Восходящая гражданская активность в Казахстане: надежда на перемены?

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Kazakhstan has always been considered as one of the success stories in Central Asia, aiming for the top-30 most developed countries while being criticized by the international community for violation of human rights and freedoms. Nowadays when the nation is overwhelmingly fighting COVID-19, the Kazakh government rushed the new ‘Protest Law’ during lockdown, undermining freedom of assembly. The social media campaign “#WeDoNotNeedSuchALaw” has become the last effort for civil society and activists to stop President Tokayev from singing the bill. There can be little hope, as in 2015 the same situation occurred with the Law on NGOs, which limited civil activism to social component and created a whole system of bureaucratic difficulties in interacting with the state, and local authorities deliberately continue to detain and arrest those criticizing the regime.

Since then, a new wave of citizen activism has been emerging. Today the majority of civic activity takes place outside of NGOs: activism has arisen in various forms – from mass protests, for instance, “Oyan, Qazaqstan!” movement or “Feminita” marches, to individual actions such as “You Can’t Run Away From the Truth: I have a Choice” by Asiya Tulesova and Beibarys Tolymbekova, solo pickets, art activism and citizen assistance initiatives, including LGBTQ.

The growing wave of citizen activism in Kazakhstan is eclectic and chaotic. Some activists more directly and openly oppose the state than traditional NGOs since it remains challenging to maintain permanent dialogue with authorities. At the same time, civic activism is more pragmatic; activists are looking for practical solutions to specific problems as an alternative to involvement in high politics. Most critical issues of the Kazakh society are reflected in caricatures, comics and music by Murat Dilmanov, LeShapalaque, Akyn Akynych, in projects of sex education (Uyatemes), ecology (AUA), gender security, animal protection and others. The emerging forms of activism in the country are even ideologically diverse: they combine the elements of the nationalist right, liberal democrats and citizens without a certain ideological component.

Rising citizen activism in Kazakhstan is sporadic, tactically innovative and multifaceted; it goes beyond traditionally ‘protest’ cities of Almaty and Nur-Sultan to different cities and regions (see Activist Map for details). At the same time, the state continues to perceive civic activism as confrontational, linking it to “colour revolution” supporters. Since activism aims at the new type of politics and society, the Kazakh government is developing measures to regulate, control and limit those activities, as it used to do with the NGOs, including through the state social order.

Certainly, new activism in Kazakhstan is going through difficult times. However, due to new outbursts, the demand for a deeper understanding of various issues and the solution of many important problems are growing. According to activists, their motion is driven by responsibility for what is happening around and keeping no silence about it. The results of a research about the ‘Evolution of citizen activism in Kazakhstan’ suggest that one of the main constraints is the authoritarian nature of state institutions, and their incomprehensible and hostile bureaucratic nature. The idea that digital media provides equal opportunities for everyone to voice their ideas does not always work in the Kazakh reality where the government uses troll factories, bots and fake accounts, silencing individuals, and their appeals. Some activists reported their personal data theft and hacking of online chats, as well as checks and harassment by the authorities based on the information received. When these measures cease to be effective, the government uses blocking the Internet and social media to limit civic activities and communication. As a result, on the one hand, new activists deliberately refuse to partner with government agencies to maintain their reputation and not fall under the radar of the administrative control. On the other, some activists do not trust international donors in order to escape from a ‘foreign spy’ labelling, while others would like to observe increased political support from international organisations to develop citizen activism across the country.

Even though citizen activism and political change are of utmost importance for the country’s future democratic path, its intertwined nature makes it difficult for the regime to establish long-term relationship with those who have alternative views. Once in 2008 the Kazakh ex-president Nazarbayev joked that he would like to make democracy, as in America, but was unaware where to find so many Americans in Kazakhstan. Twelve years later citizen activists prove to be passionate about positive structural changes in the country and make remarkable transition to democracy.

SEnECA blog contribution by Anna Gussarova, Director of the Central Asia Institute for Strategic Studies and Chevening Scholar at King’s College London.

*This blog is based on results of the research project “Crowdfunding Instead of "State Social Order": The Evolution of Citizen Activism in the Age of Digital Technologies in Kazakhstan”

ЕС должен усилить деятельность по защите данных в Центральной Азии, основанную на показателях ВВП.

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Raising awareness among professionals and individuals regarding the GDPR requirements on one hand, and educating citizens about digital rights and data protection, on the other, should become the benchmark for Central Asian countries. While developing their own way in addressing data protection, Central Asia combines elements of the Russian and Chinese concepts of ‘sovereign internet’, ‘great firewall’ and ‘censorship’. In this regard, strengthening cooperation with the EU partners under the New EU-Central Asia Strategy is of utmost importance for building transparent, accountable and healthy ecosystems. Personal data protection, advocacy and promotion of the digital agenda along with cyber literacy and cyber hygiene should be an integral part of the campaign to promote a culture of personal data protection in Central Asia.

Since the adoption of the cyber- and personal data related legislation, the countries of Central Asia have made significant progress in understanding, identifying and fixing problems associated with the use of cyber technologies in cyberspace. In addition to important initiatives and implemented measures, governments and societies have many objectives to be prepared to recover from cyber-attacks as quickly as possible, since it is not possible to prevent them, which results in building and introducing the culture of personal data protection without violating human rights and freedoms both online and offline.

While some countries are making real progress in the field of Internet freedom, such as the EU countries, others, on the contrary, i.e. Russia and China are tightening and restricting measures to control or regulate Internet freedom. Based on recent research on data protection in Kazakhstan (Data Protection in Kazakhstan: Status Quo, Challenges and Opportunities, Anna Gussarova, 2020), there is a whole spectrum of challenges that should be adequately addressed to maintain sustainable development in Central Asia in the long-term perspective.

The first is data protection legal and institutional framework. Since all Central Asian countries have already adopted personal data legislation, now is the time to implement national development strategies towards open and transparent digital economies. It is essential to ensure the implementation of data protection laws and monitor compliance with personal data protection requirements. Since personal data is subject to protection and the state acts as its guarantor, all stakeholders without any exception must comply with the developed technical and legal parameters. More importantly, it is about labor division, inter-agencies responsibilities and data protection agency which oversees data protection under one umbrella. Here GDPR, its main principles and institutions could serve as a basis for the Central Asian countries to build their own systems.

Secondly, it is about differentiating information and cyber security. Since these two terms do mean different things, the misuse or false understanding of these concepts prevent the countries of Central Asia to properly assess strengths and weaknesses of non-technological solutions. The same logic applies to the protection of personal data, its privacy and confidentiality. From a technological point of view, achieving protection will require less time and resources, while it is important to promote the culture of digital rights as a form of vaccination for the society and develop immunity to cybercrimes. Currently, paid Virtual Private Network (VPN) services (in most cases even free Russian applications) are widely used to protect a user’s privacy online whereas the logic behind this is to protect a person from the government rather than from cyber criminals.

Finally, it is about building the culture of data protection. Obviously, it is impossible to create the culture of protecting personal data overnight and it took the EU several years to significantly raise awareness among its citizens, as well as explain why it is important and what needs to be done. More importantly, the large-scale promotion of this legal culture has increased the level of trust and communication among the government agencies, businesses and citizens, which is essential for Central Asian countries.

SEnECA blog contribution by Anna GussarovaDirector of the Central Asia Institute for Strategic Studies and Chevening Scholar at King’s College London.

Небесные сферы над Самаркандом и Гданьском

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Probably no other scientific discipline shows the importance of Central Asia for the development of European civilization better than astronomy.

In its relations with Central Asia, the EU often evokes the idea of the Silk Road placing Central Asia merely as a “stopover” on the route between China and Europe. However, the EU should take more literally into consideration the name of Central Asia and acknowledge that the region used to be the centre of the world in the past. Its heritage is one of the main sources of European Renaissance and Enlightenment, particularly concerning science and philosophy.

The American historian Frederick Starr, in his ground-breaking book Lost Enlightenment: Central Asia’s Golden Age from the Arab Conquest to Tamerlane, described the period mentioned in the title of his book as following: “This was truly an Age of Enlightenment, several centuries of cultural flowering during which Central Asia was the intellectual hub of the world. […] It bridged time as well as geography, in the process becoming the great link between antiquity and the modern world. To a far greater extent than today’s Europeans, Chinese, Indians, or Middle Easterners realize, they are all the heirs of the remarkable cultural and intellectual effervescence in Central Asia.”

The status of Central Asia as the intellectual hub of the world between 800 and 1100 AD confirms especially its role as a source of inspiration for Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) and Johannes Hevelius (1611-1687), two great European astronomers originating from Pomerania, a region located at the shore of the Baltic Sea. They were ethnic Germans and, at the same time, loyal subjects to the Kingdom of Poland. They therefore symbolize the Polish-German cultural metissage (mix of cultures). In fact, Pomerania’s multi-cultural heritage may be compared to the experience of Central Asia where for centuries Turkic communities mixed with Iranian people.

Copernicus, in his opus magnum De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres), often referred to the achievements of Muslim astronomers including the works of the “giants” from Central Asia. The most important among them was Nasir al-Din Tusi (1201-1274) originating from Tus, a city located close to the Iranian-Turkmen border. He invented a geometrical technique called a Tusi-couple for the planetary models. Tusi created this technique in order to replace Ptolemy's equant. The Tusi couple was later employed in Copernicus' heliocentric model. In fact, as Frederick Starr rightly points out there are striking similarities between Tusi's criticisms of Ptolemy’s theory and arguments later used by Copernicus in order to defend his idea of Earth's rotation around the Sun.

Copernicus’ theory became the main point of reference for many European astronomers, including his compatriot Johannes Hevelius, who was also mayor of Gdańsk.  Hevelius included in his famous catalogue of stars Atlas firmamenti stellarum large fragments of works of Ulugh Beg (1394-1449), a Central Asian ruler who went down in history as one of the greatest astronomers. Another book by Hevelius, Prodromus Astronomiae, contains a comparison of data from Ulugh Beg’s star catalogue “Zij-i-Sultani”. “Zij-i-Sultani” is generally considered to be the most accurate and extensive star catalogue created between Ptolemy and Tycho Brahe.

Ulugh Beg also established a legendary observatory in Samarkand which was, at that time, one of the finest observatories in the world. It was modelled on the Maragheh observatory created by Nasir al-Din al-Tusi situated in the East Azerbaijan Province of Iran in the middle of 13th century. The observatory in Samarkand served as a source of inspiration for other endowments of that kind including the observatory in Gdańsk created by Hevelius.

Summing up, this short odyssey through the biographies of observers of heavenly spheres confirms that the heritage of Central Asia, indeed, “bridged time as well as geography, in the process becoming the great link between antiquity and the modern world” as Frederic Starr stated. These intellectual links should be much more acknowledged and emphasized by researchers and other stakeholder involved in EU-Central Asia relations.

SEnECA blog contribution by Adam Balcer, Program Manager in Foreign Policy and International Affairs Program at WiseEuropa Institute (Warsaw, Poland)  

Растущая роль ЕС в Кыргызстане: влияние Стратегии ЕС в Центральной Азии

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Сотрудничество с Европейским Союзом является приоритетным направлением для Кыргызстана. Об этом говорится и подчеркивается в программных документах, выступлениях первых лиц республики и во время многочисленных визитов уже третий десяток лет. Это соответствует действительности, потому что за этот период деятельность ЕС в Кыргызстане охватила практически все области – это многочисленные проекты в сфере здравоохранения, образования, гидроэнергетики, реформирования пенитенциарной системы, по работе с молодежью, преодоления безработицы, борьбы с терроризмом, наркотрафиком.

И всегда особое внимание в двустороннем сотрудничестве уделялось и уделяется верховенству права, развитию демократических институтов и свободы слова. Проблема же заключалась в том, что не всегда ранее подписанные документы работали. Причин было очень много – это разные взгляды и подходы, несогласованность действий, экономические трудности Кыргызстана, коррупция, бюрократия, отсутствие четких механизмов работы и контроля. Например,  одним из направлений реформирования образования является внедрение инноваций в школах, модернизацию куррикулума, улучшение качества подготовки учителей, развитие инклюзивного образования и безопасной школьной среды. 

Своеобразным прорывом в отношениях стала Стратегия ЕС 2007-2013 годов, которая заложила основы для уже реально работающего партнерства. Именно, по этой Стратегии при поддержке ЕС в Кыргызстане были запущены национальные программы, направленные на наиболее приоритетные области – реформирование системы социальной защиты, судебной системы,  системы образования, а также  развитие села и сельского хозяйства.

Также в рамках стратегии Кыргызстан активно принимал участие в региональных проектах, поддерживаемых Европейским Союзом, направленных на повышение интеграционного потенциала и совместное решение проблем Центральной Азии. Во время действия этой стратегии заметно активизировался реальный политический диалог между ЕС и КР, например, в 2010 году было открыто постоянное Представительство ЕС. Это очень важно для кыргызстанской стороны, потому что деятельность офиса Европейской делегации в Бишкеке позволяет постоянно держать «руку на пульсе», активнее вовлекая республику в сферу европейской орбиты.

Такая активная работа позволила подписать расширенное соглашение о сотрудничестве между ЕС и Кыргызстаном в июле 2019 года, причем республика стала второй страной в регионе после Казахстана, подписавшей такой документ. Упор в соглашении был сделан на сотрудничество в сферах политики, экономики и инвестиций, а также продвижение экономического сотрудничества в поддержку устойчивого развития Кыргызстана. Особенно актуальна тема устойчивого развития, поскольку и в предыдущих блогах коллег уже затрагивались эти проблемы. Для Кыргызстана большую проблему представляют вопросы экологической и продовольственной безопасности, вторичного использования сырья, загрязнение окружающей среды и одной большой угрозой является наличие урановых хвостохранилищ. Европейский Союз же достиг больших успехов в развитии и внедрении зеленых технологий, и является примером  для других стран. И европейский опыт бесценен не только для Кыргызстана, но и для других стран региона.

А перед Кыргызстаном и ЕС стоят новые задачи по обсуждению новых документов уже на период с 2021 до 2027 года.  Это дает надежду на более углубленное развитие двусторонних отношений, и одновременное развитие региональных отношений, поскольку европейские проекты в большинстве своем направлены на региональные проблемы, требующие усилий со стороны всех центральноазиатских стран.

Назира Момошева, Кыргызский Национальный университет, Кыргызстан

Трансграничное водное сотрудничество в Центральной Азии: помогает ли европейский опыт решить проблему?

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Международные трансграничные водные ресурсы являются наиболее важным видом природных ресурсов. Рациональное и справедливое использование воды может обеспечить процветание и безопасность отдельным государствам и целым регионам. Поэтому на сегодняшний день эффективное использование трансграничных вод является особенно актуальным. Это обусловлено тем, что водные ресурсы способны не только содействовать региональному сотрудничеству и усилению интеграционных процессов, но и могут служить источником потенциальных конфликтов.

В конце 20-го века, после распада Советского Союза, эффективное использование трансграничных водных ресурсов приобрело большое значение для государств Центральной Азии и вскоре стало одним из самых неотложных вопросов, требующих решения для обеспечения мирного и прогрессивного развития народов Центральной Азии.

В мире насчитывается 276 рек, которые пересекают несколько стран. Девять из них расположены в Центральной Азии. Это реки Амударья, Сырдарья, Зарафшан, Чу, Талас, Или, Мургаб, Теджен и Иртыш. Реки Амударья и Сырдарья имеют большое стратегическое значение, поскольку они обеспечивают водой Аральское море. Эти реки также играют важную роль в сельском хозяйстве, промышленности, сфере услуг и градостроительстве в странах Центральной Азии.

Однако, принятие политически мотивированных, близоруких решений властей Советского Союза в прошлом в рамках пятилетних планов социалистического развития, чтобы «догнать и обогнать Запад» и достичь «всемирного триумфа коммунизма», привели к обширным вмешательствам в естественные природные процессы, расточительному использованию водных ресурсов и искусственному изменению режима стока рек Амударья и Сырдарья сформировавшихся на протяжении столетий. Эти факторы вызвали большую экологическую катастрофу, связанную с высыханием Аральского моря. Нехватка воды, потеря обрабатываемых земель, резкое сокращение флоры и фауны, изменение климата, а также ускоренное таяние горных ледников на Памире и Тянь-Шане составляют неполный список последствий, связанных с ухудшением состояния окружающей среды Аральского моря. Социально-экономические и экологические последствия этой трагедии, такие как высокий уровень засухи, необычайно теплые источники, повышение солености и токсичности воды, загрязненной гербицидами и пестицидами, увеличение числа пыльных бурь, ощущаются не только в странах Центральной Азии, но и далеко за его пределами.

Несмотря на эти проблемы, республики Центральной Азии продолжают использовать водные ресурсы, исходя из своих национальных интересов, зачастую без учета интересов соседних стран, расположенных в нижних частях бассейна рек, и всего региона. Страны региона, расположенные выше по течению (Кыргызстан и Таджикистан), имеют высокое потребление воды в энергетических целях, в то время как страны, расположенные вниз по течению (Узбекистан и Туркменистан) страдают от нехватки воды для сельскохозяйственных нужд. Это особенно верно при рассмотрении вопросов продовольственной безопасности, которые напрямую зависят от наличия орошаемых земель и достаточного количества воды в течение вегетационного периода. В то же время растет число проектов по строительству крупных гидротехнических сооружений (мегаплотин и гидроэлектростанций) на реках в верхней части бассейна. Реализация таких проектов может увеличить нехватку воды и потенциально привести к катастрофическим антропогенным экологическим и социальным последствиям, которые в конечном итоге угрожают устойчивому развитию в регионе.

Фактически, трансграничные водные конфликты являются одними из самых серьезных проблем в мире. За последние двадцать лет ряд развивающихся стран уже сталкивались с проблемами трансграничных вод. Однако эти проблемы еще далеки от своего решения. Управление водными ресурсами и разрешение водных конфликтов занимают важное место в политической повестке дня многих стран и являются постоянным вопросом для политических дебатов. В частности, в Центральной Азии неуклонно растет конкуренция за пресноводные ресурсы.

Международное право предлагает широкий спектр механизмов и норм, регулирующих использование и управление водными ресурсами, чтобы избежать и разрешить разногласия, и превратить конкуренцию в пути совместного развития. В Европе, где расположено большое количество трансграничных рек, мирными средствами были сформированы успешные механизмы для эффективного управления трансграничными водными ресурсами. Это произошло благодаря твердой приверженности международному праву и внимательному отношению к интересам стран в речных бассейнах, которые, безусловно, заслуживают особого внимания. Изучение дел Дуная, Рейна и других трансграничных рек и применение лучшего европейского опыта сыграло бы значительную роль в решении проблем трансграничных вод в Центральной Азии. Следовательно, есть необходимость в совместных исследованиях ученых Европы и Центральной Азии по данному вопросу.

Публикация в блоге SEnECA подготовлена Профессором Хайдарали Юнусовым из Университета мировой экономики и дипломатии в Ташкенте (Узбекистан).

Наблюдая и сохраняя: пути для экологически устойчивого туризма в Центральной Азии

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В последнее десятилетие Центральная Азия становится все более популярным местом для любителей хайкинга и путешественников, ищущих приключения. После распада Советского Союза и, особенно после первой публикации Lonely Planet о Центральной Азии в 1996 году, этот регион привлекает все больше и больше европейцев, которые хотят увидеть живописные альпийские леса, заняться верховой ездой или открыть для себя древние города  Шелкового пути.

Однако, в связи с ростом туризма возник ряд проблем, которые увеличивают нагрузку на и без того уязвимую экосистему региона. Несмотря на то, что растущее количество иностранных гостей в пяти республиках Центральной Азии экономически выгодно некоторым местным жителям, которые так или иначе задействованы в туристической сфере,  это также привело к ухудшению состояния окружающей среды из-за интенсивного развития выброса углерода, неэффективности использования ресурсов и загрязнения озер, которые имеют большое значение для региона в качестве запасов пресной воды.

При планировании моей трехнедельной поездки по Центральной Азии, я спрашивала себя: что я могу сделать, чтобы это путешествие было минимально вредно для окружающей среды? Я решила избегать внутренних и региональных перелетов, выбирать экологичные варианты проживания и придерживаться вегетарианской диеты. Последняя задача казалась легкой для вегетарианки, но оказалась довольно трудной в связи с преобладанием мяса в центральноазиатской кухне. Тем не менее, мотивация была высокой – снизить уровень выбросов углекислого газа в атмосферу.

Большинство путешественников следуют по похожим маршрутам по Центральной Азии: они отправляются в Казахстан, потоом направляются на юг в Кыргызстан, а затем двигаются на запад в Узбекистан или дальше на юг в Таджикистан. Я выбрала первый вариант и была поражена тем, как легко я смогла купить билеты на поезд в Казахстан и Узбекистан через Интернет. Здесь было полезным мое знание русского языка, потому что сайты на русском языке (например, www.caj.uz) часто предлагают более низкие цены. Билеты на междугородние автобусы труднее приобрести через интернет, но, как правило, их не нужно покупать заранее. Билеты из Казахстана в Кыргызстан, с пересечением казахстанско-кыргызской границы (3 часа пути), можно приобрести на месте на автовокзале Сайран в Алматы, а билеты от Бишкека до Ташкента (12 часов пути), с пересечением кыргызско-узбекской границы, можно приобрести на Западном автовокзале в Бишкеке примерно за три дня до поездки. Кроме того, дешевые и уютные «маршрутки» в советском стиле создают удобную транспортную сеть, соединяющую все города и села по всему региону.

Сложнее было найти информацию об экологически чистом жилье. Такие сайты, как «Green Pearls» или «Kiwano Hotels», не предлагают пока вариантов жилья в странах Центральной Азии. Поэтому я решила забронировать проживание в небольших семейных пансионах и избегать крупных гостиничных сетей. К своему удивлению, я узнала, что если семья владеет отелем или хостелом в Центральной Азии, то она часто живет в том же здании или по соседству. Это не только приводит к снижению энергопотребления, но и дает путешественнику возможность больше узнать о местных обычаях, попробовать настоящие блюда региональной кухни и подружиться с владельцами и персоналом отеля. Моим любимым местом проживания стал  «EcoYurt» в горном селе Алтын-Арашан на северо-востоке Кыргызстана. В юрточном лагере был натуральный горячий источник, а также вкусный вегетарианский «лагман» - блюдо из лапши и овощей, которые были очень приятными после пятичасового похода из города Каракол. Юрта была с хорошей внешней изоляцией, с обогревом ночью и неожиданно комфортной.

Этот опыт показал мне, что экологически устойчивый туризм возможен в Центральной Азии, если правительства пяти республик готовы серьезно подойти к проблемам окружающей среды и обратить пристальное внимание на экологическую устойчивость при развитии туризма. В качестве положительных примеров для правительства можно привести такие страны, как Бутан или Швейцария. Например, не имеющий выхода к морю и горный Бутан следует девизу «высокая стоимость, низкий уровень воздействия». Это предусматривает минимальный ежедневный тариф для туристов от 200 до 250 долларов США, который включает в себя проживание, лицензированного гида и туристическое снаряжение. Эта стратегия очень успешна в предотвращении дешевого массового туризма, который зачастую наносит ущерб местным экосистемам и биоразнообразию. Государства Центральной Азии могут применить подобную стратегию, адаптируя ее к своим обстоятельствам и потребностям.

Кроме того, Европейский Союз может внести свой вклад в развитие экотуризма в Центральной Азии. В своей недавно опубликованной новой стратегии по Центральной Азии, ЕС включил экологическое измерение как одно из центральных направлений политики в задачи «Партнерства для обеспечения устойчивости». При реализации стратегии в предстоящие годы Европейская служба внешних связей (EEAS) хочет сосредоточиться на изменении климата, взаимосвязанности и верховенстве права, как заявил Борис Ярошевич из EEAS на семинаре-совещании SEnECA в июле 2019 года. ЕС должен найти конкретные пути для укрепления межрегиональных и внутрирегиональных платформ, которые занимаются экологическим управлением и экотуризмом, мобилизовать государственный и частный капитал для экологических проектов в Центральной Азии и поделиться своими собственными уроками, извлеченными из развития экологически устойчивого туризма и утилизации отходов в Альпах.

Одно можно сказать наверняка: без политической воли и инвестиций в экологическое развитие такие проблемы как загрязнение и нехватка воды, эрозия почвы и деградация лесов, будут только нарастать и угрожать не только местным экосистемам, но и развитию людских ресурсов в Центральной Азии. Например, озеро Иссык-Куль в горах Тянь-Шаня в Кыргызстане уже подвергается опасности из-за антропогенной деятельности, такой как загрязнение окружающей среды в результате туризма, чрезмерного отлова рыбы и промышленной деятельности в прошлом и настоящем. Пятое по глубине и второе по величине высокогорное озеро в мире демонстрирует признаки ухудшения состояния в виде увеличения уровня солености и сокращения количества рыбы и растений, благодаря которым озеро сохраняется. По словам нескольких местных жителей, с которыми мне удалось поговорить во время моей поездки, правительство Кыргызстана не придает должного значения ухудшению состояния окружающей среды на Иссык-Куле, стараясь не испортить идиллический образ региона и не отпугнуть туристов.

Всегда есть два уровня для решения экологических проблем: политический и личный. На личном уровне, я думаю, крайне важно заранее узнать самому об экологической ситуации в желаемом туристическом направлении и о существующей инфраструктуре для экотуризма. Как только человек начинает менять свои привычки в путешествиях (даже небольшими шагами), семья, друзья и коллеги могут вдохновиться на то же самое. Как сказала мне одна пожилая казахская дама в ночном поезде из Нурсултана в Костанай: «Как мы относимся к матери-земле, так и она относится к нам». Я думаю, что это может стать отличным девизом для развития туризма в Центральной Азии.

Автор блога SEnECA: Татьяна Кун, научный сотрудник в Centre international de formation européenne (CIFE), Берлин

Отношения Испании с Казахстаном: так далеко друг от друга, но такие дружеские

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Spain’s main foreign policy priorities —namely North Africa, the EU and Latin America— are far away from Central Asia. Nevertheless, the country does have a significant interest and presence in one of the five Central Asian countries: Kazakhstan.

Since the break-up of the Soviet Union and the independence of Kazakhstan in December 1991, the relations between Astana —now Nursultan— and Madrid have been outstanding. The two countries established diplomatic relations in early 1992 and have opened embassies in Madrid and Astana respectively. Kazakhstan hosts Spain’s only diplomatic mission in Central Asia. Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan matters are managed by it as well, while Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan related issues are directed by the embassy of Spain in Moscow.

The good relations between the two countries have mainly been a result of the friendly relations of their former heads of state, King Juan Carlos I and Nursultan Nazarbayev. King Juan Carlos I boosted the relations between the two countries with a state visit to Kazakhstan in 2007 and his son, and current King of Spain, Felipe VI, followed this path with an official visit to Astana in 2017. Likewise, both former Spanish Prime Ministers Zapatero and Rajoy have visited the country and met with Nazarbayev in an official capacity. On the other hand, Nazarbayev paid official visits to Spain in at least two occasions, 2008 and 2013. Conversely, no Spanish head of state, nor prime ministers have visited any other Central Asian country in an official visit, albeit Felipe VI met with president of Uzbekistan, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, during the International Exposition in Astana in 2017 (Expo 2017).

The positive development in the bilateral relations between the two countries translated into the mutual support in different political and cultural initiatives. Spain, for instance, supported the Kazakh presidency of the OSCE in 2010 and the Expo 2017 Astana’s candidacy. In addition, numerous bilateral agreements have been signed between the two countries, emphasizing the establishment of a strategic partnership in 2009. This agreement covers cooperation in a wide range of topics, such as culture, defence, science, technology and trade.

The volumes of trade between Kazakhstan and Spain are also significant, particularly compared to the other four Central Asian states. The main reasons being, inter alia, the advanced economic situation and legal security of Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan exported goods worth 2 billion Euros to Spain in 2018, while its imports reached 120 million from Spain in the same year. This meaningful trade imbalance is primarily the result of the Spanish need for unrefined oil, which represents nearly 94 per cent of Kazakh exports to Spain. Spanish exports to Kazakhstan are, on the other hand, electronic devises sold by Talgo —the main Spanish manufacturer of trains—, Indra —a Spanish information technology and defence systems company—, and Airbus.

In total, sixty-six companies with Spanish capital are registered in Kazakhstan. They are not only businesses working in the energy, construction and infrastructure sectors, but also in the fashion and textile industries, which have notably grown in the last years. Although other European countries such as Italy and the Netherlands are still ahead in the ranking, Spain is one of the ten largest trading partners of Kazakhstan nowadays.

The transition of power from Nazarbayev to Tokayev in June 2019 is unlikely to impact the good relations between Spain and Kazakhstan. Both administrations seem to be committed to increase and deepen the relations between the two countries in the future. Recently, in March 2019, the Spanish authorities announced the opening of a Cervantes Institute, the Spanish state-agency responsible to promote studying and teaching Spanish around the world (the first one in Central Asia), while Kazakh authorities have already communicated its intention to intensify business relations between the two countries.

SEnECA blog contribution by Pol Vila Sarriá, project officer at the Trans European Policy Studies Association (TEPSA) in Brussels.

Три основные проблемы противодействия экстремизму и терроризму в Центральной Азии

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Terrorism-related issues are highly politicized and securitized in Kazakhstan and in Central Asia in general. Whereas it is necessary for the governments to maintain stability and national security, counter-terrorism efforts sometimes undermine the state’s credibility.

There are three main problems with counter-terrorism efforts in Central Asia. The first, and most significant, problem is the legal framework that regulates this sphere. Laws on terrorism are almost the same in all five countries and they all are filled with vague terminology. As a result, the governments use this vagueness to strengthen their monopoly on the use of force. Because the wording of the laws on countering extremism is vague, it allows the government to use the law on a case-by-case basis to punish opposition activists. In addition, the governments have created a narrative of fear by using these legal traps to strengthen the state’s monopoly on the use of force. As a result, the security services prosecute 'potential' ISIS sleeper cells or supporters, in particular in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. Despite all the efforts to fight online terrorism, the Central Asian governments have not managed to stop terrorists from using the internet to plan their activities. Rather, the governments’ approach to counter extremism has so far resulted in limitations and violations of civil liberties.

The second problem is that Central Asian countries prefer to cooperate on counterterrorism with non-regional actors, e.g. the United States, the EU, Russia, Turkey and others, or within the UN, OSCE, the Collective Security Treaty Organization, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, rather than establish intra-regional dialogue to address this issue properly, especially with Afghanistan. 2018 field trip to Kabul and meetings with high-level officials reinforced the absence of cross border cooperation with the Afghan security forces on travel of terrorists, as Central Asians are not ready to collaborate daily with their Afghan counterparts.

Recent special operations focusing on bringing foreign terrorist fighters, including women and children from Syria back to the region in 2019 (Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan) were the result of successful cooperation with big powers rather than a regional decision. A well-established dialogue on terrorism and extremism issues should be established, as it will result in a better approach towards information sharing, borders and profiling. Additionally, this will help address the threats that might arise from the Afghan terrorist groups.

The third problem has to do with the governments’ (non)communication about terrorist threats. Whereas the level of terrorism threat is relatively low, regional governments do not communicate with the public in case of an actual threat of a terrorist attack, forgetting the main audience and leaving it behind when an incident occurs. As a result, it is extremely difficult to counter terrorism in non-democratic societies, where everyday communication between the government agencies and the public is minimal. The lack of trust between both sides poses a great challenge for improving these relations. The absence of alternative and/or independent media makes this task even more difficult.

Strengthening the legitimate use of force to ensure domestic security is necessary, yet the Central Asian governments’ current approach demonstrates a major imbalance in the citizens’ civil liberties and security. In Central Asia, where political rights and civil liberties, in particular freedom of (online) expression, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of religion, have been significantly limited for the sake of stability, social media has also been manipulated by the governments. People across the region are now being arrested for posting, sharing or ‘liking’ politically, nationally or religiously “incorrect” or sensitive content on social media on the pretext of countering extremism. Citizens’ unawareness and lack of knowledge when it comes to behavior during terrorist attack and what extremism is and what is not are also of great importance. Along with the missing communication on potential threats, it is also necessary to educate people, communicate with them and inform them in a timely manner which actions are appropriate, and which are not.

These and other relevant issues should be further explored during the implementation phase of the new EU Strategy on Central Asia, which outlines ad hoc measures on countering violent extremism challenges in Central Asia in order to create resilient societies across borders.

SEnECA blog contribution by Anna Gussarova, Director of the Central Asia Institute for Strategic Studies (CAISS) in Almaty, Kazakhstan

Отношения ЕС и Центральной Азией: новые возможности для более крепкого партнерства?*

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In June 2019, the European Council adopted the new EU strategy for Central Asia “The EU and Central Asia: New Opportunities for a Stronger Partnership”. The High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission, Federica Mogherini, has presented the new strategy to the Central Asian partners at the occasion of the 15th EU-Central Asia Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, on 7th July 2019. In light of these new developments, Susann Heinecke (SEnECA’s consortium member and senior researcher at the Centre international de formation européenne) has conducted an interview with the EU Special Representative for Central Asia, Ambassador Peter Burian, to receive his assessment of the new EU Central Asia strategy and its implementation.

Which significance does Central Asia have for Europe? Are there external factors that shape that significance?

PB: I think we have started fully appreciate the significance of the region only recently when many important processes began, including a more active approach of players such as China and its Belt and Road initiative. We have been engaged in the region since the Central Asian states gained their independence, supporting their state-building, institution-building, and supporting their strategies for sustainable development. We wanted to strengthen the resilience of the region so that the countries could address their own problems and challenges. These, in the end, might also have consequences for our own security and stability.

The region is also of significant importance for Europe in terms of security of neighbouring Afghanistan that is a security threat for the region, but also for us including threats like violent extremism, migration and other related issues. From this point of view, Central Asia is even a closer neighbour of the EU than it seems, and in case of any major security crisis in the region, the EU will be one of the first to face the consequences. Last but not least, we look to the region as a young and growing market with potential for transport, for business, for trade, and also connectivity.

Let us come to the new EU Central Asia strategy. Why was there a necessity to update the previous strategy? What were its main deficits or shortcomings?

PB: First of all, the previous strategy was developed in 2007, and since then, many changes have occurred in the region, including geopolitical shifts. Moreover, Central Asian countries have progressed with nation-building, have strengthened their identity, and so on. So, we felt the necessity to reflect these new developments in our new strategy, a better focused strategy. We wanted to highlight the specific role of the EU as a supporter for modernization and transformation in individual countries. Further, the EU wants to play a role in promoting regional cooperation as a factor of stability and, possibly, as the only way for addressing issues and challenges like security or the impact of climate change and connectivity in an efficient manner.

Moreover, our partnership with Central Asia has matured and progressed since 2007, and has developed into a true partnership where we not only appreciate the willingness of our partners to learn from our experiences and best practices in transformation processes, but also see how they are more and more prepared to work with us in addressing existing global and regional challenges. In particular, they work with us in helping Afghanistan to stabilise and find a solution to its protracted conflict. Hence, I believe that we are moving with our partnership to a qualitatively new level where we benefit from each other’s knowledge, experience, and contribution to addressing problems together rather than individually.

What are the next steps for implementing the new strategy?

PB: The first step was taken in Bishkek last weekend, where the 15th EU-Central Asia ministerial meeting was held. We presented the strategy and immediately started the discussion how to implement it. We heard very positive comments from our partners, and they were already coming with concrete ideas. In the area of security, we agreed on the expansion of our programmes BOMCA and CADAP. We are also looking to new areas such as education, which was viewed as a core priority. Our partners highlighted the importance of education for their transformation and reform processes in terms of capacity building. And, last but not least, a focus on economic cooperation and promoting the potential and opportunities for trade and business cooperation between the region and the European Union was very much in the focus of our discussion in Bishkek. The Kyrgyz side came with an idea to organise a first EU-Central Asia economic forum for identifying opportunities, but also for discussing the conditions, which need to be created such as the strengthening of the rule of law and good governance as well as the fight against corruption. We probably have promoted them in an abstract manner so far, but now, with this very practical focus, I believe that our partners better understand our approach and its practical significance for attracting businesses.

* This is a shortened version of an interview conducted with Ambassador Peter Burian in Brussels on 11th July 2019 . The complete interview can be found here.

Конкуренция между Россией и Китаем за сердца в Центральной Азии

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The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), a political and security alliance bringing together numerous Central Asian countries, as well as Russia and China, held its most recent summit in Bishkek on 14 June 2019. While this is an opportunity for Kyrgyzstan to play host, the meeting has also brought discussions of Russia and China’s influence in Central Asia back to the fore.

Russia and China have often competing, but occasionally overlapping political, economic and security interests in countries across the world. These interests can converge in places, such as the Arctic, or diverge, as in their growing competition on the arms market, and as they compete for global recognition as powerful political players. Central Asia is often overlooked as a theatre in which Russian and Chinese interests come together, and where the five republics are caught between the influences of these two large powers. The way in which the republics are able to balance these alliances will have a profound impact on the region in the coming years. But there are already early signs of discord.

Russia’s approach to Central Asia draws on its longstanding political alliances with all five republics, establishing itself as the main hard security provider in the region. Russia has set up military bases in three of the five republics, and trains and supplies weapons to many of their armed forces. While Central Asia does present an economic opportunity for Russia as an export market, Russia also uses its extensive investments in Central Asia’s infrastructure and business environment as an additional lever of political influence.

China’s influence in Central Asia is chiefly economic, with the goal of promoting its political hegemony. China is focused on using Central Asia’s territory as part of its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to promote trade ties, and investing in Central Asia’s railway infrastructure. China relies on its economic links and the prospect of job creation as a way of promoting influence in Central Asia although China does have security interests in the region. Instability in Afghanistan and the spread of Islamist extremism are a joint security concern for China and Russia.

Between a rock and a hard place  

Thanks to its Soviet legacy, Russia’s political and security reach is relatively well-established in Central Asia, but not without tension. Kazakhstan criticised Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, and has resisted Russia’s attempts to promote the benefits of the annexation in the media. But the recent handover of power in Kazakhstan - in which President Nursultan Nazarbayev stepped down - was widely thought to be organised with Moscow’s approval. There was much speculation at the time that Putin was closely observing the handover as a model for his own transition when his presidency ends in 2024. This is unlikely given the different political environments in Russia and Kazakhstan – while former president Nazabayev’s daughter Dariga is a highly visible part of the political system, Putin’s family life is extremely private and never publicly discussed.It has been reported that Nazarbayev had called Putin a few hours before his departure, and appeared to have discussed the transition with Moscow, indicating their close links on major issues.

This push-and-pull relationship is also playing out with China as its growing influence has begun to rankle locals in Central Asia. As Bishkek hosts the SCO summit, Kyrgyz President Sooronbay Jeenbekov will be keen to deepen trade ties with China, and to encourage investments in Kyrgyzstan’s infrastructure. Although ties between China and Kyrgyzstan may be progressing at an official level, locals have become increasingly dissatisfied with the country’s move towards China, and have protested in response. In January 2019, hundreds of demonstrators in Bishkek protested against illegal Chinese migrants, the government’s granting of citizenship to Chinese people married to Kyrgyz nationals, and against the persecution of Kyrgyz people in ‘re-education’ camps in China. Evidently, high-level diplomatic negotiations do not always translate into fruitful partnerships.

There may be similar scope for tensions with China in Uzbekistan. Since the change of administration in Uzbekistan in 2017, China has sought to promote bilateral ties, entering into several major gas deals, including the Central Asia-China gas pipeline, as well as constructing new railway tunnels. But on the ground, Uzbeks responding to local surveys maintain that Chinese investment has not had a tangibly positive impact. China will also face competition in Uzbekistan - since President Islam Karimov’s death in 2017, Russia sent large trade delegations to the country, most notably in October 2018, as an indication of its intent to improve deeper economic relations.

The tussle between China and Russia over Turkmenistan’s gas market is well-documented, and a serious cause of tension. Russia has looked to Turkmenistan in recent years to help strengthen its border with Afghanistan - although this has not been always positively received by the Turkmen -, and is renewing joint military training with Uzbek and Turkmen forces. Russia’s gas giant conglomerate Gazprom at the end of 2018 began to discuss the resumption of deliveries of Turkmenistan’s gas in 2019, which is highly likely to drive up frictions with China. While Turkmenistan’s political environment does not allow large protest movements to foster, Turkmenistan may become the locus of renewed business competition between Russia and China.

Countries such as Belarus – also looking to China for investment – have encountered similar pushback against China from locals. Residents there complain that investors employ Chinese labourers for large projects, without stimulating the local economy. Should China use these same business practices in Central Asia, this could stimulate the already nascent unrest. To take advantage of Chinese and Russian interest in their economies, Central Asia’s political leaders will be obliged to traverse a careful line, to ensure that Chinese presence does not spill over into regional instability.

SEnECA blog contribution by Emily Ferris, Research Fellow at the International Security Studies department of the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) in London