EU Officially Less Keen on Uzbekistan

by Nathan Hamm on 4/18/2007 · 1 comment

eu.gifEUobserver.com reports that EU member states have decided to drop language praising Uzbekistan from a forthcoming foreign policy statement. The German presidency wanted the statement to say that the EU “welcomes” the recent expert meetings on Andijon. EU diplomats decided instead that they merely wanted to note that the meetings took place.

The EU’s little snub to Uzbekistan relates to the results of an EU experts’ group meeting with Uzbek officials on 2 April on the Andijan slayings – the second meeting of its kind – and Tashkent’s failure to agree firm dates for a more regular human rights dialogue with EU officials.

“The only good result of the second Andijan meeting is that there will not be a third one,” an EU diplomat said. “The quality of information submitted was so poor that our experts have decided there is no point in having a third meeting.”

How badly does Uzbekistan want good relations with the EU? The evidence keeps suggesting “not so much.”

This is good news, but let us not kid ourselves and think it makes one bit of difference to Uzbekistan’s human rights situation. HRW released an appeal to the EU to put human rights at the center of its Central Asia policy, so they will surely applaud this decision. It has long been my position here that human rights criticism is counterproductive in dealing with Uzbekistan. The government is extremely sensitive about its reputation, and public shame doesn’t work with it. (Interestingly, Kazakhstan’s government is as worried about its reputation, but it tackles image management by trying to give people reasons to like Kazakhstan.)

HRW also released a brochure of human rights defenders in custody (PDF) that includes on the last page what amounts to, in their publications at least, a policy prescription.

I find their suggestions rather silly, but your mileage may vary.

As far as I am concerned, it would be a far greater achievement, and of much more relevance to the average Uzbek, if the US or EU could convince the Uzbek government to open up the economy and make it easier for Uzbeks to create wealth. That is to say, I do not think it is absolutely necessary that human rights be one of the biggest issues in Western relations with Uzbekistan. However, I think that the EU diplomats absolutely made the right decision here. The behavior of Uzbekistan’s government while the EU has been trying to find a way to build a relationship has been insulting, and a hint that heavy diplomatic effort in the current climate would be wasted.


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This post was written by...

– author of 2991 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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{ 1 comment }

Nick April 19, 2007 at 2:00 am

‘EU experts’ group meeting with Uzbek officials on 2 April on the Andijan slayings’

Anyone any ideas on who these EU experts were?

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