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Adrienne Warren

The Baltic States and Central Asia: A New (Far) Eastern Neighbourhood?

EUCAM, a project seeking to monitor the implementation of the EU Strategy for Central Asia, and acting as a hub for broader European-Central Asian relations, has produced a series of brief on policies between Europe and Central Asia. Anete Jēkabsone, a scholar in the field, has produced a report on the Baltic States and Central Asia, examining their relations as applied to politics and values, trade and energy, security, and development assistance. Jēkabsone takes a look at the trajectory of the two regions and how things have changed since the fall of the Soviet Union…

big almaty lake panorama, author: mariusz kluzniak, source: Flickr

big almaty lake panorama, author: mariusz kluzniak, source: Flickr

In her investigation, Jēkabsone explains that contact between to the two regions was minimal after the collapse of the Soviet Union, as the nations concerned took very different developmental paths–the Baltics favouring an arguably more democratic, western-based path, while the majority of Central Asian nations adopted more authoritarian regimes. However, Jēkabsone explains that in recent years, ties between the two have increased, and a positive bond and exchange is now shared–which, initially based on the commonalities between them, has now extended beyond the “beaten path”:

“In the past, trade relations between Central Asia and the Baltic countries focused mainly on logistics and transit services, given their common transportation infrastructure inherited from the Soviet period, most importantly, the rail network. However,Kazakhstan’s rapidly growing economy coupled with the effects of the financial crisis on the Baltic countries have pushed the latter to search for new business opportunities and to engage more actively with the Central Asian region.”

Jēkabsone also highlights a greater political exchange  citing the existence of embassies in each Central Asian nation by each of the Baltic States, and points out a greater trend in political visits between them. In addition, the Baltics, as fully supportive members of the European Union and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), are involved in the promotion of democratic rights and values, human rights an rule of law in Central Asia–however, Jēkabsone is sure to point out that,  due to their own lack of resources, the Baltics contribution to democractic developments is indirect, exercising itself under the umbrella of the EU and OSCE.In spite of this, the Baltics still have a potential vital role to play in the development of the Central Asian nations, as defined by Jēkabsone:

“Nonetheless, the Baltic countries’ first-hand experience of transition from the Soviet political and legal system, as well as their subsequent reforms in terms of good governance and the rule of law, represent a wealth of knowledge from which Central Asia could benefit. The Baltic countries could use this reform experience to help the Central Asian countries, as they are currently doing in Belarus, Ukraine and Moldova.”

Jēkabsone’s report comes in tandem with the College of Europe’s conference, held last week, entitled “The Neighbours of the EU’s Neighbours: Legal, Political, Security and Socio-Economic Challenges beyond the ENP”–which took a look at relations with the countries bordering the Eastern Partnership (i.e. Eastern Neighbourhood) nations. As the remit of the event elucidated:

” The two-day conference addressed the different types of challenges faced by the neighbours of the EU’s neighbours, through four panel sessions: political and legal challenges, security and military challenges, socio-economic challenges, and the connecting of neighbours of the neighbours in terms of infrastructures.”

Following the financial crisis, of which few if any nations were spared, the Baltics were motivated to cast their net further afield for economic exchange and strong relations, in order to uncover lucrative trade in its many forms–goods, services, tourism, and education. However, even in light of the rich potential for economic benefits, Jēkabsone encourages the Baltics not to solely focus on this aspect, but to seize the opportunity to share another great tool at its disposal:

“The Baltic states have valuable experience in moving from a rigid Soviet system of governance, rule of law and state-regulated economy to democracy and open market economies. Currently, this knowledge is overlooked due to the focus on trade relations. The Baltic states should make use of this well-grounded, realistic and less costly expertise to engage more fully in promoting democratic reforms and economic liberalisation in Central Asia. This, in turn, would also benefit the Baltic countries.”

Read The Full Report Here

Sources: EUCAM, College of Europe

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Graduated in International Relations and Russian. Resident of Estonia, but a citizen of the world. Most interested in contributing to the progress and education of mankind--as the primary tool of achieving global unity.

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