http://gdb.rferl.org/105D9578-6237-4605-9F0B-FCB7A7A23445_w203.jpg --> http://gdb.rferl.org/105D9578-6237-4605-9F0B-FCB7A7A23445_mw800_mh600.jpg
EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner (file photo) (epa)
BRUSSELS, March 16, 2006 (RFE/RL) - - The European Union today indicated it will not let the recent murders of two Kazakh opposition figures affect its relations with the country's government.
Speaking during a European Parliament debate on Kazakhstan, the EU's External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner rejected calls for tough EU measures.
She also said Kazakhstan's application to assume, in 2009, the rotating chairmanship of the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe should not be "prejudged."
Ferrero-Waldner did, however, say that the EU views the murders of the two opposition figures with the "utmost concern" and she criticized President Nursultan Nazarbaev's attempts to promote "managed democracy."
She said that, for its own stability, Kazakhstan needs greater political freedom, but argued that the EU should seek to make that point by enhancing dialogue.
During the debate, the European Parliament's largest group, the European People's Party, rejected a draft resolution sharply critical of Kazakhstan. Its members argued that the country's energy reserves and strategic geographical position make it an important partner for the EU.