the Union has stated that human rights, democratization, good governance and eradication of poverty are the central concepts in its foreign policy.  

So this study focuses on the change in the EU’s Central Asia policy, gives information about the EU’s new partnership strategy, and lastly makes some suggestions about the new strategy.


Priorities and Objectives of TACIS Programs: 1996 – 2000

Since 1991, the Partnership and Cooperation Agreements are the legal basis of bilateral relations between the European Union and the Central Asian states. On the other hand the TACIS program has formed an administrative framework for the technical assistance of the Union to the Central Asian states, including other former Soviet republics. Basic objectives of the TACIS program in the 1996 – 2000 period were a) to provide transition of the regional countries to free market economy, and b) to develop their democratic institutions. In this connection, the Union has viewed developing local economies and making democratic institutions more strong as a rational way to promote political and economic stability in the region.

Until 2001, the TACIS program focused on mainly five sectors: 1) training, 2) energy, 3) transportation, 4) industrial and commercial enterprises, and 5) food production. Thus TACIS program was directed to concrete and lasting projects rather than the political matters. Financial funds and technical assistance under TACIS were distributed to the following areas: improvement of small – and medium – sized companies, banking training, reorganization of private companies, new legal regulations, agriculture, environment, transportation, energy, and telecommunication.

On the other hand the Central Asian states preferred to get assistance for the subjects of strengthening the administrative institutions, encouraging foreign investments, improving education systems, developing agricultural sectors, and making process in the legal regulations rather than for democratization, respect for human rights and other political issues.


New Central Asia Strategy after 2001

Since 2001, due to its need to external energy resources, emergence of regional issues that threaten both regional as well as world security, and its enlargement process, thus the Central Asian and Caucasian states become its neighbours, the European Union changed its regional strategy in a radical way. Now the Union gives priority to political issues, economic interests and security concerns. Especially development of democratic institutions, respect for human rights, good governance, and eradication of poverty become privileged subjects. Now the Union will also be in contact with both governmental institutions and civil society organizations.

Before defining its new strategy, first of all the Union adopted its new Security Strategy in 2003 in which in favor of new existing conditions in the post – Cold War era, the Union announced following issues, such as terrorism, distribution of weapons of mass destruction, regional conflicts, failed states, bad governance, corruption, abuse of power, existence of weak state institutions, and organized crimes as new threats. On the other hand the Union included the subjects of violation of human rights, existence of authoritarian regimes, and other political democratic issues, as well as social, economic and environmental factors in the scope of the Security Strategy.

So, according to the Union’s organs, in favor of the Good Neighbourhood policy, other states that have the relations with the Union, have to respect democracy, rule of law, good governance, and other contemporary values in their foreign policies.

In favor of new Security Strategy, the Union intends to have close relations with the Central Asian states in the fields mentioned by the Strategy, such as terrorism, organized crime, regional issues, drug trafficking, and others. The Union officials have concerned that stability, security and good governance in the Central Asia is essential to maintain the EU’s national security. For that reason, the countries located at the east side of the Union have to be ruled by democratic and pluralist regimes.

Secondly, on the matter of energy supply security, in 2004, the Union has initiated another program, named as the Baku Initiative. Thus the Union gives priority to the regional cooperation in order to exploit regional energy resources, to discover new energy areas and to repair existing energy infrastructure, and it tries to materialize the Central Asia – Black Sea – the European Union Energy Transportation Corridor. With the assistance of the Baku Initiative, the Union plans to create a Central Asia energy market.

Thirdly, in 2005, the Union adopted its Instrument for Development Cooperation. With the Instrument, the Union plans to force the countries, that have relations with it, to act in conformity with the UN Millennium Development Goals and the European Consensus. Thus they will spend their energies to eradicate the poverty, to develop universal fundamental education, man – women equality, to secure the women’s rights, to improve health services and so on. In the meantime they will help the developing countries to integrate into the world economy.

Within the framework of new developments in the world, especially after the September 11, 2001, and in favor of the European Security Strategy, Baku Initiative, and the European Consensus, the European Union adopted its new Central Asia Strategy in 2006. The Strategy does not encourage the Union to become a party in the New Great Game. In the strategy, by mentioning strategic importance of the Central Asia region, the Union points out that the regional states should be democratic, peaceful and economically developed.

The Union will take attempts in having regular political dialogue with the regional countries, starting the European Education Initiative and the European Rule of Law Initiative, and organizing the Human Rights Dialogue and the Energy Dialogue.

In favor of its new strategy, the Union will take these concrete attempts: to continue to support to human rights issues, to help the establishment and development of independent courts, to support the legal reforms, to continue the cooperation in the education field, and to support WTO, INOGATE, TRACECA and regional projects.


The EU’s Regional Strategies

The European Union has prepared three different regional strategies.

The first strategy was adopted in 1999 that covers the period between 2002 and 2006. Its basic objectives were to make contributions to the stabilities and securities of the regional states as well as their efforts to eliminate the poverty and to develop their sustainable economies. In this connection, the European Union proposed to take concrete steps in the fields of security and conflict management, political and social difficulties, and lastly commerce and investments.

But despite the EU’s approach to the political issues, the regional states again preferred to take assistance in the commercial, economic and administrative fields. For example, Uzbekistan: financial reform, membership to the World Trade Organization, reorganization of commercial companies, development of human resources, energy, transportation, telecommunication, agriculture and education; Kazakhstan: supporting private sector, management of natural resources, education, development of small – and – medium – sized companies; and lastly, Kyrgyzstan: food security, agriculture and reform in the social sector, and education.

The second strategy, the Central Asia Indicative Program, covers the period between 2007 and 2010, and gives priority to three fields: 1) development of regional cooperation and Good Neighbourly relations in the Central Asia; 2) eradication of poverty and raising the living standards, and 3) good governance and economic reforms. So the Program plans to provide assistance to following subjects: education, energy, transportation, environment, border security, development of civil society, social dialogue, democratic reforms and legal reforms.

Third Central Asia program, covers the period between 2007 and 2013, has repeated basic principles of the previous strategies. The program aims at providing political and economic transition of the region, strengthening the rule of law, democracy, good governance, and reinforcing the respect for human rights. It has indicated the following objectives:

  1. to assure stability and security of the Central Asia region,
  2. to eradicate the poverty and to raise the living conditions,
  3. to develop the regional cooperation on the subjects of energy, transportation, high education and environmental issues.

In favor of these aims, the Union plans to provide assistance to these areas:

  1. In the regional cooperation context: INOGATE, TRACECA, the EU – Black Sea – Central Asia energy corridor, environment, border management, organized crimes, and fighting against terrorism.
  2. In the evacuation of poverty and improvement of living standards context: social development, development of urban areas, and agricultural sectors, and other national sectors.
  3. In the good governance and economic reforms context: political reforms, strengthening states institutions, supporting civil societies, democratization and trade.


Obstacles and Suggestions

It is not easily possible to implement the EU’s aim of transformation of the Central Asian states to more democratic and liberal ones in the short – and medium terms.        

First of all, the Central Asian states have an authoritarian mentality. Power of the regional leaders are originated from the privileged clans. For that reason, the leaders and the privileged clans have viewed any democratic, economic and political reforms as a threat to their political and economic positions. So they have made serious attempts to stop or slow down the reforms.

Secondly, until today the European Union has only provided know – how assistance to the regional countries, but it is not enough to effectively bring the aims of the strategies to life. For that reason the Union has to have close relations with local firms, non – governmental organizations and governmental institutions in order to realize effective implementation of the projects. It has also closely to monitor the projects.

Thirdly, the European Union has to open its representatives in all Central Asian countries. Its representatives can play very constructive role in getting direct and true information about the regional affairs, providing facilities to the European researchers and investors, closely monitoring the regional projects, and preparing TACIS strategy papers in a true and reliable way.

Fourthly the European Union is not acting within the framework of New Great Game mentality. This is an advantage for the Union to cooperate with other regional powers, such as Russia and China, in order to collectively implement the regional projects, such as TRACECA, INOGATE.

Fifthly, the European Union has to strive to democratic evolution of the regional countries rather than their democratic transformation within a very short time, like the US did by encouraging the colourful revolutions. Today the Central Asian states donot have effective democracies. But it is clear that the colorful revolutions are not effective instrument to make their democracies more effective. Therefore the European Union has to make serious attempts, such as implementing Erasmus programs, in order to create next local generations, who are familiar with the European values, in the long – term period. 



Since 1991, the Central Asian states spend special efforts to develop their relations with the Western world in order to find immediate solutions to their domestic economic, social and administrative difficulties and to weaken the Russia’s dominant position in the region. In this connection, the regional countries have cooperated with the United States, NATO, the European Union and other Western institutions in the fields of energy, trade, economy and security.

As mentioned earlier, NATO, OSCE, and the European Council have established close relations without any delay. The United States at the beginning preferred to follow the “Russia First” policy in which it focused on the Russia’s nuclear capability and its economic and political reforms. After that the American administration changed its Caspian Sea strategy and attempted to dominate the energy resources of the region. In the meantime, a strategic competition among Russia, China, Iran, Turkey and the United States occurred in order to control the Caspian Sea energy basin.

On the other hand the European Union did not follow such a competitive policy that aimed at becoming a party in the New Great Game. It preferred to find concrete solutions to the needs of the regional countries by adopting technical assistance programs. But after the September 11 attacks, parallel to the US’s Broader Middle East project, the Union has changed its Central Asia policy in a radical way. It puts democracy, respect for human rights, good governance, eradication of poverty and other contemporary values at the center of its policy. But there are serious handicaps that will prevent the Union from realizing its new strategy. For example, the Central Asian regimes are authoritarian. 

Consequently the European Union, since their independence, has made serious contribution to the reformation of the state institutions of the regional states and their economic systems. But although the European Union has aimed at changing mentalities of the regional countries in conformity with the democratic values and free market economies, within very short time, the Union cannot seriously encourage the regional countries to make significant political reforms due to the fact that the regional leaders will concern such attempts as a threat to their existing regimes/powers. However the Union should create new generations who have envisaged democratic values through educational reforms.

1.5. Europe and Central Asia – More than Security and Energy? Defining an Emerging Partnership

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For quotation purposes:
Ertan Efegil: Analysıs of the EU’s Central Asıa Polıcy:From Project Oriented Approach to New Strategic Partnership - In: TRANS. Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften. No. 17/2008. WWW:

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