chapter  3
15 Pages

EU Member States in Central Asia

ByJACKIE GOWER

The EU is a multi-level system of governance which means that in most policy spheres competences are shared between the EU institutions and the Member States.1 In the case of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), therefore, the Member States participate in the formulation and implementation of such common initiatives as the Central Asia Strategy within the Brussels policy-making framework but also quite legitimately continue to pursue bilateral relationships with some or all of the states in the region. Furthermore, most of the specific policy fields in which the EU seeks to engage with the Central Asian states, such as energy, transport, environment, border security, economic development, education, human rights and democracy promotion are also shared competences. So bilateral initiatives and programmes often coexist alongside EU projects. This therefore means that the pattern of relationships and interaction between EU Member States and Central Asia is complex, often manifesting synergies but also having the potential to appear inconsistent or even contradictory. The main objectives of this chapter are to identify the interests and policy stakes of individual EU Member States in Central Asia, analyse the nature of their bilateral relationships with the states in the region and assess the implications for the EU’s objective of pursuing a coherent and effective common policy towards the region. It will therefore begin by focusing on those Member States which have established political and economic relations with some or all of the Central Asian countries before turning to the broader theme of the impact of those relationships on the conduct of the CFSP. Key questions to be addressed are which Member States have been the most active and influential in shaping the EU’s policy towards Central Asia? Are the interests of the Member States compatible or are there conflicts of interest or significant differences in opinion about principles, priorities or the most effective way of achieving them which make it difficult to reach a policy consensus? Finally, is there any evidence that as in the case of the EU’s policy towards Russia, Member States play a ‘two-level game’, saying one thing when acting within the multilateral EU framework but another

when dealing bilaterally with specific Central Asian states? (Gower 2006: 253). In particular, the suspicion is that the normative agenda of democracy, human rights and good governance is afforded greater importance at the EU level than sometimes seems to be the case at the bilateral level but energy security policy also seems prone to tensions between national and EU priorities. One of the greatest perceived weaknesses of the EU as an international actor is its inability to ‘speak with one voice’ on the world stage so any evidence of ‘mixed messages’ being conveyed to the political leadership of the Central Asian states will inevitably undermine the effectiveness of its strategy.