Central Asia delegation visits Brussels
in a two-day programme of meetings with senior European officials

Received via e-mail, 11 April 2001

INTERNATIONAL EURASIAN DEMOCRACY FOUNDATION
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Contact: Marina Valverde
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05 April 2001

CENTRAL ASIA DELEGATION VISITS BRUSSELS

A delegation of independent political opposition figures from the Central Asian Republics of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan visited Brussels last week in a two-day programme of meetings with Members of the European Parliament, officials of the European Commission, the director Human Rights Watch and The Wall Street Journal.

On 28 March, the delegation met with MEPs Struan Stevenson (UK, EPP), Ioannis Koukiadis (GK, EPP) and Albert Maat (NL, ELDR), Co-chair and member of the EP Co-operation Committee to Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Mongolia, and Baroness Emma Nicholson (UK, ELDR) Co-Chair of the EP Committee on Foreign Affairs.

At these meetings, the members of the delegation described to MEPs the sustained and increasing abuses of democracy and human rights to which they and their colleagues are subjected in the different countries of the region, particularly in Kazakhstan. MEPs requested detailed information on these abuses within their respective countries. The issue of the potential misuse of EU democracy funds and other aid was of great concern to MEPs. The co-chair of the EP Co-operation Committee said that he would like specific information on how exactly EU aid is used, as well as information on how effective the monitoring of aid programmes is.

In the afternoon, the delegation met with Cornelius Wittebrood and Daniel Guyader, from the unit for Central Asia, May-Anne Ramsey from the Human Rights and Democratisation Unit and Mikal Edwards from the European Commission Humanitarian Office (ECHO). They expressed their ongoing interest in being kept informed by independent opposition figures and reiterated their support for political reforms in the region.

On 29 March, the delegation met Liselotte Leich, Human Rights Watch Director, who agreed on the need to bring Central Asia more onto the EU agenda. She also asked to be kept informed of any threats to individual members of the delegation, once back in their countries. Ms Leich suggested that the delegation should call on MEPs to establish concrete benchmarks of what needs to be improved in these countries and set deadlines for achieving these objectives. She also suggested they contact the Embassy of the EU presidency of the period and begin the process of establishing the links with EU member states in this way.

The delegation met Wall Street Journal Europe Emerging Europe Editor, Paul Hofheinz, a former correspondent for the Journal in Moscow. The discussion, conducted in Russian, was broad ranging and Mr. Hofheinz was most interested in hearing about the delegationís views on how the governments of the former Soviet central Asian republics use democracy and other funds to further the interests of the regimes. He asked that the delegation to provide him with further information on this as Journal would be interested in running a story on this issue. He also suggested that the delegation visit Europe more often and meet the European press corps more regularly. Mr. Hofheinz asked if he could attend the groupís next Assembly meeting.

Received via e-mail, 11 April 2001