23 Jul 2009

The EU and Uzbekistan

Short-Term Interests versus Long-Term Engagement

Sukhrobjon Ismailov / Balazs Jarabik

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After fifteen years of independence, there are practically no democratic institutions in place in Uzbekistan. Four years after the 2005 Andijon crackdown and the subsequent Western sanctions, almost nothing has changed and the European Union (EU) is struggling to establish a credible policy towards the ‘heart of Central Asia’. Uzbekistan is not an easy or predictable partner; on the contrary, it is full of (self-) importance. The Strategy on Central Asia, which has made the EU a new international player in the region, has also presented it with a dilemma, as most of the priority issues inevitably depend on political reforms in Uzbekistan. The EU should put the strongest accent on the development dimension, clearly communicating its message and engaging with as many stakeholders in Uzbekistan as possible. The EU must make its message about the importance of reforms heard within the Uzbek political elite. Only a long-term EU commitment and engagement geared towards Uzbekistan’s development will help to build relations and create clarity on both sides.