Trading human rights for energy security? The quest for a coherent European foreign policy towards Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan

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Vermeulen, Mathias
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The Russian-Ukrainian gas-crisis of January 2006 reinforced the calls for a unified European external energy policy. The diversification of the EU’s energy sources and supply routes was seen as a crucial element to strengthen the EU’s energy security. A central role in this diversification strategy was reserved for Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, with whom the EU wanted to build up a closer relationship. However, human rights NGO’s feared that the EU’s renewed strong interest in energy security would make it bend its standards to overlook the most egregious human rights violations these states committed. Would the specific inclusion of energy security concerns in the Common Foreign and Security Policy towards Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan weaken the normative aspects of the EU’s relations with these three countries? I will argue in this thesis that the EU’s striving for energy security for its own inhabitants is an equally important value as the promotion of human rights for non-EU citizens. The EU is indeed ‘trading’ human rights for energy security, but this doesn’t necessarily influence its credibility as an international human rights defender. A strong conditionality- based democratisation policy in Central Asia is namely in any case bound to fail. Only a two-track approach which couples the promotion of good governance and democratic processes and the strengthening of public institutions with the implementation of core investment and trade policy reforms, has a small change to obtain modest change in the future.
Second semester University: University of Hamburg
energy policy, Central Asia, foreign economic relations, European Union, human rights