The talks with key EU officials resulted in their unanimous support for Kyrgyzstan’s efforts to carry out democratic reforms. The President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz called Kyrgyzstan “a strategically important partner in the region” and reiterated his institution’s support for strengthening the country’s parliamentarian democracy. Schulz stated that, “The European Parliament will provide all possible assistance to Kyrgyzstan, so that elections in the country will be democratic, honest and fair.” For these purposes, a group of experts will travel to Kyrgyzstan to provide consultations prior to the presidential and parliamentary elections. With the objective of promoting and enhancing the rule of law in Kyrgyzstan, the EU signed a separate agreement with the country’s Ministry of Justice and pledged to allocate some 13 million Euros to implement further needed reforms.
The President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso also praised Kyrgyzstan’s efforts to consolidate its democracy and assured his full support for the recently adopted national development strategy 2013-2017, which in his words has a “balanced and inclusive approach.” The EU also expressed its readiness to provide 30 million Euros for Kyrgyzstan’s macro-financial stability. A separate agreement was signed with the European Investment Bank and Kyrgyz authorities, which should serve as another basis to attract foreign investments.
Within the framework of his official visit to Brussels, Atambayev held bilateral talks with NATO Secretary General Rasmussen. The sides discussed issues of regional security after the withdrawal of NATO troops from Afghanistan in 2014. Atambayev also invited NATO representatives to participate in the upcoming International Conference on Afghanistan to be held in Bishkek on October 10. During his press conference in Brussels, the Kyrgyz President reminded once again about the closure of the Manas Transit Base and stated that, “Manas International Airport will exclusively be a civil hub.” Rasmussen welcomed Kyrgyzstan’s involvement in NATO’s counter-narcotics projects in the region and stated that disaster response, logistics and defense reform can be possible areas of further enhanced cooperation.
Prior to Atambayev’s visit to Brussels, a number of International Human Rights Organizations called on the EU to press Kyrgyz authorities on a number of issues, among them the life imprisonment of Azimjan Askarov, a prominent human rights defender who is serving a life sentence in prison on charges of fueling the interethnic violence that broke out in Kyrgyzstan in June of 2010. Human Rights Activists continue to state that his trial was deeply flawed and report that he has suffered from ill-treatment and torture by the police. A Representative of Human Rights Watch stated that, “Askarov’s case is perhaps the clearest illustration of the grave injustices that followed the outbreak of ethnic violence in southern Kyrgyzstan three years ago.” Kyrgyzstan’s President repeated his opinion about the case in Brussels once again, stating that the verdict was made by the judiciary based on certain facts and that his office must respect the independence of the judicial branch and cannot put any pressure on it. “The case can only be reopened if any new developments and facts emerge, which is not the case for the moment,” Atambayev stated.
During the press conference, journalists also raised a troubling proposal by two members of the Kyrgyz Parliament to initiate a law on “foreign agents.” A similar bill was recently adopted by the Russian Federation, requiring organizations receiving foreign funds to register as “foreign agents.” Atambayev responded that Kyrgyzstan has no need for such a law to govern the behavior of the numerous non-governmental organizations active in his country. If passed, the bill would severely limit the activities of civil society groups and raise significant questions regarding the overall development of democracy in the country.