Documents considered by the Committee on 21 July 2015 - European Scrutiny Contents


24 EU Special Representative for Central Asia and wider issues

Committee's assessment Politically important
Committee's decisionNot cleared from scrutiny; further information requested
Document detailsCouncil Decision on the Appointment of European Union Special Representative (EUSR) for Central Asia
Legal baseArticles 31(2) and 33 TEU; QMV
DepartmentForeign and Commonwealth Office
Document numbers(36777), —

Summary and Committee's conclusions

24.1 The EU established an EUSR for Central Asia in September 2005 to ensure coordination and consistency of external EU actions in the region. The EUSR's mandate was amended in 2007 in response to a new EU strategy for Central Asia. When it was last considered by the then Committee in mid-2013, the then and current Minister for Europe (Mr David Lidington) underlined the strategic importance of the Central Asia region, the necessity of EU being perceived as an effective player in the region and the importance of this EUSR mandate in order to enable continued personal, high-level engagement with the leaders of the five Central Asia states as the transition process got underway in Afghanistan (see paragraphs 24.13-24.14 below for further detail).

24.2 In the words of the Minister for Europe's (Mr David Lidington) Explanatory Memorandum of 5 June 2015, the previous incumbent, Mrs Patricia Flor, "left post in early 2014 and was replaced in the interim by Janos Herman, a senior EEAS official, appointed by the former EU High Representative as EU Special Envoy to Central Asia in April 2014 with the task of ensuring continued EU high-level engagement in the region".

24.3 As noted elsewhere in this Report regarding the reinstatement of the EUSR to the Middle East peace process,[ 233] this carefully-worded formulation glosses over the much wider issue then in play: whether, post-Lisbon, the EUSR as a "concept" was to be continued or (as the then HR, Baroness Ashton, had proposed in the context of a revision of the EUSR guidelines) transferred, along with their associated resources, into the EEAS — the consequence being that Member States would no longer be able to approve the mandate of what are effectively the Council's special envoys to a variety of trouble spots affecting EU and national interests; or the job holder; or their budget (which included salaries of c.€175,000 per annum plus allowances).

24.4 Not only were the MEPP and Central Asia EUSR mandates set aside and effectively replaced by the HR's own Special Envoys but so, too, was that of the EUSR to the Southern Mediterranean; there was also, following the unexplained resignation in January 2014 of the highly-experienced incumbent, a five-month gap regarding the EUSR to the South Caucasus and the Georgia crisis, until Herbert Salber (Germany's Deputy Permanent Representative to NATO, with extensive knowledge of the former-Soviet region and the conflicts in the South Caucasus ) was appointed by the Council in June 2014. [ 234]

24.5 In April 2015, Baroness Ashton's successor as EU High Representative, Federica Mogherini, then nominated Peter Burian, State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic,[ 235] as the next EUSR for Central Asia until 30 April 2016. The proposed mandate is essentially as before; the proposed annual budget is €810,000 (see paragraphs 24.17-24.20 below for details).

24.6 The then (and current) Minister for Europe has already written to the previous Committee, on 7 April 2015, to say that it is "important that there should be no substantial gap in EU high level representation in the region", and express regret that it was "necessary for the UK to agree to the adoption of a Council Decision on the budget and mandate for this position during the period when Parliament is dissolved".

24.7 The Minister now says that the UK's main interests in Central Asia broadly fall under three strands: energy/commerce; regional stability/security; and governance/human rights — interests that are "substantial and growing, not least given Russia's illegal actions in Ukraine and the risk of further destabilisation in Russia's near abroad", in a region where the EU "needs to be perceived as an effective player in region, particularly as we engage the Central Asian states in light of Afghanistan transition and as the region watches events in Ukraine closely". As the UK's "national network resources are limited", continuation of the EUSR mandate "will help leverage the EU's vastly larger resources across the region to achieve largely similar goals". The previous EU Special Representatives all travelled extensively, contributed to EU discussions on policy towards the region, including on energy security and counter-narcotics and helped ensure the EU's position as a significant player in Central Asia. The appointment of an EU Special Envoy for much of 2014 "marked a distinct downturn in high level attention". Extension of the mandate of the EUSR is "important to enable continued personal, high-level engagement with the leaders of the five Central Asia states", particularly as there are not yet EU Delegations in all five countries and there are relatively few other senior EU visitors. The Minister therefore supports the appointment of "an experienced senior diplomat with relevant language skills and broad experience", whom he expects will "continue to provide a common focus for delivering EU messages not just on key human rights issues, but also on the benefits of regional co-operation and on potential EU assistance in helping the region to address some of its shared socio-economic difficulties".

24.8 The proposed EUSR mandate highlights, among other things implementation of the "EU Strategy for a New Partnership with Central Asia". As noted elsewhere in this Report, that Strategy, thus far, has been less than effectively executed.[ 236]

24.9 The previous Committee accordingly looked forward to receiving this Council Decision because of the need for such an intermediary if this important EU Strategy was ever going to get properly off the ground; and also because it meant that the EUSR process would be back where it belongs, under the control of the Member States.

24.10 On 22 June, the Foreign Affairs Council adopted substantial Conclusions that reaffirmed Central Asia as a region of strategic importance, confirmed that the main objectives and priority areas of the 2007 EU Strategy for Central Asia remain pertinent, and committed the EU to establishing a strong, durable and stable relationship with the five Central Asian countries and to a relationship "based on the principles of responsibility and ownership, which is aimed at fostering the stable, secure and sustainable development of the region".

24.11 In those Conclusions, the Council welcomed the appointment of Ambassador Peter Burian as the new EUSR for Central Asia, whose role will be:

"to act as an important channel of dialogue and communication at the highest level with the central Asian countries, to promote overall Union political coordination in Central Asia and enhance the Union's effectiveness and visibility in the region."[ 237]

24.12 So far, so good. However, we note that the budget has been reduced by 20%. We agree that it is "important we ensure EUSRs offer value for money". However, those words referred to the previous EUSR budget, which dealt with essentially the same mandate, and which supported an EUSR whose extensive travelling had (as the Minister now notes) engendered and promoted the high-level contacts, in five countries, that are central to the job, and which the Minister now notes have fallen off and need to be revived. Given the importance of the proposed new Strategy, the implementation track record thus far and the clear job to be done, it is not immediately apparent how such a budget reduction makes sense (whereas c. €2 million has been allocated to an EUSR to a Middle East Peace Process that exists in name only). We should be grateful if the Minister for Europe would explain the rationale, and why he believes the budget is sufficient to enable Mr Burian to reinvigorate the essential high-level contacts that have seemingly withered on the vine over the past year.

24.13 In the meantime, we shall retain the Council Decision under scrutiny.

Full details of the documents: Council Decision appointing the European Union Special Representative for Central Asia: (36777), —.

Background

24.14 The EU established an EUSR for Central Asia in September 2005 to ensure coordination and consistency of external EU actions in the region.

24.15 The EUSR's mandate focused on enhancing EU effectiveness and visibility in the region. It also aimed to contribute to the strengthening of democracy, rule of law, good governance and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in Central Asia. It was subsequently amended to allow the Special Representative to contribute to wider Common Foreign and Security Policy work on energy security, and to help develop bilateral energy cooperation with important producer and transit partners in Central Asia; then again, following the adoption of a new EU Strategy for Central Asia at the June 2007 European Council, which assigned to the EUSR an enhanced role in monitoring the implementation of the Strategy and added a specific tasking for the EUSR to contribute to the formulation of counter-narcotics aspects of the CFSP; then in December 2008, which added water management aspects to his responsibilities; and in 2012, the inclusion of border security, environment and climate change, and — as ISAF troops began to draw down — regional security within Central Asian borders.

24.16 Our predecessors' most recent Report on this EUSR role, in June 2013, dealt with a straightforward 12 month extension of the mandate then relating to Mrs Patricia Flor (previously a senior FRG diplomat, who had been appointed a year previously). The then (and current) Minister for Europe (Mr David Lidington) reported that she had travelled extensively in the region since taking over and performed well, been receptive to UK views, launched a potentially valuable High Level Security Dialogue during the Central Asia Ministerial meeting in Kyrgyzstan, attended by the EU High Representative/Vice President, and been effective in raising the EU's level of influence in Central Asia. Underlining again the strategic importance of the Central Asia region, the then Minister argued that the EU needed to be perceived as an effective player in the region; extension of the mandate was particularly important to enable continued personal, high-level engagement with the leaders of the five Central Asia states as the transition process got underway in Afghanistan, especially as there are not yet EU Delegations in all five countries and there were relatively few other senior EU visitors to the region. The overall budget had nonetheless been reduced by 6.25% to €1,050,000, which the then Minister welcomed because it was "important we ensure EUSRs offer value for money".[ 238]

24.17 On 16 March, HR Federica Mogherini announced that she had proposed the appointment of new Special Representatives to support the work of the European Union on two important foreign policy files — the Middle East Peace Process and for Central Asia — and that the candidates had been endorsed by EU Member States in the Political and Security Committee,[ 239] pending a final decision by the Council. In the case of the EUSR Central Asia, Mr Peter Burian's appointment would be for an initial period of one year, with the task of ensuring continued EU high-level engagement in the region.[ 240] HRVP Federica Mogherini said:

"The appointment of Peter Burian will show the EU's continued cooperation with Central Asia, ensuring strong presence in our engagement on key issues of mutual interest including the rule of law, security, energy, water, education and human rights. Central Asia is a strategic area. The EU also intends to continue to support the transition of neighbouring countries such as Afghanistan, where much remains to be done in securing the democratic path."[ 241]

The draft Council Decision

24.18 The EUSR's mandate shall be based on the Union's policy objectives in Central Asia, which include:

(a)  promoting good and close relations between the Union and the countries of Central Asia on the basis of common values and interests as set out in relevant agreements;

(b)  contributing to strengthening the stability and cooperation between the countries in the region;

(c)  contributing to strengthening democracy, the rule of law, good governance and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in Central Asia;

(d)  addressing key threats, especially specific problems with direct implications for Europe; and

(e)  enhancing the Union's effectiveness and visibility in the region, including through a closer coordination with other relevant partners and international organisations, such as the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the United Nations.

24.19 In order to achieve the policy objectives, the mandate of the EUSR shall be to:

(a)  promote overall Union political coordination in Central Asia and help to ensure consistency of the external actions of the Union in the region;

(b)  monitor, on behalf of the HR, together with the European External Action Service (EEAS) and the Commission, the implementation process of the EU Strategy for a New Partnership with Central Asia, complemented by relevant Council Conclusions and subsequent progress reports on the implementation of the EU Strategy for Central Asia, make recommendations and report to relevant Council bodies on a regular basis;

(c)  assist the Council in further developing a comprehensive policy towards Central Asia;

(d)  follow closely political developments in Central Asia by developing and maintaining close contacts with governments, parliaments, the judiciary, civil society and mass media;

(e)  encourage Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan to cooperate on regional issues of common interest;

(f)  develop appropriate contacts and cooperation with the main interested actors in the region, and all relevant regional and international organisations;

(g)  contribute to the implementation of the Union's human rights policy in the region in cooperation with the EUSR for Human Rights, including the Union Guidelines on human rights, in particular the EU Guidelines on Children and Armed Conflict as well as on violence against women and girls and combating all forms of discrimination against them, and Union policy regarding UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000) on Women, Peace and Security, including by monitoring and reporting on developments as well as formulating recommendations in this regard;

(h)  contribute, in close cooperation with the UN and the OSCE, to conflict prevention and resolution by developing contacts with the authorities and other local actors such as non-governmental organisations, political parties, minorities, religious groups and their leaders;

(i)  provide input to the formulation of energy security, border security, countering serious crime including narcotics and trafficking in human beings, as well as water resource management, environment and climate change aspects of the Common Foreign and Security Policy with respect to Central Asia; and

(j)  promote regional security within Central Asian borders in the context of the reduction of the international presence in Afghanistan.

24.20 The Political and Security Committee (PSC) will be the EUSR's primary point of contact with the Council, and will provide the EUSR with strategic guidance and political direction "without prejudice to the powers of the HR". The EUSR shall regularly provide the PSC and the HR with oral and written reports, and provide regular briefings to Member States' missions and the Union's delegations. The EUSR's activities shall be coordinated with the relevant EEAS and Commission departments and the EUSR for Afghanistan, and liaise with other international and regional actors in the field.

24.21 The overall budget has been set at €810,000 — described as a reduction of more than 20% compared with the budget of the previous EUSR, with personnel and running expenditures decreased and travel and representation costs pared down; with the UK said to have been "active in discussions with EU officials on budget aspects, helping to keep a firm focus on value for money from EUSR budgets."

The Minister's Explanatory Memorandum of 5 June 2015

24.22 Following the general election, the Minister has now provided the following comments on Mr Burian's appointment:

"Central Asia is a region of strategic importance to the UK and the EU. The UK's main interests in Central Asia broadly fall under three strands: energy/commerce; regional stability/security; and governance/human rights. The first two relate directly to HMG's foreign policy priorities on prosperity and national security, and the third to HMG's commitment to a foreign policy that has the practical promotion of human rights at its core. These interests are substantial and growing, not least given Russia's illegal actions in Ukraine and the risk of further destabilisation in Russia's near abroad. As UK national network resources are limited, the continuation of the EUSR mandate will help leverage the EU's vastly larger resources across the region to achieve largely similar goals.

"The Government welcomed the creation of a EUSR for Central Asia and the appointment of Jan Kubis in July 2005 (JA 2005/588 of 28 July 2005) followed by Pierre Morel from 2006-2012 (2006/670/CFSP of 5 October 2006) and Patricia Flor from 2012-2014 (2012/328/CFSP of 20 June 2012). The various EU Special Representatives all travelled extensively, contributed to EU discussions on policy towards the region, including on energy security and counter-narcotics and helped ensure the EU's position as a significant player in Central Asia. The appointment of an EU Special Envoy, Janos Herman, for much of 2014, marked a distinct downturn in high level attention.

"The EU needs to be perceived as an effective player in region, particularly as we engage the Central Asian states in light of Afghanistan transition and as the region watches events in Ukraine closely. The extension of the mandate of the EUSR is important to enable continued personal, high-level engagement with the leaders of the five Central Asia states. It is particularly important as there are not yet EU Delegations in all five countries, and there are relatively few other senior EU visitors to the region. The Government therefore supports the extension of the mandate of the EUSR for Central Asia.

"On the candidate, the UK did not run a candidate for this position. We understand that there were a number of high level candidates from several Member States and we have no objection to Peter Burian's appointment. He is currently State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic, and is a former ambassador of the Slovak Republic to NATO, to the United States and to the United Nations.

"Following the departure of the previous EUSR Patricia Flor in early 2014, and the subsequent interim appointment by the High Representative of an EU Special Envoy for a period of some months, we are keen to see an able and effective successor appointed. To this end, it is good to see the appointment of an experienced senior diplomat with relevant language skills and broad experience.

"We expect that the EU Special Representative will continue to provide a common focus for delivering EU messages not just on key human rights issues, but also on the benefits of regional co-operation and on potential EU assistance in helping the region to address some of its shared socio-economic difficulties."

Previous Committee Reports

None, but see (35045), —: Sixth Report HC 83-vi (2013-14), chapter 20 (19 June 2013). Also see (36624), 5241/15: Thirty-fourth Report HC 219-xxxiii (2014-15), chapter 6 (25 February 2015) and Thirty-ninth Report HC 219-xxxvii (2014-15), chapter 12 (24 March 2015).


233   (36769), -: Council Decision appointing the European Union Special Representative for the Middle East Peace Process at chapter 23 of this Report. Back

234   These wider issues are discussed in the same separate chapter of this Report: see (36769), -: Council Decision appointing the European Union Special Representative for the Middle East Peace Process at chapter 23. That chapter of this Report should accordingly be read in conjunction with this chapter. Back

235   Also a former ambassador of the Slovak Republic to NATO, to the United States and to the United Nations. Back

236   See (36624), 5241/15, Implementation of the EU Central Asia Strategy, at chapter 53 of this Report. Back

237   See Foreign Affairs Council Conclusions on Central Asia for the full text. Back

238   See (35045), -: Sixth Report HC 83-vi (2013-14), chapter 20 (19 June 2013). Back

239   Political and Security Committee: the committee of ambassador-level officials from national delegations who, by virtue of article 38 TEU, under the authority of the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (HR) and the Council, monitor the international situation in areas covered by the CFSP and exercise political control and strategic direction of crisis management operations, as set out in article 43 TEU. The chair is nominated by the HR. Back

240   Mr Burian was at that point State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic, and a former ambassador of the Slovak Republic to NATO, to the United States and to the United Nations. Back

241   Press Release. Back


 
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Prepared 30 July 2015