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  European Union abolished sanctions against Uzbekistan

Ainis Razma, VDU PMDI doktorantas
2009 12 14

On 27 October the EU abolished weapons embargo against Uzbekistan, since the applied sanctions were not efficient. During four years after events in Andizhan situation on human rights did not improve in Uzbekistan, and the West lost its significant regional partner. What events in Andizhan on 13 May 2005 determined the imposed sanctions?

The answer could be provided only by the Uzbekistan‘s authorities, but certain facts have been confirmed in the public space. On that particular day the troops entered the city and opened the fire toward the crowd.  According to the official data, about 180-190 persons perished, however witnesses of the events state that the actual number of the killed was 8 times higher.  However, it is not yet clear what the goal of these disorders was and who organized them and made the military open the fire. According to media of Russia and Uzbekistan, the ones who arranged the above upheaval were about 2000 criminals released several days before from the Andizhan jail by the Islamic extremists.

The West responded to the Andizhan events and stated that human rights are rudely violated in Uzbekistan. Meanwhile the president I.Karimov‘s supporters disseminated information that he was informed about the massacre only after the events. Another version is that the troops have simply shot the peaceful demonstration. In any case, the West expressed its attitude toward the events in Andizhan without having reliable information.

On 23 May the EU made a statement requiring the international investigation of the Andizhan events.  Investigation had to specify what has actually happened. But when it is not clear what actually happened, on what basis is Uzbekistan condemned?  The EU‘s diplomacy had at least a formal possibility to continue constructive relations with a geopolitically relevant state, but this did not happen and in November 2005 the EU imposed sanctions.

When in October 2007 the EU extended validity of sanctions, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Uzbekistan released the statement saying: „From the very beginning conclusions of the EU Council on tragic events in Andizhan (...) were made without executing any preliminary expertise locally and without receiving the evaluation of diplomats of the EU...“. The statement also mentions two visits of the EU diplomacy groups to Uzbekistan. The first took place in December 2006, the second – in April 2007. According to Uzbekistan, operational reports of the above groups confirm that events in Andizhan was an infringement to the constitutional order of the state.

After imposing the sanctions the EU mitigated them on a constant basis, although Uzbekistan‘s Government delayed to improve the situation of human rights in the country. In November 2006 partial suspension of the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement between the EU and Uzbekistan was terminated. Having extended the sanctions for another year, in October 2007 the EU terminated the ban for issue of visas to enter the EU fore 6 months, and in October 2008 only the weapon trade embargo was left valid. In October of this year this sanction was also abolished.

The period of sanctions against Uzbekistan was painful for the West : Tashkent asked to close the U.S. military headquarters Karsh (an important Afghanistan‘s military logistics center) deployed in the territory of the country, the business of Western states suffered huge problems in Uzbekistan.  Meanwhile Russia and China have significantly consolidated their positions in the region.

Sanctions of the EU did not do major harm to Uzbekistan.  On the contrary: the authoritarian regime used this period for strengthening its positions and consolidation of society against the external „enemy“.

Several conclusions could be made after reviewing the history of sanctions.  First of all, politicians and diplomats of the EU should not concede to the stereotype formed by the media, that any disorders in the countries ruled by the authoritarian regimes are the activity of forces seeking democratic changes. Secondly, the West did not have formal background to condemn Uzbekistan because of the absence of an independent investigation.  Thirdly, Europe‘s response demonstrated that the old Continent can lose the diplomatic ear and does not use the diplomatic experience in the region accumulated within centuries. Uzbekistan considered the West its ally, and both, the U.S.and the EU showed by their behavior that this country is only a recipient of financial support. Moralization of the West in Uzbekistan was accepted in Uzbekistan as betrayal and personal offense, but such I.Karimov‘s response to sanctions, as well as the shift of the foreign policy towards Russia should have been forecasted beforehand.

According to idealists, in its foreign policy Europe follows the values, and not the interests. Most probably that‘s the case, however, the value paradigm does not eliminate neither geopolitical realia, nor responsibility of politicians for consequences of unsuccessful diplomacy.

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