20 Jul 2007

The EU and Uzbekistan: Where to go from here?

Michael Hall

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Two years following the EU’s principled stance towards the Uzbek regime of President Islom Karimov, in response to its harsh suppression of the Andijon uprising, the strain in relations appears to be taking its toll on both sides. The Uzbek government has made tentative overtures to the EU, and there are indications that some in the EU are willing to accept such overtures at face value in the rush to normalise relations, often citing security and energy concerns, as well as ‘progress’ in the sphere of human rights. This paper finds, however, that arguments that Uzbekistan can meaningfully contribute to European security – of any kind – and that the Karimov regime is willing to reform do not stand up to closer examination. In the author’s view, any normalisation of relations must be contingent not on promises or cosmetic changes from Uzbekistan, but on concrete measures taken to improve the lives of its citizens.