Policy Paper No 7 – Cultural and other relations – Mapping EU-Central Asia relations

Policy Paper No.7 examines the ties between the EU and the five Central Asian countries (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan) in the field of higher education, culture and identity, and civil society. The paper shows that while the European Studies including the European languages have been long established at higher academic institutions in Central Asia, Central Asian Studies are still a rarity at European universities. A positive development is that the exchange of students and researchers between the two regions is intensifying through frameworks such as the EU’s “Central Asia Education Platform” (CAEP), the Erasmus+ programme and the network CAREN.

Furthermore, the paper describes the ethnic, linguistic and religious set-up of the five Central Asian countries paying attention to the history of the people living in those societies. The paper reveals that diversity and multiculturalism are significant characteristics of all Central Asian societies. Moreover, the cultural identity of the peoples living in Central Asia is strongly influenced by the respective environment and natural landscape. While the Tajik and Uzbek peoples, for example, have been strongly influenced by a mountainous way of life and animal herding, the Kyrgyz people have a strong nomadic tradition.

Last but not least, the paper displays how the stark differences in the social and political realities in the five Central Asian societies are strongly reflected in the amount of officially active civil society actors. In Kazakhstan, for example, 19.680 NGOs are registered today, whereas in Turkmenistan, only 13 NGOs can operate more or less freely. As the interest of Europeans towards Central Asia is gradually increasing, the cooperation between European and Central Asian civil society actors is slowly intensifying and more tourists from Europe are interested in visiting Central Asia as a holiday destination.

Full paper is available here.