[Comment] EU should consult Turkey on new Central Asia policy
03.05.2007 - 17:52 CET
By Turkish foreign ministry
EUOBSERVER / COMMENT - EU authorities have not yet consulted with Turkey on the formation of the union's new policy toward Central Asia. No official appeal has been made to the relevant Turkish authorities concerning the matter. As a result we do not have any feedback about what kind of role the EU envisages for Turkey in its relations with the countries of the region, despite some minor consultations at EU working group level.
In general, diplomats from EU member states seem willing to contact their Turkish counterparts serving in the region. Turkey has considerable presence in the region. She was the first country to recognize the independence of Central Asian countries and the first to open embassies in all of them.
Turkish people have close cultural ties and linguistic affinities with the peoples of Central Asia and share a common ethnic and historical heritage with the countries of the region. Therefore, our diplomats possess considerable experience on the subject.
The advantages of Turkey's membership of the EU are closely related to the future vision of the EU. Turkey's full-membership will contribute not only to the maintenance of stability and peace in Europe but also to the spread of universal values to the region and beyond.
Turkey's location in the centre of the "Eurasian" geography makes Turkey a key country. In respect to its close ties with the regions, namely the Eastern Mediterranean, the Balkans, the Caucasus, Central Asia and the Middle East, Turkey has the historical and cultural accumulation, strategic location and influence to make positive contributions to the shaping of EU policies towards these regions.
Turkey as EU energy bridge Also with a growing East-West corridor for oil and gas, Turkey already has a central place on the route through which these resources will be transferred to the western markets, making it a reliable partner for energy security in Europe.
An enlarged EU with Turkey as a member will be a source of inspiration to other regions as well. This new vision will demonstrate that diversity and differences may well be accommodated on the basis of common values and interests. This will promote intercultural tolerance and understanding. It will enhance the strategic reach of the EU.Turkey forms a natural energy bridge between the resource-rich countries of the Caspian basin and the world markets.
In this context, Turkey is realising major projects with a view to strengthening its role as a transit country and an energy hub in the region. By doing so, we believe we can substantially contribute to the global energy supply security.
The Trans-Caspian natural gas project is one of these schemes.We believe that the Trans-Caspian gas project through which Turkmen and/or Kazakh natural gas will reach Europe via Turkey, is a matter of urgency as it will contribute to the diversification of routes and supply sources of Europe. Turkey places utmost importance to the realisation of this project without which the East-West Energy Corridor will not be complete.
EU should not make fresh divisions Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan are obviously the most important and leading countries of Central Asia, with Uzbekistan having the largest population and bordering all the countries in the region and possessing considerable energy resources.
Kazakhstan has vast energy resources and occupies a wide stretch of strategic geography.
However, we believe that the region should be handled as a whole and certain countries should not be singled out for any purpose. All external actors must refrain from creating new division lines in the region, which would in turn impede regional economic integration.
Since their independence, Central Asian states have taken significant steps in state building, enhancing their sovereignty and increasing their interaction with the world. However, they still face enormous challenges. Democratic transition in the region remains slow and human rights abuses are widespread. The regimes are repressive and dominated by authoritarian leaders. Democratic political opposition is often not tolerated. Emerging civil society and free media are confronted with continuous obstacles. Calls for democratization and improvement of human rights conditions are regarded as a direct threat to existing structures and political interests.
However, transition to democracy and to the rule of law in Central Asia, after 70 years of Soviet rule should be seen as a long term and gradual process to be completed as political stability and economic conditions are gradually enhanced. We believe that the EU has a role to play in that respect. Their integration with the European and Euro-Atlantic institutions will certainly support democratic practices in the region.
This comment was prepared by the Turkish foreign ministry for EUobserver
Note: See http://euobserver.com/24/23932
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