The meeting of the leaders of Germany and Central Asia will be held on September 29 in Berlin. What is the reason for Germany to be active in Central Asia? Stefan Meister, an expert of the German Foreign Policy Association on East European and Central Asian affairs, answered these and several other questions.
– The leaders of the Central Asian countries met with the American president 10 days ago. Before that, they had such a meeting with the leaders of China and the European Union. What is special about the Berlin meeting?
– This is an expression of great changes in the policy of Europe, including Germany, towards Central Asia. It is clear that the reason for this is the ongoing war in Ukraine, and therefore Germany believes that relations with the countries of Central Asia should be strengthened. Germany is economically the main power in the European Union, and therefore we know that Berlin’s position in the union is the most important. The arrival of five regional leaders in a new form in Berlin is an important event. This shows that the geopolitical and geoeconomic interest of the European Union and Germany in the region is increasing.
– Is it possible to say that Germany independently entered the competition of geopolitical and geoeconomic interests in Central Asia?
– Of course we can. There was always a geopolitical interest, no one denied it. In the current conditions, there is a lot of interest in Central Asia and its importance is increasing. The interests of the countries of the region are also increasing in the diversification of relations with the great powers. Thus, we see that not only the big countries want to increase their influence or interest, but also the leaders of the region are trying to equalize the influence of China and Russia in the region. I think this is the result of joint activity of regional leaders. The European Union and Germany are well aware of this and open the doors of cooperation. It seems that the European Union and Germany have finally realized that Central Asia is a region of strategic importance. Although this region is geographically distant, in a number of issues related to economic interests, Transit and trade have close ties with the countries of the Union. Yes, rivalries are great as are efforts to strengthen relationships. This is important.
– After the start of the war in Ukraine, Europe refused Russian gas. In such a situation, isn’t Germany interested in Central Asia to find another way to find energy sources? The leader of oil-rich Kazakhstan is in Berlin on a state visit.
– Of course, the German government is considering the possibilities of diversifying the import of energy sources, primarily gas. Not only oil, but also gas is important. The countries of the European Union, led by Germany and Italy, refused Russian gas. At the same time, disputes have intensified over the Trans-Caspian pipeline, which will open a route to the Black Sea and Europe through the South Caucasus. Kazakhstan plays a key role in this issue. It occupies an important position in the transportation of not only oil, but also gas. Oil and gas of Turkmenistan also attracts the attention of the European Union. At the same time, other countries in the region are also important when it comes to mining and mineral resources. Thus, Central Asia will become an important partner for Germany in its diversification policy.
– The European Union, especially Germany, respects democratic values, human rights, freedom of expression and the rule of law. The root of this problem is deep in all five countries of Central Asia. How comfortable are German leaders with autocratic presidents who have been in power for three decades and are imposing unimaginable restrictions?
– Now I can’t say how comfortable it is to meet with autocratic leaders and sit at the same table with them. A pragmatic view prevails in a changing world. They cannot meet the leaders just because they are dictators. These are the facts. At the same time, the German authorities cannot fail to explain the human rights situation in the countries of the region. I believe that Berlin will take an active position when it comes to freedom of speech, restrictions on internet access and freedom of speech in Central Asia. I think it will strengthen its will in this regard in the future. I also noticed this during the meeting with the ambassadors of the European Union in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan.
The European Union is one of the leading supporters of civil society development in the region. Germany is a leader in this process. Therefore, buying oil, gas and other natural resources does not mean that human rights, freedom of speech and the rule of law are ignored in the region. We will strengthen relations with the leaders of the region from a pragmatic point of view, and on the other hand, the support of the civil society will not decrease either. We believe that the more the activities in the region expand, the more efforts will be made to protect human rights.
Source : Радио Озоди