Regional Cooperation in Central Asia: Relevance of Foreign Models
A renewed spirit of regionalism is emerging in Central Asia, manifested most overtly in a summit of Central Asian leaders in Astana in March 2018, and the passage of a United Nations General Assembly resolution on the Central Asian region in June of the same year. This has important implications for the region, and will inevitably lead to efforts to institutionalize regional cooperation. As Central Asians ponder how to anchor regionalism in institutions, the experiences of countries as diverse as the Nordic countries, South America, and Southeast Asia may all be relevant. After all, these and other world regions offer a rich history of efforts to develop regional cooperation. They have achieved successes, endured failures, and grappled with challenges that are not dissimilar from those faced by Central Asian leaders today.
Questions range from the technical to the political. How should the freedom of movement of people, labor issues, or trade facilitation be handled? How is regional cooperation affected by the fact that regional countries do not share the same patterns of membership in international organizations? How deeply institutionalized should regional structures be? How do they relate to outside powers, particularly large ones and potential hegemons? These questions are the focus of the following sections.
Uzbekistan: A New Model for Reform in the Muslim World?
Dramatic and important changes are taking place in Central Asia. For more than a year the region’s historic core and geopolitical focal point has been immersed in a whirlwind of reform without precedent in the region. At a time when one-man rule has been reinforced in China and Russia, when the rule of law is in abeyance in countries as diverse as South Africa and Venezuela, and when most Muslim majority societies appear to be receding into a new authoritarianism informed by religious ideology, Uzbekistan has instituted reforms that are ambitious in aim and extensive in scope.
It is far too early to say how it will all come out, or even how far it will go. But there is little doubt that that the current reforms are all organized around solid commitment to the rule of law, the rights of citizens, elective governance, an open market economy, religious tolerance, cordial relations with the great powers without sacrificing sovereignty, and a new embrace of the Central Asian region itself as an actor on the world state. It’s time for the world to take stock of this startling development.
The EU and Central Asia: Expanding Economic Cooperation, Trade, and Investment
Svante E. Cornell and Johan Engvall
Since the independence of the Central Asian states, this landlocked region has taken time to reconnect with the world, including Europe. Twenty-five years ago, many underestimated the diverse challenges – infrastructural, economic, political – that impeded the region’s trade and connectivity with the rest of the world. Yet as trade statistics show, much has been accomplished in a quarter century. The EU may not be a major security actor in Central Asia, but its importance as an economic partner is universally acknowledged. While energy relations were a key driver of cooperation in the early days of independence, the emergence of Central Asia as a corridor for land-based trade between Europe and Asia is in the process of overtaking energy and establishing itself as the main vector of economic relations.
The European Union’s Political and Security Engagement with Central Asia: How to Move Forward
Despite an ambitious set of policy initiatives for Central Asia, the EU is punching below its weight in a region where Russia and China are far more influential. Ten years after the EU launched a strategy for Central Asia, the EU is still facing substantial challenges in implementing its strategy successfully. In the meantime, the dynamics in and around the region have changed and these new realities are not reflected in the 2007 strategy. After providing a brief overview of EU-Central Asia relations, this article identifies a set of nine policy recommendations with respect to what should be the main elements, tools and approaches of a revised EU strategy for Central Asia.
The Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst is a biweekly publication of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Program, a Joint Transatlantic Research and Policy Center affiliated with the American Foreign Policy Council, Washington DC., and the Institute for Security and Development Policy, Stockholm. For 15 years, the Analyst has brought cutting edge analysis of the region geared toward a practitioner audience.