Eu/central Asia : German Presidency Presents Draft Eu Strategy on Central Asia

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The EU is seeking to step up its cooperation with the energy-rich region of Central Asia. "EU enlargement has brought us closer to Central Asia and the time is ripe for a more intensive engagement with the Central Asian countries," said EU External Relations Commissioner Benita-Ferrero Waldner in a statement ahead of the EU troika meeting with Central Asian states on 28 March.

The high-ranking EU delegation, including German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner and the EU special representative for Central Asia, Pierre Morel, arrived in the Kazakh capital Astana on 27 March for talks with Central Asian foreign ministers.

Following a series of meetings in the region in February, the German Presidency decided to present to leaders of the region the first draft of the EU strategy on the Central Asia due to be adopted in June. "The talks showed that the time is right for a new, closer cooperation," Steinmeier is quoted by the French press agency AFP as saying at the press conference in Astana.

At the beginning of its six-month term in office, the German Presidency pledged to deliver a set of new rules governing EU relations with the five states located in Central Asia, namely Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.

The EU, particularly Germany, hopes that the Central Asian states can help ensure the EU has a wide range of sources of its oil and gas supplies. In return for energy, the EU hopes to transfer democratic values to the countries in the region ruled by authoritarian regimes. In the period 2007-2013, the EU intends to provide 750 million in aid to the region. "It is our interest that the Central Asian countries take a path to be peaceful, democratic and prospering states," said Steinmeier.

The draft strategy sets out five key areas for closer cooperation, including the fight against drugs and terrorism, more dialogue on the rule of law and good governance, promotion of democracy and human rights, cooperation on education and vocational training as well as more energy dialogue.

ENERGY INTERESTS VS HUMAN RIGHTS

Berlin has long indicated that the new strategy is set to put special emphasis on energy cooperation. …