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European Union and Central Asia: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back?

Peter Plenta

It is almost ten years now since the European Union presented the Strategy towards the Central Asian region in 2007. Since then, the Strategy was several times revisited and cooperation enhanced in several areas, although the EU and their representatives are often criticized for ineffectiveness and slow progress. Over past ten years, conditions (and representatives) in the region has changed. Also, the EU is different. The paper aims to evaluate recent development in mutual relations with detailed analyses of view not only from Europe but also from Central Asia region. Although the region is not the geopolitical priority of the European Union and its member states, the EU several time highlighted the importance of the "neighbors of our neighbors" particularly in the context of security threats, energy issues, border management, and economic cooperation. The European Union also developed high-policy dialogue, created new mechanisms for cooperation and received the attention of Central Asian leaders. Despite all of this the EU's involvement is still limited. The EU is also the only player (and after the election of President Trump in the USA it is even more visible) that put the topic of democracy, human rights and freedoms on a table. Despite critiques for small progress and preference towards the economic interests, the views from the region stressed that just fact that "someone is watching" makes a situation better.The last part of the article analyzes individual approach towards countries in the region, as well as a role of member states. Although some of the member states are involved in projects and initiatives coming from Brussels, many other are purposely let controversial topics on the EU, and they are highlighting their economic interests. Last revision of the strategy brings more individual approaches to the Central Asian states as well.

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