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The EU in Central Asia: The regional context

By Michal Romanowski (Program Officer, German Marshall Fund of the United States, Poland, in association with PASOS, Policy Association for Open Society, Czech Republic)

(This paper was commissioned by the European Parliament's Committee on Foreign Affairs)

Central Asia, located at the centre of the Eurasian continent and straddling the borders of some of the world’s most pressing hot spots, offers economic opportunities and natural resources but also remains insecure and troublesome. For the European Union, the region is not a priority. It is too distant and Brussels experiences difficulties in executing its democratic and value-based agenda on the ground.

Regional dynamics have been significantly influenced by many players present in the region; Russia, China and the United States are the most significant. Russia’s position relies on a holistic approach, including military might and the more recent Eurasian narrative. China, pursuing its Silk Road ideas, has no equal in trade and energy. The US has partially retreated from Central Asia and is reviewing its security-centered strategy.

Under these circumstances, what should the EU regional approach look like? What are the shared interests and divergent objectives of the actors present in Central Asia? With what actors could the EU co-operate and with whom should it abstain from regional rapprochement? Finally, what options does the EU have to strengthen its posture in the region from a regional and geopolitical perspective? ……

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