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Qishloq Ovozi

Sunday 1 December 2019

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A recently released report by RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service, known locally as Azattyk, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), and its Kyrgyz member center Kloop, details an elaborate scheme involving Kyrgyzstan’s Customs Service that saw hundreds of millions of dollars of alleged ill-gotten gains transferred outside the country.

The names that appear most in the report are Raimbek Matraimov, the former deputy chief of Kyrgyzstan’s Customs Service, and a shadowy Chinese-born Uyghur businessman named Khabibula Abdukadyr. Another name appearing is Chinese-born Uyghur Aierkan Saimaiti, the source of much of the information in the report. He was killed in Istanbul on November 10.

With officials in Kyrgyzstan already scrambling to deal with the fallout from the publication, RFE/RL's Media-Relations Manager Muhammad Tahir moderated a discussion on the tremors the report is unleashing on Kyrgyzstan’s political scene.

Participating from Bosnia was Ilya Lozovsky, managing editor at the OCCRP. Joining the talk from the Boston area was Bakyt Beshimov, professor at Northeastern University, a former Kyrgyz ambassador to the OSCE, and a former deputy in the country’s parliament. I’m always happy to talk about Kyrgyz politics, so I pitched in a couple of comments also.

Majlis Podcast: Kyrgyzstan’s Kings Of Corruption
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European flags flutter outside the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels.

The European Union released its new EU Central Asia Strategy earlier this year, covers cooperation between the EU and Central Asia across a wide number of areas: coping with climate change and development of renewable energy resources; security issues; border control and harmonizing customs and transit regulations to speed up trade between countries and between Europe and Asia; student and professor exchanges among academic institutions; improving the human rights situation in Central Asia; and other matters.

The EU so far is allotting only some 1.2 billion euros ($1.3 billion) for this strategy, which will run through the next decade. So funds that will be spent need to be specially targeted to get the maximum return.

The seemingly indefatigable EU special representative for Central Asia, Peter Burian, spearheaded efforts to prepare the strategy, but many other people played a role in helping devise the plan and ensuring it was flexible enough to adapt to changing conditions, seen and unforeseen, in the coming years.

One such group of people worked on the EU-sponsored Strengthening and Energizing EU-Central Asia Relations (SEnECA) program, which brought representatives from European and Central Asian countries together to discuss key areas of cooperation between the two regions.

SEnECA just had its final meeting in Brussels on November 14-15 after nearly two years of work.

RFE/RL's media-relations manager, Muhammad Tahir, moderated a discussion on the EU's Central Asia Strategy and SEnECA's role in it.

All our guests were speaking from Brussels just after the conference concluded. The co-head of SEnECA, Michael Kaeding, professor for European integration and European Union politics in the political science department of the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany, took part. Also joining was Mirzokhid Rakhimov from the Academy of Sciences of Uzbekistan. Sultan Akimbekov, the director of the Institute of Asian Studies in Kazakhstan, participated. And I played a very small part in SEnECA, so I made some comments also.

Majlis Podcast: The EU's Central Asia Strategy For Future Cooperation
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About This Blog

Qishloq Ovozi is a blog by RFE/RL Central Asia specialist Bruce Pannier that aims to look at the events that are shaping Central Asia and its respective countries, connect some of the dots to shed light on why those processes are occurring, and identify the agents of change.

Bruce Pannier
Bruce Pannier

Content draws on the extensive knowledge and contacts of RFE/RL's Central Asian services but also allow scholars in the West, particularly younger scholars who will be tomorrow’s experts on the region, opportunities to share their views on the evolving situation at this Eurasian crossroad.

The name means "Village Voice" in Uzbek. But don't be fooled, Qishloq Ovozi is about all of Central Asia.

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Majlis Podcast: The Backlash Against Art -- And Feminism -- In Kyrgyzstan
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