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In Focus: ECED Central Asia Digest: 18-24 December

Translated by Toni Michel (@villageescape) – check out his work at

Last week saw a number of notable events in Central Asia’s politics and economics. Uzbekistan’s President Shavkat Mirziyoyev marked a historic first when he delivered a speech to Parliament, laying out his program and stressing the need for far-reaching reforms in the country. He also announced changes to the country’s National Security Service. In neighboring Kazakhstan, Akhmetzhan Yessimov was named head of the National Welfare Fund “Samruk-Kazyna” while the Italian firm ENI received the rights to 50% of minerals from Isatai District at the Caspian Sea. Bishkek this week announced an upcoming visit of President Sooronbai Jeenbekov to Kazakhstan and began negotiations with the European Union on a new partnership agreement. Uzbekistan and Tajikistan furthermore signaled their readiness to synchronize their energy systems in 2018. Good news for Dushanbe came in the form of free military hardware from Russia for the purpose of border security.


ENI Granted Rights To Explore And Extract Hydrocarbons From Isatai

Kazakhstan’s Energy Ministry signed an agreement this week that is granting the Italian energy corporation Eni the rights to explore and extract 50% of minerals in Isatai District at the Caspian Sea. “This agreement will help widen Eni’s field of activities in Kazakhstan and strengthen the cooperation with its key partner “NK Kazmunaigaz”, a press release from the ministry read. Holding 16,81% of stocks, Eni is becoming a shareholder of the Kashaganski Project and a co-operator of the Karachaganak Field, where the company holds 29,25% of stocks. (Press Service of the Energy Ministry of Kazakhstan, 23 December)

Yessimov Named Head Of National Welfare Fund “Samruk-Kazyna”

Upon an order by Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, Prime Minister Bakhytzhan Sagintayev and Head of the Presidential Administration, Adilbek Zhaksybekov, appointed Akhmetzhan Yessimov to head the National Welfare Fund “Samruk-Kazyna”. Previously, Yessimov was responsible for the organization of EXPO 2017, ascending to the post in August 2015 and served as the Akim [local governor] of Almaty from 2008-15. The Welfare Fund’s previous chief administrator Umirzak Shukeyev had previously been named Deputy Prime Minister and Agriculture Minister. (, 23 December)

Nazarbayev Signs Constitutional Changes

Kazakhstan’s President last week put his signature to a number of changes and additions to the country’s Constitution that detail the provisions of the court system, the state symbols, the activities of the Constitutional Council and the International Financial Center “Astana”. The changes moreover concern the status of Nazarbayev as Kazakhstan’s first President and a number of other issues. (Press Service of the President of Kazakhstan, 22 December)

Kazakh Parliament Ratifies Customs Code

Kazakhstan’s Senate has approved a new customs code and a set of accompanying regulations. The basis for the Senate bill was the Eurasian Economic Union’s customs regulations that are now completely implemented, Kazakhstan’s Economy Minister Timur Suleimanov said. “The new law is also defining some norms that had been referred to the EEU’s national parliaments as well as legal questions that had not been addressed in the union code.” (Sputnik Kazakhstan, 22 December)


Mirziyoyev Announces National Security Service Reforms

Uzbekistan’s President Shavkat Mirziyoyev has come out in favor of a draft law that is to reform the security services in an address to Parliament on 22 December. He continued to say that reforms are necessary due to new security threats arising around migration processes and the spread of terrorism and extremism. Since 1995, Uzbekistan’s Security Service SNB is headed by Rustam Inoyatov who is the second most powerful man after the President himself, experts say. (, 22 December)

Uzbek President Addresses Parliament In Historic First

Shavkat Mirziyoyev has made history this past week with an unprecedented Presidential address to Parliament. He reflected on the past year and laid out the priorities for Uzbekistan’s development in 2018. The President called the investment climate “depressing” and said that up to 50% of funds in many investment projects were lost to corruption. “Some ask me if I didn’t know about all these things that are going on when I was Prime Minister. I knew all about it, but conditions were bad. Today, on the other hand, I am speaking about it openly even if some people don’t like it”, Mirziyoyev said. (Uzbekistan 24, 22 December)

Russian Language Institutes To Open In Every Uzbek Region

The Russian Center of Science and Culture is opening 12 regional offices – one in each region of Uzbekistan. “This will help to reach young people who are extremely interested in studying our language and literatures”, the Center’s director Viktor Shulik said. Currently, only one Russian language center is operating in the country, out of the State University of World Languages in Tashkent. 14 thousand Uzbek students are enrolled in Russian universities – the second largest number among CIS countries. Only Kazakhstan is sending more students to Russia, 46 thousand altogether. (Sputnik Uzbekistan, 22 December)

Trump Speaks To Mirziyoyev By Phone

US President Donald Trump has invited Uzbekistan’s President to visit the United States during a phone conversation that came about on Washington’s initiative. “The meetings of the two leaders in Riyadh last May and in New York in September brought a strong impetus to the mutual relationship. The US President expressed support for Uzbekistan’s path to democratic and economic reform. A particular focus of the conversation was regional security and the situation in Afghanistan”, a press release said. (Press Service of President of Uzbekistan, 19 December)


Beijing And Bishkek Discuss Integration And Security

This past week, the joint Sino-Kyrgz working groups on security and development around China’s “One Belt One Road (OBOR)” initiative met for the first time in Beijing. Bishkek sent representatives of the Foreign Ministry, the secretariat of the State Defense Council, the General Staff, the Interior Ministry and the Economic Crime Unit to discuss the details of regional security. The session produced a protocol on providing security around the OBOR initiative. (Press Service of the Foreign Ministry of Kyrgyzstan, 24 December)

Bishkek Announces Presidential Visit To Kazakhstan

Kyrgyzstan’s Presidential Administration put out a statement last week that President Sooronbai Jeenbekov will visit Astana on 25-26 December upon invitation of Kazakh President Nazarbayev. The head of the Presidential Administration’s department charged with foreign relations, Aizad Subakozhoyev, said that the two leaders will discuss cooperation within the EEU and outstanding issues in the mutual relationship. “Kyrgyzstan stands ready to deepen our cooperation with Kazakhstan to our mutual benefit on the basis of mutual respect and on an equal footing”, Subakozohyev explained. (Interfax, 22 December)

EU And Kyrzgyzstan Begin Negotiations On New Partnership Agreement

Negotiators of the European Union and Kyrgyzstan met in Brussels on 19 December to begin talks on a new Partnership Agreement to set the frame for mutual relations and to replace an older treaty from 1999. Deputy Foreign Minister Emil Kaikiyev led the Kyrgyz delegation. The EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, noted that the new agreement will encourage democratic development and transparent governance in Kyrgyzstan as well as provide economic incentives for Bishkek. (, 19 December)


Indian Firm To Build Afghan Section Of CASA-1000 Electricity Pipeline

KEC International Limited и Kalpa-Taru Power Transmission Limited, an Indian company, has signed an agreement with Afghanistan’s National Energy Corporation this past week to construct the Afghan part of the CASA-1000 electrical pipeline. Tajikistan was represented at the signing through Deputy Minister for Energy and Water Resources, Jamshed Shoimzoda. CASA-1000 provides for the construction of a power supply line from Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Tajikistan has to choose a contractor for its own part of the pipeline until the end of the year. (CA-News, 22 December)

Tajikistan And Uzbekistan Able To Synchronize Energy Systems in 2018

This past week, corporate management of “Uzbekenergo” said that the energy systems of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan can be synchronized in 2018 after ongoing infrastructure works are completed. Currently, a joint power line of 220 and 500 kV is currently being built. A week earlier, Tajikistan’s Minister for Energy and Water Resources, Usmonali Usmonzoda, said that Dushanbe has the technical means to export energy to neighboring Tajikistan during the summer months. In 2009, Uzbekistan had left Central Asia’s Single Energy System. (National News Agency of Uzbekistan, 21 December)

Russia Delivers Free Military Hardware To Tajikistan

Tajikistan has received armaments from Russia to strengthen its border with Afghanistan and to boost the Republic’s ability to fight the terrorist threat, Alexandr Kshimovski, the head of Tajikistan’s Agency for International Military Cooperation, said. The arms delivery consist of three T-72B1 tanks, nine BTR-80, BTR-70 and BMP-2, three D-30 howitzers and three air defense systems 23M1. Furthermore, Dushanbe received Mi-24 and Mi-8 helicopters, communication equipment, firearms as well as medical and topographical devices. (Tass, 19 December)


Turkmenistan Adopts International Accounting And Financial Reporting Standards

Last week, Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow signed a decree stipulating that all companies, institutions and organizations (except credit institutes), independent of their ownership structure, adopt international accounting and financial reporting standards by 01 January 2019. The Presidential order entrusts the Finance and Economy Ministry to set up a commission to coordinate the transfer and put relevant regulations in place. (Neutral Turkmenistan, 23 December)

UAE Delegation in Ashgabat For Negotiations

The Foreign Minister of the United Arab Emirates, Abdullah bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, visited Ashgabat this past week and was welcomed by President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow. The UAE’s ministers for energy and infrastructure development were also part of the visiting delegation. During the session of the joint commission on cooperation between Turkmenistan and the UAE, a particular focus lay on a potential partnership in natural gas processing and the supply of gas-chemical products to world markets. (Neutral Turkmenistan, 21 December)