The unexpected demise of President Niyazov of Turkmenistan has called renewed attention to the unsettled situation and uncertain prospects for Central Asia, one of the pivotal regions of the world. This note reviews the state interests and the prospects of the region as a background to a renewed discussion in Europe and the US how best to engage in Central Asia.
The key notion underlying this note is that it is essential to consider the interests of all partner states in and around Central Asia, if one is to understand the prospects for regional cooperation and integration in the region. A full exploration of these interests goes beyond the scope of this presentation. Hence, I will summarize here only some key elements that appear to be particularly relevant for the future region and to the current debate about a new EU strategy for its engagement in Central Asia. I will focus on four sets of actors: (1) the countries in the region; (2) the principal neighbors, China and Russia3; (3) other key partners, the EU and the US; and (4) the international institutions (UN agencies and the International Financial Institutions, in particular the Asian Development Bank, EBRD, IMF and the World Bank). I will then trace out two alternative scenarios for the region and conclude with some recommendations for the principal actors, with a special reference to the new EU strategy for Central Asia which is currently under preparation.