KAZAKHSTAN: A PARTNER FOR DEMOCRACY?

Vahagn MURADYAN


Vahagn Muradyan, Political and Information Officer at the Council of Europe Office in Armenia (Erevan, Armenia)


Introduction

The decision reached in Madrid to hand over OSCE chairmanship in 2010 to Kazakhstan focused international attention on Kazakhstans human rights record and, by extension, on the whole of the Central Asian region. This decision stirred debates about the merits of awarding OSCE chairmanship to a country with a widely-recognized problematic human rights record. However interesting they may have been, the discussions concentrated only on short-term objectives that could be addressed during the chairmanship. In light of the fact that Kazakhstan has come under close international scrutiny due to the forthcoming chairmanship, one of the legitimate priorities of the international community might well have been to sustain this momentum beyond the OSCE chairmanship.

Among the European organizations, the OSCE, by virtue of its extensive membership, and the EU, due to its well-acknowledged stakes in Central Asia, are the most natural contributors to Kazakhstans democratic transition. However, the Council of Europe, the oldest pan-European organization active in human rights protection and standard setting, can too add value to the overall democratization of Central Asia and of Kazakhstan in particular. While the role of the Council of Europe and especially of the Venice Commission in terms of technical assistance and cooperation with Central Asia is duly acknowledged, its other tools, especially the mechanisms offered by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), have not received proper attention. The recent initiatives launched by the Assembly demonstrate that it too can contribute to the process by offering sustainable political scrutiny of the democratization efforts in Kazakhstan, thus deepening Kazakhstans sense of international accountability with respect to human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Below is a brief account of the relations between the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the Republic of Kazakhstan, which shows a considerably high level of mutual interest and potential for cooperation. It is argued that the Assembly, in tandem with other international actors, can become a valuable player, especially by providing general guidelines and overseeing the course of the reforms being carried out in Kazakhstan. Although, for understandable reasons, the PACE monitoring procedure, designed for the Council of Europe Participating states, cannot be applied to Kazakhstan, and therefore the Assemblys input will lack rigor and depth of involvement. Making use of the PACE tools of political oversight can, nevertheless, produce long-term results if linked and synchronized with the policies of other international actors.

Republic of Kazakhstan and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe

The Central Asian region is in the Council of Europes immediate neighborhood. The Organization, which numbers 47 Participating states and.


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