Subcommittee Discusses EU Cooperation Agreement with Turkmenistan

Chairwoman Hautala instructed the Subcommittee to hold an exchange of views on 26.10. on human rights in Turkmenistan in view of the nearing of the completion of the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with EU. [:]

The Agreement between EU and Turkmenistan in the process of ratification but the coming into force depends on the consent by the European Parliament. The relations between EU and Turkmenistan are governed by the Interim Trade Agreement, which the European Parliament approved of in April 2009 and which came into force on July 2009.

However, when the Parliament gave its consent on the Interim Trade Agreement, it set out clear human rights conditions for conclusion of any permanent agreement between EU and Turkmenistan. Conditions required were, among others, the release of all political prisoners, ensuring access for independent human rights organizations, improvements in civil liberties and holding of democratic elections.

Despite of no improvement in the human rights situation or satisfying any of the explicit conditions, the EU has decided to pursue the formalization of the relations and cooperation with Turkmenistan.

The hearing was held to look into the consequences of the failure to satisfy the human rights conditions and in particular to consider how this should be reflected in the EU efforts to achieve the completion of the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement.

Indeed the problems in the human rights field in Turkmenistan are many and severe. Lack of civil and political rights, arbitrary detentions and near absence of media freedom and freedom of speech have paralyzed any accountability for any violations of fundamental rights. Civil society faces severe restrictions and access to the country is strictly limited for the foreign human rights organizations. Human rights defenders and journalists are threatened due to their work and access to information is non-existent.

In opening the discussion, Chairwoman Hautala underlined that it is of crucial importance that the European Commission should send a clear signal to the Turkmen government that human rights are non-negotiable. Bearing in mind that the EU is Turkmenistan’s second largest trading partner, it is very much presumable that the Turkmen government is also keen to finalise the Agreement.
Indeed, as this Parliament plays a key role on the coming into force of this Agreement I believe we should consider exercising that power in a sensible way, so that we arrive at steps of the Turkmen government to improve human rights conditions, Chairwoman added.

She has raised the concerns with the EU Foreign Affairs High Representative, Ms Catherine Ashton, who wrote to Ms Hautala 6th of August to assure her that completion of the Cooperation Agreement will enshrine human rights as an essential element of EU’s bilateral relations with Turkmenistan.

Members of the Subcommittee were strongly of the view that although the EU has great interests in Turkmenistan, it should not set aside its core human rights values. It was also highlighted that the Subcommittee must be involved in any monitoring mechanism of the Cooperation Agreement.

Furthermore, Chairwoman raised particular concern over the situation of a prominent Turkmen human rights defender Farid Tukhbatullin, who is feared to be at risk of harm by the Ministry of National Security of Turkmenistan. Chairwoman has raised the issue with the Embassy of Turkmenistan calling for the authorities to guarantee the safety of Mr Tukhbatullin.