The Value of Alternatives: Why the EU is Indispensable to Central Asian Security

Written by | Friday, October 9th, 2015

Luba von Hauff (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Auswärtige Politik)

The security risks of post-Soviet Central Asia are still a day-to-day business of international players, such as the United States, Russia or China. The Central Asian region is, among others, influenced also by the EU via its political strategy, mostly from the security point of view. The EU’s attitude to this region is focused on transformation, liberalization and democratization.

The region of Central Asia, which connects Europe, the Middle East and the rest of Asia, is home to numerous resources ranging from hydrocarbons through water resources to ferrous and non-ferrous metals. From the security perspective, the region is one of the loyal partners instrumental in the stabilization of Afghanistan. However, at the internal and supranational security level, the region is negatively affected by illegal activities, notably trade in arms and drugs. Moreover, the region is faced with political, governmental and social instability, rising Islamization from the traditionally secular populations, which can in reality lead to growing extremism mainly due to the Afghan influence following the withdrawal of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in 2014. Furthermore, the area is being influenced by two authoritarian powers, Russia and China, both of which have a clear ambition to bring this area under their control. By contrast, the EU supports the region’s complex security and socio-economic developments via its liberal-democratic attitude – in short, the EU is, unlike the other great powers, focused more on the human dimension of international politics.

To implement the idea of European security in Central Asia is nevertheless very difficult. The Kyrgyz and Kazakh governments have adopted this idea in their own way and developed the centralized model of openness with the objective of achieving a local improvement in the civic engagement. The citizens’ relationship with the states resonates with the local political cultures and the still-present legacy of the Soviet era. The regional governments are somehow trying to include the EU‘s main security ideas into the current authoritarian-possessive political framework together with a better social integration of its citizens.

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