In fact what has happened is that Chinese and a resurgent Russia’s influence has grown and the EU has been marginalised. The EU has a lot to offer Central Asia in terms of access to markets and know how, but its policies needs to be adjusted. It needs, for example to recognise that Central Asian states might not actually want to become western democracies, and start cooperating with other trade and military blocks in the region, which like it or not, hold the upper hand.
Professor Phunchok Stobdan, an expert on Central Asia, and India’s previous ambassador to Kyrgystan, and Augusto Soto, professor of Esade Business School at Ramon Llull University (SPAIN) and Director of Dialogue with China Project discuss the issue.
The EU has no such strategy for Latin America and Africa, why should it have a strategy with strings attached fin Central Asia?
Well, I assume that the fact than the European Union has been more, for a long time, in contact with Latin-Americans and Africans is one factor. Is more familiar with those regions, along with a time where democracy is about alien to Latin America, no matter how good those democracies are. And this is one factor, the other factor is that the European Union started relations with Central Asia region that new very little, very much like in Soviet times, a little bit obscure somehow, no much and so from all the ways we have to admit that the European Union looks at throughout the world to other regions from a civilizational point of view so to speak, thinking that its model could be exported or that the rest of the world should converge to the European Union Model, and not exactly the same as the United States, but there is a relationship between how this two powers see the rest of the world.
Did western leaders misjudge the situation when Central Asian states became independent?
Yes, I think they had too high expectations not considering the way of history and also the fact that they were, like sort to speak, that is very complex to put it this way but they were new nations and in many cases countries with plural nations at the same time. Each country was like a Matrioshka specially Kazakhstan, you know, with one hundred foreign nationalities. Mainly Kazakhs, but also significant portions of Slavic population, namely Russians, and Ukrainians and Poles and Germans as well and Greeks, etcetera. So, we did not take into account that that region had to readjust in certain ways that never happened before.
How can the EU do a better job at encouraging regionalism, Professor Stopdan?
Well, they need to understand what is interregionalism. You have to go to the roots of the problem. And there I see the European come to vision… is about focusing on the region because the region is not Russia, region is not China, region is not India, region is not even Iran, so what is that region? I’m making focus on that, not only for getting any regionalism but I don’t see in the next 20 years this concept of Central Asia’s regionalism is going to be ignored, because of, you know, they are in the transition phase, they have to get out of the Soviet mode, and that takes time. In a region takes time, even European Union took lots of time.