Thursday, November 19, 2009

Human Rights and the EU deal with Turkmenistan

The evidence would seem to suggest that in Turkmenistan, President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, who came to power on 14 February 2007, after the death of former President Saparmurad Niyazov, has failed to keep his promises; Turkenistan remains a one party state where human rights abuses are widespread.

It is, therefore, not surprising that the European Union has been severely criticised for doing business with the regime in Ashgabat in order to secure its future gas supplies. Nevertheless, with EU gas supplies dependent on an invariably fickle Russia and that Russia also enjoying good relations with a Ukraine, which is just as unreliable, from a purely pragmatic point of view the deal with Turkmenistan makes good sense and, it might be added, while  Berdymukhamedov's regime is as draconian and repressive as that of his predecessor, we would have to ask ourselves twice before we did any business with almost anyone.

Yes, the altruistic gesture of putting pressure on Berdymukamedov, would do much for Europe's image, but, with China having signed a 30 year deal with Ashgabat to secure 40 billion cubic meters of gas annually from the central Asian country, and with the 7,000-kilometer pipeline between the two countries that will carry it nearing its completion, such a gesture would neither pressure Turkmenistan, nor would it be anything other than detrimental to Europe's needs. Indeed, for this to be otherwise, it would require China to also criticise the human rights abuses in Turkmenistan before moving onto business as usual. Of course, that happening is every bit as unlikely as America criticising Saudi or any other of the disgusting little regimes that it has in place throughout the globe to protect its geopolitical interests and secure its energy supply.

As sad as it may sound, and it is very sad indeed, the European deal with Turkmenistan is only an indication of the EU's participation in that murky, distasteful world that is governed by "Realpolitik" and it is only by establishing a foothold in that world that the EU can later begin to address those human rights issues that an indifferent, hypocritical, "Uncle Sam" has failed to address for some time. Indeed, the Europeans should not be too ashamed of having to do business with the regime in Ashgabat. Indeed, when it comes to securing energy needs, it would appear that it constitutes not only a necessary "evil" but also a lesser "evil" than the machiavellian geopolitical strategies which are employed by both the United States and a rising China.

No comments: