Germany amplifies economic cooperation with Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan
Michael Gloss, German Minister of Economy and Technologies, is completing his four-day tour of Central Asia (Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan). Addressing journalists, Gloss said that Germany intended to amplify economic cooperation with Central Asian countries.
The German minister met with President of Turkmenistan Gurbankuly Berdymuhammedov. Energy cooperation was discussed, with a special emphasis on Turkmenistan's participation in Nabucco.
Determined to weaken its dependance on import of energy from Russia, Germany is prepared to invest considerable sums in Turkmen infrastructure and its development. "Where Turkmenistan with its vast oil and gas resources is concerned, German business circles are particularly interested in cooperation in the sphere of fuel and energy. Moreover, our businesses could offer a broad spectrum of services in this particular sphere," Gloss said.
Berdymuhammedov in his turn offered the Germans participation in development of gas fields on the Caspian shelf on the basis of a production sharing agreement. The president suggested 32 quite promising fields. According to Berdymuhammedov, their development will enable Turkmenistan to produce more than 80 billion cubic meters of gas and almost 11 million tons of oil in 2008. "We believe in advancement of economic relations with foreign states," the Turkmen president said.
Promising investment projects in the oil and gas sphere were discussed at the Turkmen-German Energy Forum that took place in Ashkhabad the other day. Germany was represented by 70 businessmen, two deputies of the Bundestag, officials of the Ministry of Economy and Technologies, and diplomats from the Foreign Ministry (over 100 in all). Representatives of Gazprom-Germany, Winterschal, TiessenKrupp, Siemens, Deutschebank, and other businesses and institutions were present too.
As a matter of fact, cooperation between Germany and Turkmenistan began a decade ago, in 1997, when Saparmurat Niyazov was visiting Germany. German business circles suggested investments in gas projects in Turkmenistan, particularly in construction of export gas pipelines. Unfortunately, political situation in Afghanistan was fairly unpredictable then (and the Afghani route seemed particularly convenient in 1997, just as it seems today) and that eventually discouraged German businesses.
German-Turkmen economic cooperation was reactivated only after 2002. German companies helped the Turkmens with refurbishment and construction of a complex of refineries in Turkmenbashi, gas compressor stations, and telephone exchanges. Niyazov even offered the Germans close cooperation on particularly beneficial terms not long before his demise.
... Reception in Uzbekistan was no less cordial. It is common knowledge that Germany is Tashkent's number one lobbyist in the European Union. It has always stood for abolition of international sanctions against Uzbekistan. An Uzbek-German economic forum was organized in Tashkent. Those present discussed betterment of the investment climate so as to up the bilateral trade turnover from 300 million euros in 2006 to 500 million euros (the level reached in 1997).
Gloss' visits to Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan took place within the framework of the Central Asian Strategy adopted by the EU last June.
Germany's eagerness to intensify bilateral relations with Turkmenistan is first and foremost attributed to its interest in Turkmen oil and gas. "Turkmenistan has a lot of gas, and cooperation with this country therefore gains importance within the framework of the campaign to diversify energy routes and suppliers," to quote sources in the press service of the German Ministry of Economy and Technologies. According to the Germans, "the latest changes and developments" present new opportunities in the matter of cooperation with Turkmenistan in the energy sphere. "The latest changes and developments" is a reference to the changes that took place in Turkmenistan after Niyazov's death.
German division of Human Rights Watch (HRW) in the meantime disagrees with the premise that the changes in Turkmenistan are necessarily positive. HRW chair Marianna Heuwagen is convinced that human rights in Turkmenistan are encroached on, freedom of expression, meeting, and conscience restricted, and non-governmental organizations interfered with. The Red Cross is still waiting for the permit to visit Turkmen jails.
HRW mailed a letter to Gloss on the eve of his visit to Central Asian countries urging the minister to concentrate on the state of affairs with the Central Asian Resolution the EU adopted on February 20, 2008. This document lists the criteria and demands Ashkhabad should comply with before the EU-Turkmen trade agreement will be signed. Compliance with European values is, of course, the principal demand. The letter points out that "the government of Turkmenistan is one of the worst repressive and authoritarian governments in the world." Heuwagen said that no matter how often the government of Germany talks human rights, economic interests of the country inevitably push them into the background. "It's simple," she said. "Human rights cease being a priority whenever gas is at stake."