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Interview: EU's Ashton Lays Out Fears For Georgia, 'Success Criteria' For Central Asia

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton addresses the European Parliament in Strasbourg in September.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton addresses the European Parliament in Strasbourg in September.
Next week, the European Union's high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, Catherine Ashton, will travel to Georgia before she embarks on her first major tour of Central Asia (from November 26-30). In Central Asia, she expects to meet with the political leaders of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. RFE/RL's Brussels correspondent Rikard Jozwiak spoke with Ashton about the goal of the EU's Central Asia strategy, her approach to human rights in the region, and her message for leaders in Tbilisi since the recent wave of arrests of Georgian political figures.

RFE/RL: Your first stop will be in Georgia where you will meet both President Mikheil Saakashvili and Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili. What will be your message to them, especially with the background of the recent arrests of political figures?

Ashton: We saw Georgia make a big political decision, a democratic transition, if you like, and I will say to Prime Minister Ivanishvili that we welcome the fact that as prime minister he wants to devote his energy to the economic challenges of his country, that he needs to think about some of the foreign policy challenges of the country, and he needs to make sure that in everything he does -- particularly in the world of justice -- that it is done in an open and transparent way. And I will say to President Saakashvili that he has his legacy already in Georgia in a sense, that it is important that he continue to work closely with the new government, important that he continue to push forward for Georgia on the things he believes in, especially, of course, the relationship with the European Union, which is, I think, of great significance for Georgia and of great importance to us.

RFE/RL: When you go to Central Asia, you will discuss the European Union's Central Asia strategy with the political leaders. For many critics, the strategy seems like a big shopping list. Would it not be better to inject benchmarks to measure success?

Ashton: It looks like a shopping list, but actually, what we try to do is to pick up the different threads of issues. You are right, what we in the end need to do is make sure that we have a kind of success criteria. How do we know that we have been successful? And again, part of the reason for me to meet the ministers is to be able to try and work through with them what ways and in which areas [we can] be most successful in our collaboration. We are doing quite a lot of work on border issues, for example. I want to do more work on education. We want to try and support civil society [and] the movement forward for these countries economically. And we need to make sure that we've got in place the measures, the relationships, and the resources to be able to do that.

RFE/RL: Will you raise human rights issues, and is there a way to nudge the countries of Central Asia to observe human rights more thoroughly?

Ashton: It's always part of my dialogue. And it's done in a way that it enables us to talk about what that means in practice. What does it mean for women? What does it mean for women not just in their political rights but their economic rights? I believe, by the way, that economies are much better off when women are engaged; they are usually much more successful. What does it mean for people who want to make their own point politically? What does it mean for freedom of religion? What does it mean for people who are disabled? What does it mean for people who we need to celebrate [as] different and...the same? And for my discussions, it will be a core part of the dialogue that we have when we think about how the EU works with these countries into the future.

RFE/RL: But do you have any red lines? Is there a way for you to say what the countries in Central Asia cannot do?

Ashton: When you are working with a country, you are on a spectrum between isolation and engagement -- and in many of the areas of the world that we work, we are moving along that spectrum. I personally believe that very rarely is isolation the answer. Engagement is usually a much better way forward, but it is engagement on the basis of principles. And it's engagement in order to try and make things move forward. It takes time and it is not easy. It is often about convincing people that there is a better way of doing something, and it is also [about] respecting that these are countries that make their own decisions -- it is not about us marching in to impose our views. But it is about the dialogue, the debate, and, if you like, the right kind of political work that enables us to try to move forward on the things that we hold dear.
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Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Tahmina from: Vilnius
November 22, 2012 19:10
This is bad journalism. Few questions asked and very broad, even unintelligable, answers. It should not have been published.
In Response

by: Ray F. from: Lawrence, KS
November 23, 2012 15:04
Agree wholeheartedly. Empty rhetoric. I can’t help but feel that those cash-strapped countries within the EU would recommend that the Euro-bureaucrats put a stop to these sort of expensive (and mostly ineffective) boondoggles. Then again, perhaps Ms. Ashton will be promoting investment opportunities in Greece, Spain and Portugal to the thugs in Central Asia.
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
November 23, 2012 15:27
Tahmina, if everything that one can call "bad journalism" was not published here, the web-site would be entirely empty :-)).
But, of course, you are right in that Ashton did not say anything at all - that's the job of a diplomat, after all.
But what is INDICATIVE of the WORRIES that exist in Western capitals on the new foreign-policy path that Georgia is about to embark upon is the very fact that SO MANY Western officials are taking time these days to either meets Iwanischwili or Saakaschwili, or to even travel to Tbilisi to meet them. First it was the Secretary General of NATO who was "very worried" about the mentioned arrests, then it was some "senior US official" whose name I fogot, who went to Tbilisi in order to, apparently, "send a message" to the new leadership of the country. And now they are sending Ashton to the Caucasus to, apparently, once again try to do something in order to somehow save the rests of the EU influence in Georgia.
The level of nervousness concerning the new leadership of Georgia is very clearly VERY HIGH, otherwise they would be no need to have so many senior NATO/US/EU officials travel to the country.
In Response

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
November 25, 2012 23:21
Not quite, Tahmina, thought from Vilnius, or from there.
Beside the Diplomatic position, as Eugenio cleaverly
Replayed some my old comment about Vashadze,
She said a lot. Her position is mixture of travestly,
Used in the World Russia-label, with US policy.

1. Article used as label - presuming even more.
Ashton might use stereotypes, Russian forged.
Relating events in Georgia to Central Asia door,
"Human right... ...vawe of arrests", Article hored,
Implying Russian trick - "Georgians are Asians".

Making "vawe" out of few and implying that Asia's
Human righs would pick-up the "vawe" of abuses.
I do not think Ashton, according US policy mean it.
Simply USA want know whether Global "gambits",
As Russians would put it, still prudent, or a deceit.

It is important to accomplish to exit Afghans intact,
And number of other places as well, self-sufficient
And saved from virtual, or actual, invade-genocide.
Georgia, East-Europe, Central Asia helped the UN,
As well as few projects, development of Asian side.

It might be old CIS nations good will toward Georgia
That has nothing do with the Russia "devide-smear",
Magnified by typical RFE's Russia-Gelena "Borgios".
Ashton express USA concearn with new Free World,
Emerged from end of Cold War, "sunking" by Russia.

2. (will continue)



by: Maya from: EU
November 23, 2012 06:49
Where is Turkmenistan? No visa? Wouldn't be surprised if so...

by: Ben
November 23, 2012 17:55
This proletarian origin resolute (without chin though) baroness is permanently worry about the suffering Palestine,no more.

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
November 24, 2012 17:07
Aha, and coming back to the very same topic of which way Georgia is likely to move now that it's changing its leadership, the RFE/RL article entitled "Georgia Premier Rules Out Russia Visit" provides some more interesting detail.
Specifically, the article says: "Bidzina Ivanishvili... says it’s possible he could meet Russian officials in a third country". When was the last time a Georgian leader met "Russian officials" in person? Exactly: before the armed conflict of August 2008. So, the fact that the new Georgian PM is open to reistablishing these personal contacts is one more indicator of the fact that he is keen on turning this unfortunate page in the history of bilateral relations and on moving ahead to more constructive and mutually beneficial cooperation. (The same thing was done by Yanoukowitsch in respect to UA-RU relations after he took over power structures in Kiev 2,5 years ago).

by: Maja from: Humanity
November 24, 2012 20:04
also ashton and EU needs to stop ustshases i cetnicks that are united in their work and are against minority people of bosnia and region...Bosnia and Herzegovina declared its independence in 1992. On November 21, 1995, in Dayton, Ohio, the former Yugoslavia’s three parties signed a peace agreement called the “Dayton Agreement,” ending the three-year aggression fro serbia and tudjmans supported Croats HVO units and in karadjordjevo everything was planed by tudjman- milosevic alliance to divide Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
and sadlly in dayton this agreement mapped out and roughly lineated the Inter-Entity Boundary Line (IEBL) which separates the Republic into two parts: the Republika Srpska and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina...now its time to desolve republika srpska and FBandH and and build a republic of Bosnia and Hercegovina with one government,one law ,one army one police and army and without nazi like parties like HDZ-1990 and dodik's and srpska's SNSD wich support war , and nazism and fascism,,,but the people of bosnia cannot do this them selves because of dayton's complex laws, and international community must help them to achieve this by suspension of these nationalistic parties like SNSD and HDZ 1990 parties that are blocking progress s since 1992 and 1995 til now and buid a new dayton which will make Bosnia a normal and democratic state.
In Response

by: Camel Anaturk from: Kurdistan
November 24, 2012 20:53
Yes,Maja,you are 100% right we must stop all fascists and make all those laws simpler,so that the good people in B&H like you can understand and first we must send some doctors there to examine the heads of bright minded geniuses like you and last but not least-dont smoke much of the goods you make your living with!!!
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
November 25, 2012 08:54
Ah, Maja from Humanity, please wake up and finally try to realize that the "international community" (i.e. the EU, NATO, US) is currently going bankrupt and militarily defeated in Afghanistan. Thus, they have absolutely no resources (neither are they interested in) to force the Serbs and Croats of BiH into any more consessions at all - especially now that in Serbia itself more anti-Western and pro-Russian political figures and parties came to power earlier this year.
Additionally, now that such Balkan states as Greece are simply going bankrupt, it is becoming more and more obvious to everyone that such "state-building" experiments as BiH - that has only 4,5 mln of population and practically no economic basis of its own are economically UNSUSTAINABLE in the medium to long run. Maja, who is going to pay for you, guys, to have the luxury of having a state of your own, now that even the Greeks (10 mln people) can not really afford having one? What a strage and expensive fantasy, really!
In other words, what will MOST PROBABLY happen is that BiH itself will be disolved, the majority Serbian and Croatian parts will join Serbia and Croatia correspondingly, whereas the Bosniaks will have to learn (again) to live as a minority in either of the two mentioned nation-states.
In Response

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
December 06, 2012 11:48
Why you always say "USA defeit" in countries it ever was?
Is USA defeited in Japan, or Germany, or South Korea?
Why?
Because they tryed leave normal or even prospering
countries behind and leave?

Is it because Russia is "always victorious", destroying nations
and repopulating stolen lands and property by ethnic Russians?

Or is it also because you provoking USA be "victorious like Russia"?
It works, Eugenio, USA often stupidly buying Russian provocations - turning bombastik and urinating on dead locals
(not without nazi-US-Russia- inserted soldiers) and sunking
in bogs of Napoleon-like marches, only not in snow of Russia,
but in lead by insurgency and imperio-resurrecting special forces of Russia and Britain cut-heads-scared Muslim World.

USA is almostr defeited - from incide!
The more they fall for USA-Russia-Aparatchics and CIA spies greedy oferring of human "merchendize" to plagiarize, like they did to me, there more they murdering our parents to blackmail us, the more USA government replaced by Impeial proxies, including from Russia - the more USA is left alone - 250 millions missguided and 50 Millions greedy bloodsuckers, sucking blood of Jesus, and going to oblivian...

by: Erkin from: Almaty
November 25, 2012 12:14
Excellent. Baroness Ashton will find great dialogue partners in Kazakhstan. Keep adding to 20 years of hot air dialogue. Sometimes not doing anything might be more helpful. She should be shame ofherself of coming to give a speech. Why everything Europeans do has nothing to do with reality ?

by: manana from: ny
November 27, 2012 05:43
I wish Ashton and also EU know about all that horrible 8 years what Georgians had with president Saakashvili who was killing, punishing, and terrorizing Georgian people! and now when all Georgians waiting for justice European newspaper ; Figaro; against to Georgians publishing non correct news, and also their lies make me and thousand of fresh mind Georgians angry! EU must stop this terror yes terror against to Georgia! fill with indignation i am routing this messing to all the people to world - Saakashvili and his Nazi gang hes to be punished with low what they deserve and no one can stop this!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
November 27, 2012 18:52
You are making some very good points, Manana, but please do tell us what exactly was it that LE FIGARO published on Georgia and that affected you so much?

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