Breaking the deadlock in EU-Turkmenistan relations

Turkmenistan is the only successor state of the Soviet Union not to have finalised a Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) with the European Union (EU). From 2015 onwards, Professor Luca Anceschi’s research played a pivotal role in breaking this deadlock. 

The research

Since 1998, the European Parliament has repeatedly declined to ratify a PCA due to concerns about the human rights record of the Turkmen regime. 

Professor Anceschi’s research exposed inconsistencies in the European Parliament’s refusal to ratify the draft PCA with Turkmenistansince the governance standards reportedly obstructing the PCA with Turkmenistan had not been deemed essential in the re-negotiation of a PCA with Kazakhstan. 

Findings from the research also suggested that an ongoing economic crisis in Turkmenistan provided an incentive to the leadership to consent to a conditionality regime, thus granting the EU leverage to bring about real human rights change within Turkmenistan. 

The Impact

In late 2015, Professor Anceschi was invited to advise the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs in drafting a policy roadmap to promote the ratification of the PCA among MEPs of different political persuasions.  

Through a range of targeted engagement activities, Anceschi helped to build consensus for a positive vote on the PCA within the European Parliament on 13 March 2019—in which MEPs voted to extend the extension to the Draft Interim Report regulating EU-Turkmenistan relations. 

Following this positive vote, Anceschi’s research shaped the next step towards PCA ratification, which involves the implementation of a medium-term human rights monitoring mechanism in Turkmenistanoverseen by a fully-fledged EU delegation in Ashgabat. 

A European Parliament Policy Adviser noted that: ‘The development of a PCA between the European Union and Turkmenistan is a necessarily slow process and will require continued engagement and negotiations […] Anceschi’s policy advice will help guide the ratification of the Partnership & Cooperation Agreement with Turkmenistan for the foreseeable future’.