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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 19th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Besuch von UNO-Generalsekretär Ban Ki-moon in Österreich
Foto: Dragan Tatic/HBF

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon with Austrian President Heinz Fischer and Defense Minister Norbert Darabos in the Austrian President’s working room.
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Actually, the Ban Ki-moon visit to Vienna was a very serious event – both for the UN and for Austria  –  but you would not know this by reading the Austrian papers.  All what was reflected in these papers was the OPERA BALL where the UN Secretary-General and his wife  Lady Ban Soon-taek were guests of the Austrian President Heinz Fischer and his wife Margit. ( Ban Ki-moon met Yoo Soon-taek in 1962 when they were both high school students. Ban was 18 years old, and Yoo Soon-taek was his secondary school’s student council president. Ban Ki-moon married Yoo Soon-taek in 1971. )
Mr. Ban was South Korea’s Ambassador to Vienna  in 1998 and his career was linked with Austria since then.
In 1980 Ban became director of the United Nations’ International Organizations and Treaties Bureau, headquartered in Seoul.  In 1992, he became Vice Chairman of the South-North Joint Nuclear Control Commission, following the adoption by South and North Korea of the Joint Declaration of the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.  He was  appointed National Security Advisor to the President in 1996. Much of this had to do with the nuclear arms subject.

Following the nuclear thread, Mr. Ban was appointed Ambassador to Austria and Slovenia in 1998, and a year later he was also elected as Chairman of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO PrepCom) at the UN in Vienna. During the negotiations, in what Ban considers the biggest blunder of his career, he included in a public letter a positive statement about the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2001, not long after the United States had decided to abandon the treaty. To avoid anger from the United States, Ban was fired by President Kim Dae-jung, who also issued a public apology for Ban’s statement.[1]

Ban was unemployed thus the only time in his career and was expecting to receive an assignment to work in a remote and unimportant embassy.[1] In 2001, during the 56th Session of the United-  Nations General Assembly, the Republic of Korea held the rotating presidency of the General Assembly and  Ban’s career was saved as he was selected to be the chief of staff to his mentor who became then UN general assembly president – Han Seung-soo – Foreign Minister of South Korea and future Prime Minister. In 2003, incoming president Roh Moo-hyun selected Ban as one of his foreign policy advisors. { this from – Warren Hoge (2006-12-09). “For New U.N. Chief, a Past Misstep Leads to Opportunity”The New York Times. }

{we posted on Han Seung-soo several times – see please  http://www.sustainabilitank.info/?s=Han+Seung-soo and specifically the book review –   www.sustainabilitank.info/2007/10… Mr. Tibor Toth is the Executive Director of CTBTO and the Swedish Foreign Minister(yes – this time it is not a speling mistake – it is Australians not Austrians)

In 2004, Ban replaced Yoon Young Kwan as foreign minister of South Korea under president Roh Moo-hyun, and his popularity in Korea saw an upturn when talks began with North Korea.  Ban became actively involved in issues relating to inter-Korean relationships.  In September 2005, as Foreign Minister, he played a leading role in the diplomatic efforts to adopt the Joint Statement on resolving the North Korean nuclear issue at the Fourth Round of the Six-party talks held in Beijing.  We wrote about this in – 


Mr. Ban was the Foreign Minister of the Republic of Korea from January 2004 to November 2006. In February 2006, he began to campaign for the office of Secretary-General. Ban was initially considered to be a long shot for the office. As foreign minister of South Korea, however, he was able to travel to all of the countries that were members of the United Nations Security Council, a maneuver that turned him into the front runner.

On 13 October 2006, he was elected to be the eighth Secretary-General by the United Nations General Assembly by beating Mr. Shashi Tharoor from India, the in-house Under-Secretary General in charge of the UN Communications and Information Services, and officially succeeded Kofi Annan on 1 January 2007. Ban has led several major reforms regarding peacekeeping and UN employment practices. Diplomatically, Ban has taken particularly strong views on Darfur, where he helped persuade Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to allow peacekeeping troops to enter Sudan; and on global warming, pressing the issue repeatedly with former U.S. President George W. Bush. Ban has received strong criticism from OIOS, the UN internal audit unit, stating that the secretariat, under Ban’s leadership, is “drifting into irrelevance”.

In 2011, Ban ran unopposed for a second term as Secretary-General. On 21 June 2011, he was unanimously re-elected by the General Assembly and therefore will continue to serve until 31 December 2016.

Austria, in its turn at the Security Council, was a strong backer of its old friend Mr. Ban. As Austria is an imporant contributor to UN military deployment in the Middle East, and as host to UN agencies working on Nuclear power and on nuclear non-proliferation, it is only natural to continue a close relationship with Mr. Ban. Further, as host to the largest UN presence outside New York, Austria is always ready to bring to Vienna newly established UN organizations and task forces – the more the better.

We already posted the “verbatim of the open interaction between Austria and this visit of the UNSG, now we want to say that it is totally disingenious to say that the main reason of the UNSG visit to Vienna was the Opera Ball where he had to compete for attention with the strange visitors that were brought to the Ball by builder Richard Luegner. Actually, the Vienna trip by the UN was caused by Austria taking over more of the UN focal interaction with the Arab world.

There were several activities that went on in Vienna parallel this week:

On one track there was the 15 year celebration of the preparation for the CTBTO Prepcom and bi-lateral discussions on the way hence that includes the opening of the Vienna office for disarmament (UNODA). Hungarian Mr. Tibor Toth is the Executive Director of CBTBO, and Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt came for this meeting. Link to press release on UNIS website: www.unis.unvienna.org/unis/pressrels/2012/unissgsm320.html

Another track deals with the eventual disengagement from the war in Afghanistan and the fight against the opium trade based in Afghanistan.   Mr.  Ruslan Kazakbaev, Foreign Minister of the Kyrgyz Republic , came also to Vienna. The Nagorno-Karabakh peace process, Afghanistan and Central Asia were the topics the Secretary General of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, H.E. Mr. Lamberto Zannier, talked about with Mr. Ban. The Armenian Foreign minister was also in town.

The third meeting of the Paris Pact partners meeting brings together Ministers and representatives from more than 55 countries as well as from international organizations and regional partners. The participants came to discuss problems related to the trafficking of opiates from Afghanistan and look at ways to block financial flows from the illicit drug trade, prevent diversion of precursor chemicals needed to produce heroin, reduce drug abuse and how regional initiatives can help combat drugs from Afghanistan.


But the main reason for this trip was to have a serious of bilateral meetings that dealt with the events in Syria. This was really a Syria in Vienna series with the Foreign Ministers of Russia and France in town.

It seems that nobody wants at this moment to see a regime change in Syria despite the fiery talk of some. There is clearly a shrinking away from the reality that the devil unknown might be worse then the killing devil in the Assad family.  Who are the Islamists that vie for power – will the pro-Iranians or the pro-Saudis win? It is not a Shi’a-Sunni confrontation – but rather a conflict of interest between the Saudis, Iranians,Turks,  and Russians. Is it possible that Russia actually looks after Christian interests in a bifurcated Muslim world. Is secular Bashar al-Assad still the best there is? With the Austrians sitting on the Golan Heights, Austria is very much involved – the security of their military is part of the equation and the interests of the Israelis, in view of  confrontation with Iran, is also something to be taken into account.

Meeting Mr. Lavrov who just got back from Damascus, and Mr. Alain Juppe who flew in from Paris and seemingly other foreign ministers that came to discuss the situation – turned the event into a Syria event and Ausatria might now look at it offering Vienna for folllow-ups to other Middle East future events as well.

Let us see what the Australians (yes, this is not a spelling mistake – it is indeed Australians not Austrians) what do they have to tell us:

“The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said earlier this week “crimes against humanity are likely to have been committed” in Syria since the crackdown began.

According to the United Nations, more than 5400 people have been killed, while thousands are missing and tens of thousands more have fled the country. Monitoring groups have put the number of dead at more than 6000.

“We might all agree on a very short-term goal; the stopping of massacres,”

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe told a press conference after talks in Vienna with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.

“We must do everything possible to bring an end to the violence and to allow large-scale humanitarian aid to reach the Syrian population.”

But Juppe did not offer much hope that Russia would be on board.

He said Lavrov had declined to comment on France’s call for “humanitarian corridors” to allow aid to reach the Syrian population.

“There was no specific discussion of the French initiative. From what they said, they have nothing specific at this time,” Russia’s deputy foreign minister Gennady Gatilov told Interfax news agency.

“We want to work with the Arab League to implement its plan for political transition,” Juppe said, referring to proposals for a transfer of power from Assad to the vice-president and the creation of a coalition government.

Juppe also said France was ready to back the idea of a UN special envoy to Syria.”

“If Ban Ki-moon goes that way, we will back him,” he said.     

Read more on this: www.smh.com.au/world/un-chief-urges-one-voice-on-syria-20120217-1tcnv.html#ixzz1mrCsbAcC – and above tells us that the UNSG visit to Vienna will bring further world attention to Vienna as gateway to the Middle East. Will Vienna host meetings between the Israelis and Palestinians in the not too distant future?


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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on June 9th, 2011
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)




The two days Vienna Europe to the Caucasus and Central Asia World Economic Forum, that opened officially Wednesday June 8th, discussed Energy and the Arab Spring.

Chancellor Faymann (SPÖ) of Austria, the host of the Forum,  stressed especially the importance of the Nabucco gas pipeline that goes through Turkey for gas originating in Central Asia.

Austrian  Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger (ÖVP), who is in the middle of a spat with Turkey because of their rejection of an Austrian candidate for the post of Secretary General of the OSCE –  former Foreign Minister, and member of the same party, Ms. Ursula Plassnik, –  said that Europe and the Eurasian space would have much to offer each other.

The Kyrgyz President Roza Otunbayeva, whose sister I was told is married to the Austrian Ambassador to China, said her country was a model for the “Arab Spring.” Roza Otunbayeva was one of the leaders of the “Tulip Revolution” of March 2005 that is credited with the start of democratization in her country. President Otunbayeva spoke already on Tuesday evening at the Bruno Kreisky Forum for International events. Her topic was – KYRGYZSTAN ON ITS WAY  TO FREEDOM OF DEMOCRACY.

(Just watch here please that it goes in stages and it is not a smooth transition – do not expect miracles in the short term – this is our own comment – in the meantime the world will rather be interested in the region’s oil.)

 www.davienna.ac.at/jart/prj3/dipl…

Chancellor Faymann stressed the need for “stable and secure energy supply” and praised the growing cooperation between Europe and the States in the Caucasus and Central Asia. He stressed the importance of the Austrian oil company –  the OMV – for responsible planning the Nabucco gas pipeline to “stabilize the European gas supply, and relations between Europe and Central Asia and the Black Sea region, strengthened thereoff”.

He was seconded on energy import by On Ukraine President Mykola Azarov who criticized the Russian energy policy. The energy dependence of Ukraine on Russia was “not good”, as the oil and gas prices, the Russian government-related utilities are not “what we consider to be optimal. Therefore Kiev cooperation projects with Azerbaijan and other countries have been addressed.”

Austrian Federal President Hans Fischer spoke of the need for social impact of economic transformations in post-Soviet  States. Spindelegger said that the Central Asian region will continue with its wealth of resources to a new focus of the global economy – Austria can offer to these countries innovative products, he said. “If we find ways to increase cooperation, the conference will have been successful.”

Otunbayeva, who on her trip to Vienna also stopped in Budapest, expressed the hope that Central Asia in the future will get more attention in the West. She passed out in her speech, the political foundations for economic development. The downfall of the autocrat Kurmanbek Bakiyev in early 2010 had mapped out the current revolutions in the Arab world. “We could no longer afford the corrupt regime,” she said.

CEOs and Muslim economists called on Europe to support the current upheavals in the region, but sounded caution. The Dubai economist Tarik Yousef L. lamented that Europe in recent years rehabilitated the Libyan regime of Muammar al-Gaddafi. He spoke of European “guilt” because of the slow reaction to the upheavals in Egypt and Tunisia that should help these countries now. From the Central Bank of Tunisia Mustapha Kamel Nabli – the governor –  demanded above all, a closer cooperation with Europe in migration. Europe must assume a share of the costs incurred by the flow of refugees, he said. The Bahraini banker Khalid Abdullah-Janahi, said about Egypt that the Muslim Brotherhood will continue to take the central role. They would get from the upcoming legislative choice between 40 and 50 percent of the vote, he said.

The Kazakh Vice Premier Yerbol Orynbayev and Turkmenistan’s Deputy Prime Minister Akylbek Japarov stressed the need for economic development “to solve their common problems” – such as in the fight against drug crime and poverty. “Poverty is a problem that not all states in the region are equally capable of solving” said Orynbayev. The Turkmenistan speaker Japarov spoke of his country’s economic aid for the unstable neighbors like Afghanistan. Turkmenistan Oil prices were discounted to them. “This contributes to the development of the country and thus to peace in the region,” said Japarov.

Chancellor Faymann met on the margins of the WEF yesterday with six heads of state and government for bilateral talks.

Emphasis during the discussions with the Heads of State of Hungary (Viktor Orban), Armenia (Tigran Sarkisian), Montenegro (Igor Luksic), Ukraine (Azarov) and Georgia (Nikoloz Gilauri) and with Otumbajewa, was the energy policy and EU issues. Faymann confirmed its rejection of the nuclear power policy and referred to his meeting with Ukrainian Prime Minister. “Premier Azarov has invited me to the Ukraine to show me the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster from today’s perspective may have been his words -” This has to be seen with my own eyes. “

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 20th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

August 19, 2010, before the UN started its meetings, the Asia Society in New York opened the discussion on the Pakistan Flood response by diving right to the bottom truth – the latest mega-disasters have one common cause – human induced climate change. It was Financier George Soros who injected the topic and the media was allowed by Ambassador Holbrooke to follow up. See what you can do when you go outside the UN!

Ambassador Dr. Richard C. Holbrooke, former Chairman of the Board of the Asia Society, and now US Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan,  chaired the 8:30 am event at his New York home – the Asia Society – on the day when for 3:00 pm the UN General Assembly scheduled a pledging event for funding Pakistan relief. At the UN, for the US, spoke Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton, and I saw on TV  the complete  Asia Society American team sitting in the hall. The team included also Judith A. McHale, US Department of State Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, Dr. George Erik Rupp, a theologian, President of the International Rescue Committee and former President of Rice University and Columbia University, and Raymond Offenheiser, President of Oxfam America.

The opening speaker after Ambassador Holbrooke was Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, and the panel included also USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah. Then there was a list of guests that made their comments, followed by questions from the floor and answers from Administrator Dr. Shah and Ambassador Qureshi.

100819_Holbrooke.jpg

enlarge image
L to R: USAID’s Dr. Rajiv Shah, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, and Ambassador Richard C. Holbrooke. (Else Ruiz/Asia Society)
Judith A. McHale, a former media head herself ( President and Chief Executive Officer of Discovery Communications – 1987 to 2006), and now with the US Government, said that information is critical. “We work with the government of Pakistan to provide the critical information on the ground. It is posted on www.State.gov

Among the guests were Financier George Soros, whose Open Society Institute and Soros Foundations work on the ground in Pakistan – he announced that he adds another $5 million to the funds that his foundation will work with in helping directly civil society in Pakistan,  Christopher MacCormac of the Asian Development Bank, which is leading the effort to assess the flood damage, said much of the economic infrastructure of the area has been destroyed. 2 million ha. of crops were lost and livestock have been devastated, which has taken a large toll on Pakistan farmers. ADB has said that after the immediate contribution of $3 million from the ASia-Pacific Disaster Fund, it would loan Pakistan $2 billion to help the country rebuild, and Pakistan’s rock star turned political activist Salman Ahmad, known as Pakistan’s Bono, or as Holbrooke pointed out, “Bono is the Irish Salman Ahmad,” pointed out a very important topic:

“This is a defining moment in Pakistan,” Ahmad said. “This flood has set back Pakistan in a huge way. Out of 175 million people, 100 million are under 25. Those young people are skeptical, and they feel abandoned by the world. The international community has to win hearts and minds of those 100 million youth in Pakistan.” “If there is a sluggish response the terrorists/extremists win.” He also said that last year he had a concert at the UN to show to the young people in Pakistan that there was hope – he said that he is sure the international community will react positively.

Ambassador Holbrooke said that in the catastrophe there is also an opportunity, that we should not miss –  the people in Pakistan should see that the world is ready to help. He found that these elements of hope in opportunity were missing in the day’s article in The New York Times.

For the US the strategic implications are clear. The US pulled out helicopters from the military effort in order to help in the rescue effort. Will the Taliban take advantage of this? A US transport ship with materials arrived to Karachi, and Japan will now also send helicopters to help in the rescue effort.

The meeting was summarized by The Asia Society and there is also the full tape at –

 asiasociety.org/policy-politics/e…

Further, Ms. Nafis Sadik from the UN, now a Trustee Emeritus of the Asia Society and Chair of the Pakistan Foundation at the Asia Society called for Ramadan giving to the Foundation. Other Pakistan-Americans spoke and told of their own efforts to raise funds for the Pakistan relief program as the State’s capacity to meet the challenge has been overstretched. Today Pakistan , one fifth of its territory submerged, 68 million of its people affected, and 1,600 people dead, crops, animal stock, and infrastructure devastated – Pakistan is calling – humanity is calling they said. We saw a video proving every point. The Pakistan-American Foundation was inspired by Hilary Clinton’s “Pakistani Peacebuilders.”

Oxfam America was joined by “Save the Chidren” NGO  representative Gorel Bogarde said the obvious – what children most need is food, clean drinking water and shelter. She is most concerned for the moment about the outbreak of water-bourne diseases, such as cholera.

We will not repeat here further figures of loss and the size of the calamity. We assume that these are known by our readers by now – we want rather to point out the blunt comments that resulted from the statement by Mr. Soros who linked what happens to our lack of readiness to do something about the human-made climate change. Pakistan is the biggest of the recent disasters he said and we must deal with the root causes he continued. CLIMATE CHANGE IS THE ROOT CAUSE FOR ALL THESE RECENT DISASTERS. Mr. Soros spoke of the coincidence of the Himalaya glaciers melting and the monsoons getting stronger at the same time.

He also said “there is a certain amount of fatigue in responding to these disasters… [but] we have to come to terms with the fact that they are in fact connected, that there is climate change.”

At the Q & A part of the program, I asked the last question that was intended to bring the attention back to what Mr. Soros said.
My question was something like – I am with Sustainable Development Media and I wonder what Pakistan thinks about Mr. Soros’ statement about climate change – the reason being that the present calamity will repeat itself, so how does one do reconstruction work that makes sense?

Ambassador Holbrooke said Thank You and addressed the question first to Mr. Rajiv Shah.

When asked if there was a connection between the floods and climate change, USAID’s Shah said “while it’s very hard to attribute any single event to what we’re doing to our global environment it is very clear that that trend is leading to a greater number of large hurricanes, a greater number of floods, hotter and dryer conditions in places that are dependent on weather and rainfall for agriculture, and it’s making it very difficult for the least resilient, the most lower income communities of the world to survive.”

We heard from Mr. Christopher MacCormac that after the Earth Quake of 2005 the rebuilding of houses was done according to higher standards – so what we need here in the response to the present calamity is also to build better – but he did not specify, neither did Mr. Holbrooke. This, with the understanding that the increased monsoon floods,  joined with the melting of the Himalaya Glaciers, is indeed not a one time shot – but the beginning of a trend – leaves us with very bad premonitions about the future of Pakistan and other low lying lands of the region. This  has  clearly left me thinking about what means building better? Are we going to take into account these new phenomena resulting from global use of fossil fuels when going from the immediate reaction to the suffering from the floods to the longer range rebuilding stage? This is clearly an area that will be written up much more in the foreseeable future.

Ambassador Qurashi was asked by Mr. Holbrooke to react to the climate change implications. Are there additional run-off from the Himalayas?

The answer included: The Glaciers melt and what we have in Pakistan are Monsoon water plus glacier melts combined. We have above normal moisture.

He also said that “There are local NGOs in Pakistan that help push back the extremists and you have shown the world that you are a helping Nation.”

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 19th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

from: K N Vajpai (Climate Himalaya Initiative) <knvajpai@gmail.com>

August 19, 2010

Climate Change Updates from Himalayan Mountains on Various Climate Change Issues.

For your information, the Climate Himalaya Initiative www.climatehimalaya.net has a dedicated news portal chimalaya.org/ , that updates the Climate Change related news on regular basis from Himalayan Mountains.

Those interested in Climate Change related issues and Mountains, can get regular updates by subscribing or becoming member.

The ongoing issues includes; Pakistan Floods, Leh Cloud Burst, Climate Change Modeling, Domestic Actions by countries, Actions by Asian countries, Cancun Climate Summit, Criticism of IPCC, etc…..!

There are options for subscription, membership, tweeting, facebook, among others….!

You can visit and explore at www.climatehimalaya.net

from – K N Vajpai
Convener and Theme Leader

Climate Himalaya Initiative
www.climatehimalaya.net
chimalaya.org
C/O Prakriti a mountain environment group
P.O. Silli, Agastyamuni, Rudraprayag
Uttarakhand, India PIN 246421
info@climatehimalaya.net
knvajpai@prakriti-india.org

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 19th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

The ordeal in Pakistan reminded us of the –

Climate Himalaya Initiative.

An Initiative Towards Sustainable Development in Himalayan Mountains.
{This is linked to the reality of melting glaciers and increased severity of monsoon rains. Understanding the underlying causes of the present calamity is needed in order to go for long term help to the region. Talking of return to previous lives is not realistic.}

June 2, 2010

Himalayan countries must set aside their differences and  collaborate on science in order to avoid a common water crisis, says a report.

Environmental pressures, including those from climate change, could have unprecedented effects on the livelihoods of millions of people in the Hindu-Kush Himalaya region, according to the study, published by the UK-based Humanitarian Futures Programme, the Aon Benfield UCL Hazard Research Centre, and China Dialogue. Yet scientific research is either non-existent or, where it exists, is not shared beyond a country’s borders, said the report, ‘The Waters of the Third Pole: Sources of Threat, Sources of Survival’. And scientists are failing to communicate what they do know to the public and policymakers, it added.

The Hindu-Kush Himalaya region provides water for one fifth of the world’s population including countries stretching from Pakistan to Myanmar. “This region is a black hole for data,” said Isabelle Hilton, editor of China Dialogue and a contributor to the report.

“Managing this water requires knowledge and cooperation,” she said at the launch of the report last week (19 May) in the United Kingdom. But the region “lacks the institutions and in some cases the political will to address issues cooperatively”. History, diverse languages and cultures, and military conflicts are behind the lack of a concerted effort to study the waters, she said, and now “a multidisciplinary and collaborative approach is needed” to catch up. But this is not high on the public agenda, she said.

Stephen Edwards, an earth scientist and research manager at the Aon Benfield UCL Hazard Research Centre, called for more high-quality, peer-reviewed data. “We need to understand problems before we know how to manage them,” he said. But science itself is not enough, he added, “scientists have to interact with economists and policymakers — we need proper dialogue”.

Andreas Schild, director general of the Nepal-based International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, agreed with the report’s conclusions.”Water is one of the most important resources,” he said. “Traditionally there has been no free exchange of information on water discharge and this is practically still the case today. “It is not just a concern between countries, but even within countries, as between the individual states of India.

“Researchers in all concerned countries are very interested in having cross-border collaboration and exchange of information,” he told  SciDev.Net. “But when it comes to cooperation on concrete issues at the level of government institutions, we face a completely different situation, where agreements with various other partners in the country are required.”If you want to close the knowledge gap here in the Himalayas then you have to strengthen the institutions [there].”

Otherwise, short-term foreign development funds mean there is no consistent long-term data and continuity in research by the institutions based in the region, said Schild. But he added that European organisations, with “Europe-centric” research methods, must share the blame.

“A lot of research conducted on this region by European universities and other institutions is often not shared. Sometimes we even get the impression that they are only looking for a partner in the South to use as Sherpas.”

Link to full ‘The Waters of the Third Pole: Sources of Threat, Sources of Survival’ report
[2MB]

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 21st, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

THEN ESCAP URGES the SPECA CENTRAL ASIA TO STRENGTHEN TIES WITH REST OF CONTINENT FOR GREATER SECURITY. The above has clearly political implications by bundling non-Arab Islamic States.

Greater cooperation between Central Asia and the rest of Asia is essential to achieve sustainable development for the whole continent, given the current climate of global financial instability and food and energy insecurity, a senior United Nations official, ESCAP’s Executive Director   stressed today of all places – right in Moscow.

The UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) stands ready to facilitate technical and regional cooperation and provide a neutral forum for engaging in policy dialogue, Executive-Secretary of ESCAP Noeleen Heyzer told a gathering of senior Central Asian policymakers in Moscow.

“We are gathering here against the backdrop of a gloomy economic environment with pressing challenges in food and energy security, as well as the need for greater financial stability,” Under-Secretary-General Heyzer warned participants at the UN Special Programme for the Economies of Central Asia (SPECA) meeting.

“By adopting the South-South cooperation modality, SPECA can provide home-grown solutions and policy options to achieve inclusive and sustainable development,” she told officials from the seven SPECA member states – Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

SPECA aims to strengthen sub-regional cooperation, mainly in the areas of energy and water, transport, trade, technology, gender and the economy, in Central Asia, as well as its integration into the world economy with support from the UN Economic Commission for Europe (ECE).

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 24th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

This Christmas normalcy returned to Palestine I, war is the rule in Palestine II – is this the best that one can hope for without a Saudi-Egyptian honest involvement in the Palestinian territories? Why do the Europeans have to continue to subsidize Arab rejectionism? Is this the true Christian spirit and love? Is its reward in the fact that Bethlehem turned from a city with a 92% Christian majority to one of a 35% Christian minority? Is the region intended for complete Islamization with Europe’s acquiescence?

————————

All beds booked in Bethlehem for first time in seven years, writes Eric Silver from Bethlehem, for The Independent, This Christmas Eve, December 24, 2007.

After seven lean, intifada years, Joseph Canavati, owner of the modern Alexander Hotel on Manger Street, the snaking main road leading to the Church of the Nativity, is dusting off his “No vacancies” sign. The pilgrims are coming back.

“This is the best year we’ve had since the uprising,” he beamed. “There are peace talks. There’s no violence in the Bethlehem area, no violence in Jerusalem. Our business depends on tranquillity. If there is no violence, there is business.” The guests for his 44 rooms come from the United States, Italy, Lithuania, and South Korea.

All 2,000 beds in Bethlehem hotels and hostels are booked for Christmas for the first time since 2000. Victor Batarseh, the West Bank city’s Roman Catholic mayor, expects 40,000 pilgrims to visit Jesus’s birthplace for the holiday.

Despite the bleak welcome of Israel’s concrete security wall at the entrance to the city, there is renewed buoyancy in the streets: more coloured lights and decorated trees, few if any political slogans or portraits of Chairman Arafat. The roads, once ravaged by Israeli shells and armoured vehicles, are swept and repaired.

“God bless this bus station” reads a sign in the underground coach park built for the Millennium. The Muslim feast of Id al-Adha shades this year into Christmas. Every one of Bethlehem’s 32,000 residents has something to celebrate.

Israel is trying to help. “We all share the same economic interest,” said Shaul Tzemach, director general of the Tourism Ministry. Procedures have been streamlined for pilgrims at checkpoints between Bethlehem and Jerusalem, 10 minutes’ drive to the north.

Tourism is Bethlehem’s main source of income. The figures are up throughout the year. “We had an excellent summer,” Mr Canavati reported, “followed by a good October and November. The hotels in Jerusalem were so full that we got the overflow.”

The Israeli Tourism Ministry logged one million Christian visitors to the Holy Land in 2007, at least half of them pilgrims. The mayor said the number of visitors to Bethlehem was back to 60-70 per cent of pre-intifada trade.

But the recovery is fragile. Unemployment is down from 60 per cent a year ago to 45 per cent now. The gift shops are open; the factories carving olive wood and mother of pearl nativity tableaux are back in production. But thousands of labourers who used to work in Jerusalem are barred from entering Israel, though Israel is allowing Palestinian Christians and Muslims to visit relatives across the de facto border for their respective holidays.

It is small comfort for hundreds of Bethlehem families whose kin have settled much further afield. The pilgrims are coming, but the Christians are leaving. Before the creation of Israel in 1948, 92 per cent of the city’s population were Christian. The mayor, a retired ear, nose and throat surgeon, puts the current ratio at 35 per cent Christians to 65 per cent Muslims and says that at least 400 Christian families have emigrated from Bethlehem in the past three to four years.

Samir Qumsieh, who runs Nativity, a private Christian television station, said: “Emigration is deadly. In 15 years you will not find Christians here.” Three of his four brothers live abroad. He blames the exodus on the Israeli occupation, internal problems (for which read militant Islam) and the fact that “there is no life here”.

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Olmert to continue ‘war’ on militants, reports Mark Lavie, Associated Press, the Middle East, December 24 2007.

Israel’s prime minister yesterday pledged war against Gaza militants, rejecting feelers from the Islamic Hamas for a truce, while an Israeli Cabinet minister angered moderate Palestinians with another plan for new Jewish housing in a disputed part of Jerusalem, complicating renewed peace talks.

“There is no other way to describe what is happening in the Gaza Strip except as a true war between the Israeli army and terrorist elements,” Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told his Cabinet, ruling out truce talks.

Reports of truce feelers from the embattled Islamic Hamas regime in Gaza have been surfacing almost daily, and Israeli defense officials have said they are examining the proposals.

The unconfirmed reports have Hamas convincing fellow militants in Gaza to stop their daily rocket fire at southern Israel, while Israel halts its air and ground operations in Gaza.

Speaking to his Cabinet at Sunday’s weekly meeting, Olmert rejected negotiations with Hamas because it has rejected international demands to recognize Israel, renounce violence and endorse past peace accords.

“We have declared (this war) and we will continue,” Olmert said at the beginning of the meeting, which reporters are allowed to attend. “This is true regarding Hamas, Islamic Jihad and all other elements..”

Despite their overt rejections of a formal cease-fire, Israeli officials have been saying a formal truce is unnecessary. They say if Gaza militants stop the rocket fire, Israel would have no reason to attack.

Israeli airstrikes over a two-day period last week killed 12, including two top Islamic Jihad commanders. The truce feelers started surfacing a day later, first in a call from Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh to an Israeli TV reporter and later, according to officials, by way of Egypt, which has mediated several other past truces.

Islamic Jihad, which is behind most of the rocket salvos, yesterday again rejected a truce with Israel. Israel doubts whether Hamas has either the willingness or the ability to force the other militants to stop firing rockets. By nightfall four rockets fired from Gaza exploded in Israel. One damaged a factory near the Israeli city of Ashkelon, the military said.

Israeli officials said Defense Minister Ehud Barak will travel this week to Egypt for talks with President Hosni Mubarak. It was unclear whether a cease-fire would be on the agenda.

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Santa should move grotto to Kyrgyzstan, say Swedish consultancy Sweco and the Kyrgiz Government.

By Claire Soares, of The Independent, December 24, 2007.

Forget the North Pole, Santa – Kyrgyzstan is where it’s at.

It seems even the world’s most famous gift-giver cannot dodge the “location, location, location” consultants, who have calculated that the central Asian country is the best place for him to stable the reindeer and plan his Christmas Eve mission.

Taking into account population centres and the rotation of the Earth’s axis, a Swedish consultancy firm has identified northern Kyrgyzstan – or where latitude, (N) 40.40 crosses longitude, (E) 74.24 to be precise – as the prime location for Santa Claus. Never mind the fact it is a predominantly Muslim country and a former anti-capitalist Soviet Republic. If he started there and travelled west against the rotation of the Earth, Santa has twice as much time to deliver presents on Christmas Eve.

“He can eliminate time-consuming detours and avoid subjecting his reindeer to undue strain,” consultants at the Stockholm-based Sweco said. And Kyrgyzstan’s politicians seem to be keen to rope Santa into their bid to boost tourist numbers in this mountainous and picturesque corner of central Asia. Bucking the trend of naming snowy summits after Soviet heavyweights such as Lenin and former president Boris Yeltsin, today they will be naming one peak “Mount Santa Claus”. Climbers will bury a sealed capsule containing the national flag on the peak to mark the occasion.

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The last piece comes to remind us that after all – commercialization is what rules today’s world – all human actions are pocket driven and really only a few idealists remain who still allow ethics to direct their daily lives. Is this the right time for the appearance of a Messiah to save Planet Earth and Humankind?

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on May 11th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Russia and China resist EU play for Central Asia.

By Andrew Rettman EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS , May 8, 2007.

Russia and China are trying to counter EU efforts to secure fresh energy supplies in Central Asia, the EU’s top regional envoy, Pierre Morel, has warned, with analysts worried Turkey could also start competing with European interests if its EU accession hopes fade.

“There’s a level of competition – you’ve got Russia, China and the US. There’s Turkey as well, and India is developing a strategy,” Mr Morel told MEPs at a European Parliament debate in Brussels on Tuesday (8 May), as Europe gears up to launch its first ever Central Asia policy at the June EU summit.

Focusing on Russia and China, the diplomat explained that despite traditional “rivalry” between Moscow and Beijing, the pair are increasingly using the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation – a dormant anti-terrorist club formed in 2001 – to discuss the energy map in Central Asia.

He described the duo’s strategy on Central Asia as a “head of state approach” that differs from the EU’s €750 million Central Asia aid package for 2007 to 2013, which is based on wider social, trade and environmental projects designed to nurture long-term stability.

“I don’t think there’s an equivalent from Russia or China in terms of water or environmental management,” Mr Morel said, adding that EU “institutional strengthening” – it wants to remodel Central Asian judiciaries and parliaments – is the only way to bring in major, international energy investors.

“Just having a head of state approach will not help,” he explained. “The Russians have not struck the right level yet. These countries fear the return of Russia or at least of energy being used as a leverage against them.”

Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan broke away from the Soviet Union in the 1990s and are believed to hold up to 5 percent of the world’s energy resources.

But almost all their oil and gas exports to Europe are currently shipped via Russian-owned pipelines, with Brussels feeling increasingly uncomfortable about its energy dependency on the Kremlin.

Russia’s post-colonial game
In terms of Russia’s “head of state approach,” Moscow’s tactics seem to consist of a mix of intimidation and encouragement for the authoritarian regimes that run the three energy-rich Central Asian states.

“Turkmenistan is very important in terms of gas deliveries to Russia. Russia is going to use Turkmenistan to meet its [natural gas export] commitments,” Mr Morel explained, six months after the sudden death of Turkmen president, Saparmurat Niyazov, which handed control of the country back to the Soviet-era administrative elite.

Estonian socialist MEP Katrin Saks also told Mr Morel on Tuesday that “It was clear during our talks that Kazakhstan was being put under great pressure from Russia on the energy issue,” after visiting Astana as part of a European Parliament delegation last week.

In the case of Uzbekistan, Russia and China’s willingness to tolerate gross human rights violations have seen Uzbek government-backed Russian and Chinese investors drive out US and German companies at a “spectacular” rate, Ms Saks said.

The Turkey question
Meanwhile, EU candidate Turkey sees itself as a natural partner for EU energy interests in Central Asia, due to its geographic position and historic links with the ethnically-Turkic population scattered in neighbouring states. But some analysts wonder how Ankara will react if its bid to join the EU fails.

“Turkish policy towards Central Asia…has a tendency to ebb and flow as Turkey is rejected or not by the west, and the result is that now we see Turkey embracing Central Asia once again with a renewed emphasis on pan-Turkism,” Raffaello Pantucci of the London-based International Institute of Strategic Studies told EUobserver.

“If it plays its cards right, it could become a critical nub for Central Asian energy supplies…[which] seems to be one of Turkey’s major alternatives in the face of European rejection,” he added.

“We have special ties and vested interests in the Eurasia region, but we have never viewed our relations with the region as an alternative to our EU course,” a Turkish diplomat said. “I don’t think Mr Sarkozy’s presidency will change our position on that,” the contact added, on the new French president’s anti-Turkey accession policy.

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[Comment] The EU and Central Asia: from great gaming to gradual playing.

By Raffaello Pantucci, EUOBSERVER / COMMENT (an oppinion piece) May 9, 2007.

The European Commission is not prone to dramatic or sudden shifts, which is the product of a long tradition of rational contemplation that Europeans are so proud of, but more literally, it is due to the simple reality of juggling a decision-making process that has 27 members involved in it. One product of this are ruminative foreign policies, like the new EU policy on Central Asia, that may seem paralysingly slow to outsiders, but in reality have a distinct forward momentum.

It is instrumental to examine early drafts that have been circulating of the EU’s new strategy on Central Asia through this prism and therefore view them with some tentative optimism. We have not seen any grand offerings of immense wealth or exaggerated security benefits; we instead view a branch being offered that attempts to marry the hard economic realities of European energy needs with a desire to help nurture European democratic norms in another part of the globe.

It is not surprising that we have seen this renewed interest in Central Asia under a German Presidency. Germany remains the only European member state with a full complement of embassies in all five Central Asian states, and chancellor Merkel and foreign minister Steimeier have both repeatedly spoken of their desire to reach out and stabilize European relations with their Eurasian partners.

Furthermore, chancellor Merkel has also presented herself as a European leader who is willing to take a more robust stance in regards to Russia. This has not resulted, as some feared, in an apocalyptic schism with Russia, but rather it has produced the beginnings of a balancing in relations between Russia and the EU. While there are undeniable tensions coming to the surface once again – it is worth noting that so far no-one has suggested that Russia turn off the gas taps.

In this regard it is particularly interesting to note that Russia as a topic in early drafts fails to merit much mention at all. A very early draft referred constantly to a strong Russian presence in the region, while in later ones Russia is only noticeable where it would appear to be missing. There is an emphasis on the importance of gas deliveries from the region, the “construction of new oil and gas pipelines to Europe,” and the word “diversification” is used regularly in an energy context. No mention of the EU’s current key energy supplier and former big brother to Central Asia.

Instead, the EU strategy seems to be a seven-pronged approach with a heavy emphasis on the softer side of relations: youth and education; human rights, rule of law, good governance and democratization; economic development, trade and investment; energy and transport links; environment and regional water security; combating terrorism, transnational crime, and drugs; and finally a typically nebulous European desire to “promote dialogue within civil society and respect for freedom of religion.”

At every level, the emphasis is made to work towards “common aspects as well as specific nation contexts,” showing an EU awareness that each nation in the group has varying needs, and there are clear incentives – the doubling of “financial means to assist Central Asia” and the offer to “support…the WTO accession process and eventual membership” of all five members of the Central Asian cluster (currently only the Kyrgyz Republic is a member of the WTO, while Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan remain observers and Turkmenistan is completely outside).

On the other hand, however, there is an unavoidable emphasis on “democracy” and “human rights,” something that sparked the anthropological rebuke to “take into consideration [our] countries’ national traditions, history, and…mentality” from Uzbek foreign minister Vladimir Norov at a joint press conference on March 28th in Astana.

This is a not entirely surprising comment given the EU’s ongoing retention of an arms and travel embargo on Uzbekistan. Initially a reaction to the May 2005 incident at Andijan (where an unknown number of protestors were killed by government forces) the sanctions and the subsequent Uzbek decision to ask the United States to abandon bases on its territory have left EU-Uzbek and US-Uzbek relations on hold. The main result of this has been for Uzbekistan to wander into the warm embrace of its Russian and Chinese neighbours, who offer a less emphatically “democratic” and more pragmatic relationship.

What is particularly interesting about the new EU strategy, however, is its awareness of the new “great game” that it is trying to play a part of in the region. “Human rights” may play a prominent role, but they are matched by a bevy of realpolitik economic and energy related carrots. While they are not quite the no-strings-attached offers put on the table by the Chinese, they do instead offer “sustainable development” and “capacity building” in contrast to the Chinese tendency to prefer to rely on their own firms to construct local capacity.

There is further no mention of the United States or NATO, both subjects with historical baggage: it seems the EU is eager to re-write its history from scratch in Central Asia. China and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization only merit a strategically brief mention in the fight against drugs and transboundary crime in the region.

Internally within the EU, there are many reasons for optimism within this renewed strategy. Germany has made a point of aligning its policies as presidency of the EU with the next two presidencies (Portugal and Slovenia), providing some unusual continuity in European policy. Currently, the EU is broadly shut out of Central Asia, and shares no contiguous borders with the region: the positive side to this is that the EU is able to steer the rudder towards an internal consensus on the region without having too many onerous member state caveats attached to potential policy. And the member state with the most to worry about, Germany, is the one currently at the rudder anyway.

At a time when European credibility in the world is slipping, a successful policy towards Central Asia would provide the EU’s Common Security and Foreign Policy with a much needed shot in the arm. Hopefully a nurturing incrementalist policy, that will not devolve into an all-too-common Euro-stagnation.

Raffaello Pantucci is a research associate at the London-based think-tank, the International Institute for Strategic Studies

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France wants to save major part of EU constitution, Sarkozy aide says.

By Lucia Kubosova, EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS, May 8, 2007.

France’s Nicolas Sarkozy will seek to maintain as much of the rejected EU constitution as possible in the upcoming talks on a new treaty for the bloc, a top aide to the president-elect has told EUobserver.

Alain Lamassoure, a prominent centre-right MEP and tipped to be the new Europe minister in the Sarkozy government, said Paris will agree to stick “as much as possible to the original text.”

His comments indicate that Mr Sarkozy is in favour of a re-packaged text containing essentially the same elements.

Referring to removing the EU symbols proposed in the original text as part of a general approach to take away the constitutional feel to the new treaty, Mr Lamassoure said “we will play the European hymn or fly the flag whether it is mentioned in the new treaty or not.”

He added that the same applies to the exact title of the future EU’s foreign affairs minister. “As long as his status and powers are preserved we’re fine with [a title change].”

He expects the new “ordinary treaty” – adopted by national parliaments where possible – will have a maximum of 130 instead of the 448 articles originally proposed.

The institutional changes should remain untouched while the Charter of Fundamental Rights, currently appearing as a whole within the text and raising several legal question for member states – being referred to by a single article.

“That way, the charter can be interpreted as legally binding in some countries, such as France and Germany, and non-binding in others, such as the UK.”

Referring to the third part of the constitution which lists EU policies, Mr Lamassoure, who is part of Mr Sarkozy’s inner political circle, says “we must distinguish between provisions that are already present in previous treaties and can be dropped as we do not need to replicate them and the new provisions which need to remain.”

He indicated France is not prepared to compromise on the list of new areas to be decided by qualified majority rather than unanimity, while admitting that this could become one of the most contentious issues, particularly for the UK.

“This is non-negotiable as it is one of the provisions with the most important added value of the new treaty which seeks to help the enlarged EU to work more efficiently.”

The MEP’s statements are the first clear public indication of what Paris will be calling for at the EU table when leaders meet to discuss a new institutional settlement next month – a clear French position on the issue has been lacking since French voters rejected the constitution in a referendum almost two years ago.

Defining Europe’s borders
Touching on another highly controversial issue, Mr Lamassoure said Paris is going to push for a definition of the bloc’s borders in the coming months and a “reorientation” of talks with Turkey.

“EU leaders have been lying to Turks for the past few years and the new French leadership believes we must stop doing so,” he said, referring to the bloc’s membership negotiations with Ankara kicked off last October.

He argues that citizens in most EU member states are against Turkey joining the union and that it was a main factor in the French rejection of the EU constitution.

“The sooner we will have the courage to say this openly to Turkey the better,” said Mr Lamassoure, pointing out that Paris will seek a “re-orientation” of the whole accession talks in which “at the very least, we clearly open other options for the final outcome -other than membership.”

“If everything goes well and we agree on the revised EU treaty by the end of this year we envisage that we could also at the same time present to citizens a common political declaration on the ultimate borders of Europe,” Mr Lamassoure said.

He said that Paris recognizes the bloc’s commitments to the Balkan countries but that “the [EU] borders must be that of the continent.”

His comments come on the back of a presidential campaign by Mr Sarkozy in which he repeatedly said he was opposed to Turkish membership.

Mr Lamassoure said that while Mr Sarkozy will be careful not to hijack next month’s summit on drawing up an EU treaty with the Turkey question, “we definitely don’t want to postpone this issue for too long.”

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Call for veto powers for MPs in new EU treaty.

By Honor Mahony, May 9, 2007.
Prague, Warsaw and the Hague are lobbying to get more power for national parliaments written into a new-look constitution for the European bloc.

According to a report in the German daily Handelsblatt, the three countries want MPs to have the right to refuse legislation coming from Brussels.

At the moment the constitution – rejected by Dutch and French voters two years ago – gives parliaments the right to complain about proposed EU legislation, but the European Commission is not obliged to withdraw it despite any complaints.

Under the trio’s veto scheme, if a third of national parliaments objected to a proposed EU law then it would automatically fail.

This idea also came up during the year and a half long convention to draw up the EU constitution in 2001-2002, but was rejected after opponents argued it would upset the balance of power between the EU institutions – it was particularly opposed by representatives from the European Parliament.

German centre-right MEP Elmar Brok, who was in Berlin along with his colleagues from the parliament’s constitutional affairs committee, told Handelsblatt that the “right of veto for national parliaments would mean the introduction of a virtual third chamber.”

According to the MEP, the the Polish, Czech and Dutch plan also faces some opposition from within the German chancellor’s office.

Treaty talks gather pace
The idea is part of overall negotiations on the EU treaty, which are gathering pace as a June deadline approaches for agreeing the skeleton of a new-look constitution and a timetable for its implementation.

While 18 countries have mainly ratified the original constitution, several of the remaining nine are making demands for change so that they can better sell it to a sceptical domestic public.

Among the most controversial areas are proposals for a new voting system in the treaty – Poland has asked for changes to be made – and the extension of qualified majority to several new areas, which is problematic for Britain.

The Dutch government meanwhile has been making it clear it cannot go back to The Hague without having secured substantial changes to show it has taken on board the rejection of the constitution by Dutch voters in June 2005.

According to sources, a new treaty is also set to have some additional features – including a mention of fighting climate change and an energy solidarity clause, the last as a sop to Warsaw.

It is also expected that enlargement criteria will be written into the new treaty.

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[Comment] Turkey may be France’s price for the new EU treaty

May 11, 2007, Opinion Piece by Peter Sain ley Berry EUOBSERVER / COMMENT.

Two weeks ago I suggested in these pages that from a European perspective the French Presidential contender Ségolène Royal might be a better choice than Nicolas Sarkozy.

I argued that it would be necessary to put any revised constitutional treaty to a second referendum in France (the alternative would be to enlarge the EU’s democratic deficit to dangerous proportions). As the opposition to the first treaty had come, at least in part, from a perception that it would undermine the French system of social welfare, a left-wing president could more easily reassure voters, I argued, and so carry such a referendum early in her first term.

It was perhaps a forlorn piece of analysis, for within a point or two the outcome of the second round, which elected Nicolas Sarkozy, was clear from the results of the first. All the evidence showed that supporters of the centrist, François Bayrou, would divide equally between both camps. And this they did. It would have needed three-quarters of them to have backed Ségolène Royal for her to have scraped a win and all of them for her to have won convincingly. This was never going to happen.

The policies of M. Sarkozy are widely held to be what France needs. I wouldn’t dissent from that view. His ideas on economic reform also chime with the greater part of the Commission’s free market Lisbon agenda, now beginning to show results in terms of rising levels of GDP growth. Though before the free market contingent get too carried away we must remember that the new French President-elect is still at heart an economic nationalist, like his predecessor.

Whether he will be able to implement the reforms he wishes to see is of course another matter. Sarkozy has been likened to Margaret Thatcher, Prime Minister of Britain from 1979 to 1990, who carried through far reaching economic reforms and broke what was perceived as the trade union stranglehold on enterprise. But Thatcher, at least in her early days, embodied a good deal of popular will, importantly from across the working population. Whether Sarkozy has that same support is doubtful.

An interesting analysis by Eric Dupin writing in Le Figaro shows that apart from business owners and the Poujadist rump of the self-employed, those in paid employment voted more often for Royal than for her rival. Sarkozy’s real support came from the older generation, the over 50s, people in the main who were either retired or otherwise inactive economically. Royal had far more support among the young and the employed.

Sarkozy may pose the question, ‘who governs France?’ But the unions may answer ‘we do’ and, moreover, have the forces on the ground to prove it. The President’s irresistible force may meet an immovable object – the resulting stalemate doing neither France nor the rest of Europe much good.

The resistance is likely to be heightened if Sarkozy tries to ratify a new constitutional treaty, in effect the old treaty with a new name, through Parliament alone. We assume that he will be able to command a majority in the Assembly, at least on this issue, though even that cannot be taken for granted.

The idea of a truly mini-treaty, limited to updating voting weights in the European Council and giving that body a semi-permanent Chair, seems to have disappeared. Except in capitals such as London and Warsaw, it always seemed an impractical suggestion.

The European Commission is also viewing Sarkozy with apprehension over his attitude to Turkey. During the election he made it plain that while he accepts the Balkan states should eventually be admitted to the Union, this does not extend to Asia Minor. The talk is all about other types of relationships that might be invented for Turkey (and presumably other non-Balkan aspirants such as the Ukraine).

He is, of course, not alone in voicing such doubts; other leaders, indeed the German Chancellor herself, have never been convinced of Turkey’s future place in Europe, however far in the future that place may lie.

This has led to a ruffling of feathers in the Berlaymont hencoop, with no one quite sure whether to ignore the French President-elect or to remind him of Europe’s obligations. As he is only President-elect – and on holiday to boot – he is something of a will o’ the wisp. He cannot easily be criticised. Nevertheless, guarded statements about the necessity of respecting European commitments are cropping up with regularity. Even Margot Wallström had a pop at him on her blog this week.

It is not impossible that Turkey might commit some act of folly – such as a military coup – that would disbar the country, at least for a while – and let Europe of the hook. Recent rumblings from the Turkish military about the need to safeguard Kemal Attaturk’s secular legacy were serious enough and led Olli Rehn, the Enlargement Commissioner, to issue a veiled reminder about the need to respect state institutions.

Not impossible perhaps, but unlikely. Which will leave us in a tricky position come June when Mrs Merkel hopes and expects to have the roadmap to the EU’s constitutional reform agreed.

I have to say the prospects for this were looking uncertain before Sarkozy’s election; after it they look even bleaker. Sarkozy appears likely to insist that the new treaty does not compromise on the issues to be settled by majority voting that were written into the old treaty. This may prove contentious, especially, in London, where Gordon Brown is expected to have taken over from Tony Blair by mid-July.

But it is Sarkozy’s position on Turkey and his insistence that a new treaty say something about the EU’s boundaries that is likely to prove more difficult – at least in the short time that remains. I happen to agree with this position and have argued the point several times in this column. But to attempt an agreement on this in the few weeks that remain before the June European Council may well prove impossible.

Nevertheless, some statement along these lines may be Sarkozy’s price for delivering a French ratification. He may even have the majority of the French electorate behind him also. He is something of a Napoleonic figure, after all; not averse to using a whiff of grapeshot to get his way. I foresee trouble ahead.

The author is editor of EuropaWorld

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 6th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

An   Institute That Could Help Solve Central Asian Disputes – Specially On Water Use But Also For Energy.

ASTANA, Kazakhstan, April 5, 2007, ENS- {Published in cooperation with News Briefing Central Asia, an independent network of journalists based in Bishkek. NBCentralAsia is a project of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting, IWPR.}

 A proposal by Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Ednan Karabaev to establish a regional research institute for water and energy could help end the persistent political wrangling over cross-border water use in Central Asia.

During a meeting between European Union delegates and foreign ministers from all five central Asian states in Astana on March 28, held to consult on the new EU strategy for the region, the Kyrgyz foreign minister put forward a proposal to set up a Water and Energy Academy in the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek, with the EU’s support.

Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Ednan Karabaev proposes to establish a Central Asian water and energy research institute in Bishkek. (Photo courtesy Government of Kyrgyzstan)

The new institute would train experts from all the Central Asian countries on hydroelectric power, while undertaking research that will benefit the region, Karabaev said.
Central Asia’s largest rivers have their sources in the mountains of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. These two countries use the water flow mainly to generate electricity, whereas Uzbekistan and Kazakstan further downstream rely on the water for crop irrigation.

Although numerous mechanisms and plans have been produced to manage water use, the upstream and downstream countries have failed to agree on terms that would be acceptable to all. Political and water analysts in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan say developing a regional-level academic centre for water management could help Central Asia reach a common view of how the resource should be distributed.

Erkin Orolbaev, a Kyrgyz expert on water issues, said the institute may well achieve this goal if it is internationally recognized and recruits capable lecturers and researchers from the region and the rest of the world.

Anatoliy Kholmatov, technical director at the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea based in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, points out that a similar initiative was launched in 2003 at an international forum on fresh water. The plan then was to have an International Water Center based in Dushanbe to look at water, related social issues, and electricity generation. The center is currently under construction.

But Kholmatov says the Kyrgyz initiative is a good one, as a great deal of research is needed to develop the economic mechanisms for shared water use.

According to a senior official in the Tajik Ministry of Energy and Industry, the academy should be a place where experienced energy officials can get advanced training and network rather than a college for training new people from scratch.

“If this is an academy for advanced training, something serious may come of it… Personal connections, which often count for a lot, will be able to have a major impact on decision-making,” he said.

Almost all the experts interviewed agree that simply strengthening research capacity will not solve water disputes – there must also be the political will to do so.

Bazarbay Mambetov, a Kyrgyz energy expert said, “The problem can be solved through constructive talks among the regional states, provided their leaders are willing and ready to do this.”

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 29th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

EU launches new Central Asia policy in Kazakhstan, writes Andrew Rettman for EUobserver, March 28, 2007, from Brussels.

The EU has said “the time is right” for new engagement in Central Asia after a high-level meeting in Kazakhstan saw joint agreement to hold more such talks in future, with the German EU presidency hoping the dialogue will lead to political reform but with human rights groups on alert over Europe’s real agenda in the energy-rich region.

“The talks showed that the time is right for a new, closer cooperation,” German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in Astana on Wednesday (28 March). “The EU aims to diversify its energy policy. This is why it is necessary to increase our contacts with Central Asia,” he explained, AFP reports, on a region believed to hold 5 percent of the world’s energy resources.

“It’s in our interest that the Central Asian countries take a path to be peaceful, democratic and prospering states,” Mr Steinmeier added, with external relations commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner saying Kazakhstan should chair Europe’s pro-democracy club, the OSCE, in 2009 if it upholds promises on human rights. “Now we want to see these reforms,” she said.

The EU aims to spend €750 million on the five states in question between 2007 and 2013, with the talks raising Mr Steinmeier’s hopes of one day building a Trans-Caspian gas pipeline to Europe, getting the EU involved in counter-terrorism and border monitoring, getting people talking about democratic reform and setting up new education and student exchange schemes.

Mr Steinmeier privately raised the issue of a Deutsche Welle correspondent, Natalia Bushuyeva, who has reportedly fled Uzbekistan after facing criminal charges of tax evasion. But the reaction of the region’s two most repressive states – Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan – did not bode well for any future change in political climate.

Uzbek foreign minister Vladimir Norov said publicly the EU should not “interfere in domestic affairs…we don’t have to justify ourselves.” Turkmenistan’s deputy foreign minister Yolbors Kepbanov, due to attend the press conference, simply vanished. “I hope he did not get stuck in the lift,” Mr Steinmeier quipped, Reuters reports.

Wednesday’s meeting will now be digested by EU diplomats in Brussels, who will decide in May whether or not to renew sanctions against Uzbekistan. Brussels and Berlin will also use the talks to shape a final draft of a new EU strategy paper on Central Asia for the June EU summit. If all goes well, up to 200 EU officials could ship out to new embassies in the region in 2008.

No laughing matter: Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan are no laughing matter, however. Both states practice torture and extra-judicial executions of political prisoners. In one example in 2005 documented by Amnesty International, Uzbek activist Ahkrorkhudzha Tolipkhozhaev was shot in the back of the head three weeks before Uzbek diplomats told the UN he was alive and well.

In May 2005 Uzbek president Islam Karimov’s soldiers machine-gunned around 500 unruly civilians in the eastern town of Andijan, which led to the small-scale EU sanctions being imposed. The government has never admitted the massacre or allowed an international enquiry, simply restating its official position at an EU experts’ meeting on the case last December.

When a delegation of MEPs briefly visited the town of Andijan on 22 March, two plain clothes policemen visibly followed British conservative deputy Martin Callanan as he walked through the marketplace, making local people too scared to speak. “There’s a sinister atmosphere,” he told EUobserver. “It would run Turkmenistan a close second in terms of repression.”

Uzbekistan – which has almost half the region’s whole 60 million-strong population and its biggest army – is seen by Germany as a cornerstone of future EU engagement. Berlin has in the past bent over backwards to fly Uzbek officials to Europe for medical treatment and got the EU to scale back its sanctions against Tashkent last November on the back of vague commitments to human rights dialogues.

Germany’s willingness to drive EU policy on the face value of Uzbekistan’s statements has rung alarm bells among the world’s NGO community. A January draft of the classified EU strategy paper – seen by EUobserver – states “In some cases, such as Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, concerns about human rights have proved a set-back and prevented relations from developing.”

The draft paper also says on Kyrgyzstan in 2006 that “the issue of the Uzbek refugees following events in Andijan was handled appropriately” even though the refugees in question were forcibly repatriated, arrested by Uzbek authorities as “terrorists” and face an uncertain future today.

NGO’s contend that EU integrity is at stake: The integrity of EU statements on human rights in Central Asia is also put in doubt by the funding model for the €750 million aid pile, which will be spent on projects officially sanctioned by the local regimes, meaning that the cash will enrich “approved” NGOs instead of helping the underground pamphleteers or campaigners who put their neck on the line for reforms.

“Russia is a big player in Central Asia,” Amnesty analyst Maisy Weicherding – who has travelled extensively in the region – said. “We don’t want the EU to say, ‘look at Russia, if we want to have a big impact in Central Asia we need to be more like Russia and so human rights should not be a big priority for us’.”

The NGO wants the EU to focus aid on Kyrgyzstan, where authorities show more tolerance for real NGOs such as Justice to circulate samizdat-type free press publications and where a new US university in Bishkek is helping disseminate “revolutionary” ideas – like the notion it is wrong for police to extort money and beat innocent people – across the border to Uzbekistan.

It remains to be seen how Germany together with the more human rights-oriented EU states such as the UK, Sweden or the Czech Republic will shape the EU’s future activities in Central Asia. But away from the grand rhetoric of the high-level Astana event on Wednesday, the attitudes of some EU politicians are not encouraging.

The MEPs’ visit last week – which was treated to the sight of Uzbek president Karimov doing a folk jig with a child held aloft in his arms during a Spring festival – was marked by some of the three German MEPs preferring to meet with local businessmen rather than dissidents invited by the German embassy in Tashkent.

Come to splendid Samarkand: German socialist MEP Vural Oger spent a large part of the visit seeking new contacts to help his company, Oger Tours, bring more Turkish tourists to cultural sites like Samarkand or Bukhara. Mr Vural declined to comment on the issue.

German conservative MEP Daniel Caspary, who says he met with “other” activists – such as the local head of the Konrad Adenauer foundation – instead, was on-message with Berlin. “If we only talk about human rights nobody will listen to us,” he said. “We have to also talk about economics and other issues. We have to talk about all the topics, the same as we do with the Chinese.”

The MEPs’ brief tour of the country also shed extra light on the primary motivation of the German EU ambassador to Tashkent, Martin Hekker, who is among the most influential EU diplomats stationed in the region today. “When we met the German ambassador, he made it very clear that they are keen on lifting the [EU] sanctions and normalising relations,” the UK’s Mr Callanan said.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 28th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

EU moving to operational phase of Central Asia policy – says Andrew Rettman from Brussels, February 27, 2007, on EUobserver.

The EU is quietly moving from the theoretical to the operational phase of its Central Asia strategy, with spending set to soar in the next seven years. But major NGOs are worried Europe’s new “special relationship” with Central Asia will do little to improve living conditions in one of the most downtrodden parts of the world.

German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier will in Kazakhstan on 27 March meet the foreign ministers of the five Central Asia states for final consultations before presenting a draft Action Plan to EU experts in Brussels in April. The plan – consisting of a 15 page theory section and a 70 page analytical annex – is to get formal endorsement by EU leaders on 20 June.


The evolving document – a January version of which was seen by EUobserver – proposes to boost European Commission spending by 61 percent to €719 million between 2007 to 2013 on projects including: basic poverty eradication; new gas and oil pipelines; training security officials; introducing accounting standards; building roads and staving off water shortages.

To put things into perspective, the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) budget for the 16 states adjacent to the EU bloc went up 32 percent to €12 billion for 2007 to 2013. But with Central Asia’s total population standing at 59 million, Central Asia spending will be €12 per head compared to neighbourhood spending of €3.5 per head. International banks and individual EU states are also facing pressure to top up the Central Asia kitty.

The EU will back up the cash injection by sending some 200 new diplomats from Europe to create four embassies in the region by 2008. “High level visits are indispensible to demonstrate the interest of EU member states,” the Central Asia blueprint states, adding that “local visibility” will be enhanced by “EU buildings” acting as “landmarks.”

The document paints a disturbing picture of a region of vital interest for EU energy security – Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan are rich in gas, oil and uranium – but which has languished in a “strategic void” in EU policy-making for 50 years. Reports that Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan practice systematic torture are well-known, but new problems are also coming to light.

Disturbing picture : At the political level, the EU is worried “how to ensure a peaceful transfer of power” in Kazakhstan in the coming years, as its 67-year old president becomes more frail. Uzbekistan has swung toward Russia due to “extreme irritation” at EU sanctions and faces a potentially turbulent presidential selection process in December. Turkmenistan has a shaky new government in a limbo left by the sudden death of totalitarian leader Niyazov last year. Kyrgyzstan is also considered unstable.

The 59 million people who live on the steppe face staggering social problems: the rich live on $230 a month, the poor on $2 a day. Clean drinking water is a luxury for 90 percent of rural people, with gastro-enterological disease a major cause of high infant mortality and with HIV said to be “rife.” In Tajikistan – the poorest – one third of GDP comes from heroin smuggling.

On top of this, bad water management is pushing Central Asia to the brink of another environmental disaster after the collapse of the Aral Sea in the mid-1990s. “Shallowing and salinization of Balkash [a lake half the size of Belgium] may have repercussions comparable to the Aral Sea tragedy,” the EU document states, noting that pesticidal pollution has already helped reduce the fish catch in Central Asia by 60 percent since 1990.

Focusing on human rights, it may be wrong to portray the EU’s new “special relationship” as a simple energy grab: individual EU diplomats see themselves as principled people trying to bring stability and prosperity to countries considered closed even by old Soviet standards. Any friendly gesture – such as a superficial discussion on the 2005 killing of 180 civilians in Andijan, Uzbekistan – is seen as important progress.

Human rights as strategic interests:   The document avoids the usual platitudes on “EU values” and addresses the strategic importance of political reform for EU interests. “Mounting popular discontent, if handled in an authoritarian manner, might pave the way for a period of turbulence and destabilisation at a time of political secession, which is due to occur in the coming years in most of the Central Asian states,” threatening EU energy and counter-terrorism projects, it states.

But despite this, analysts are worried by the EU approach. For one thing, EU funding is to be modeled on the old TACIS programme, which is based on co-management of funds with local authorities. The TACIS instrument was discredited as slow-moving, bureaucratic and all-but-useless with respect to democracy-building by the EU’s own auditors last year. It is being scrapped in the EU’s “neighbourhood” foreign policy wing.

NGOs are also concerned that in the test-case of Uzbekistan, EU sanctions are being sold too cheaply: the German EU presidency is using the prospect of further dialogue on the Andijan massacre to persuade the UK and Sweden the EU should relax its Uzbek visa ban list in May and scrap its arms trade embargo a further six months down the line. The first Andijan meeting last December is a key argument for Berlin to develop high-level talks.

But some of the 14 EU police and legal experts who attended the December talks told Human Rights Watch (HRW) that “at most it provided an opportunity for the Uzbek government to recount its version of the events, leading up to the massacre.” Since the December meeting, HRW translator, Umida Niazova, and another activist, Gulbahor Turaeva, have been put in jail as part of a process described as “decimation of civil society” by the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights.

Cynicism or pragmatism?
HRW is pushing for EU “principled engagement” that sees relaxation of sanctions and “staggered funding” tied to “measurable improvements” such as Red Cross access to jails. “It will help to counter cynicism that EU interests in the region are solely about energy and counterterrorism. It will make clear that the EU has an interest in people’s lives,” the NGO said in an unpublished paper last week.

Meanwhile, the genteel culture of EU diplomacy is hard to swallow for some action-oriented activists on the ground. EU diplomats talk about Central Asia in antique French and Latin terms such as “demarches” or “primus inter pares.” Some even have grudging respect for harsh nation-builders such as the late Turkmen leader Niyazov, and find themselves mildly fascinated by Satrapic tea-drinking rituals when meeting men such as Uzbek leader Karimov.

“Our recent meeting with [one EU diplomat on Central Asia] was not very encouraging, to say the least,” a senior HRW analyst said.

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Further notes:   – Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan are rich in gas, oil and uranium.

This is just one reason for EU interest, in addition – Kazakhstan, like Turkey,   claim as being in part in the Geography of the European continent.

Regarding Energy – the example of Kazakhstan:

Energy Supply
Kazakhstan has abundant energy reserves. Estimated at about 1.2 Gt for oil, 900 Gm3 for gas and 31 Gt for coal. The hydroelectric potential is estimated at 30 TWh…

Consumption
The total energy consumption fell between 1992 and 1999 (-47%). It has been recovering since and reached 51 Mtoe in 2004. The consumption per capita is about 3.4 toe, of which 3400 kWh…

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 7th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

EU to beef up diplomatic corps in Central Asia, informs Andrew Rettman from Brussels, the EUobserver, February 6, 2007.

EU states are keen to open four new EU embassies in Central Asia by 2008 to help compete with Russian, Chinese and US influence in the energy-rich region, as upcoming Turkmen elections put Brussels’ new Central Asia policy to the test.

The embassy idea was put to member states in a 15-page document on 2 February by EU officials and the German EU presidency, with the German ambassador to Uzbekistan, Matthias Meyer, the same week calling for the fresh crop of diplomats to be in place by next year.

The European Commission already runs a 60-man delegation in Kazakhstan’s old capital in Almaty and three smaller offices with less than 10 officials each in the new Kazakh capital of Astana, as well as in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan and Dushanbe, Tajikistan.

The move would see full-scale missions in Astana, Bishkek, Dushanbe and Tashkent in Uzbekistan, with no plans for Turkmenistan as yet and with Brussels warning the timetable could change as it is not proving easy to attract high-calibre staff to the far-flung posts.

The new strategy paper also sets out wider goals that could see multilateral meetings at EU-level to talk about a new gas pipeline under the Caspian Sea and encourage political reform, including education projects to stymie radical Islam.

It suggests extending the mandates of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the European Investment Bank to help build basic infrastructure and provide alternatives to the heroin trade on the Afghan border.

EU states – including human rights advocates UK, Sweden, Denmark and Ireland – have broadly welcomed the draft as a “good balance” between energy and humanitarian interests, with national experts set to tweak the wording before it goes to EU leaders at the June summit.

“The actual content of the document is not so important. It’s designed to send a political signal to our partners, to the five states in question and to Russia, China and the US,” one EU diplomat said. “We are saying – look we want to be in there, we want to work there.”

Post “Tulip Revolution” Kyrgyzstan is currently the most progressive country in the region, with Kazakhstan also showing interest in reform. But Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan are egregiously repressive while Tajikistan is seen as a “heroin-based economy.”

Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan also claim to have massive gas reserves, but some experts say EU plans to compete for new pipelines with Russia and China are doomed to fail, as existing elites are more keen to get rich from the status quo than to get better EU gas prices with strings attached.

“In terms of the opacity of these regimes and the depth of Russian influence, if the EU thinks it can use Central Asia to improve its energy security it is being highly naive,” International Crisis Group director Bob Templar told EUobserver.


The Turkmenistan opening:

Meanwhile, the sudden death by heart failure of 66-year old Turkmen leader Saparmurat Niyazov last December has seen some MEPs, as well as exiled Turkmen dissidents in Sweden and Vienna, call for the EU to use the “new opening” to step up pressure for reform.

EU capitals and the European Commission have so far decided to give free rein to an old guard of army men and civil servants fronted by ex-health minister Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov to take power in pseudo-elections this coming Sunday.

“We have to find a way to get into dialogue with these countries in a way that they actually listen,” another EU diplomat said, amid worry that EU envoys could be frozen out by the new regime and that the exiled dissidents might create a “new kleptocracy” if they got in.

NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) is urging Brussels to push for gas money to be used for rebuilding schools and hospitals in the post-election phase before unfreezing relations – most schooling stops at age 15 and clinics are often staffed by untrained soldiers.

“There is a danger that the new government will be given too much credit before any across-the-board reforms,” HRW analyst Ian Gorvin said. “Some EU diplomats out there have already started congratulating Berdymukhammedov simply for not being Niyazov.”

Brussels puts squeeze on MEPs:

A 25 January letter from external relations commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner to pro-reform MEP, Dutch conservative Albert Jan Maat, urging the European Parliament to approve a new trade deal with Astana, casts light on the EU’s new Central Asia thinking.

“I strongly believe that engagement over time is likely to have a more positive impact than isolation…beginning with allowing the interim agreement to come into force as soon as possible,” she said, in a move seen as exerting undue pressure on MEPs by Mr Maat.

“This is saying there will be no EU reform effort until we allow the trade agreement,” the parliament’s Central Asia delegation vice-chair said. “If a member of parliament in the Netherlands received such a letter, you would soon have a big problem.”

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