the Disillusioned kid: EUzbekistan
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Monday, September 12, 2005


Last week, Nathan over at Registan was bemoaning the fact that critics of western alignment with the Karimov regime in Uzbekistan focus unduly on the US. Perhaps there is some truth to this and I have to concede that I've never said much about Germany's relationship with the dictator and maintenance of a military base in the country, the issue which he referred to specifically. (Parenthetical aside: in the linked article a member of the SPD claims, "We have to continue to train Uzbek military officers - not in using arms, but in democratic values." Those of you familiar with the infamous School of the Americas might be struck by the similarities to claims made by supporters of that institution that it is neccesary to "teach democracy".) There is nothing inherently worse about the US than any other liberal democracy, although it's economic and military pre-eminence does mean that it has the capacity to do that much more harm. I've also never said much about the EU's relations with the country, although this stems primarily from the fact I knew little about them.

According to UzReport (something of a regime mouthpiece, but interesting nonetheless) Karimov received the EU's special representative for Central Asia Jan Kubis last friday. Karimov said that in his former role as head of the OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe) Kubis had done much to develop relations between Uzbekistan and the EU. The two "discussed the EU’s future prospects in Central Asia, including the prospects of future relations with Uzbekistan. They also exchanged views on some international problems." The report also attributes to Kubis an avowed intention "to make everything in his power to expand mutually advantageous cooperation."

On the same day, Kubis met with the speaker of Legislative Chamber of Oliy Majlis (the Uzbek parliament) Erkin Khalilov. They apparently "considered issues on current affairs and perspectives of relations between Uzbekistan and the European Union, as well as collaboration between parliaments. They also exchanged opinions on strengthening legal bases of ties between Uzbekistan and the EU. " Quite what any of this means in practice is unclear. One hopes that "collaboration" between the Uzbek parliament and its western counterparts is kept to an absolute minimum; otherwise there is a risk that the latter might serve to legitimise the democratic sham which passes for a parliament (or two as it's bicameral) in Uzbekistan.

As I've said before, he EU is an incredibly, mind-numbingly, soul-crushingly, stupendously dull this would seem to be a weakness, but does allow it to get away with things which governments would never be able to get away with because people can never be bothered to keep track of what it's up to. This seems to remain true (indeed it may be particulalrly so) amongst the institution's strongest opponents. For this reason it is unlikely that the EU's links with Uzbekistan will attract much attention. It is, however, an aspect which cannot be ignored by anybody serious about organising a campaign to put pressure on the karimov regime.

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