Turkmenistan is one of the Turkic states in Central Asia. It covers an area of almost 500.000 km2 and is bordered by Afghanistan to the southeast, Iran to the south and southwest, Uzbekistan to the east and northeast, Kazakhstan to the northwest, and the Caspian Sea to the west. The Karakum Desert stretches across most of the country.
Turkmenistan proclaimed independence from the collapsing Soviet Union on 27 October, 1991. The country has a population of 5,1 million and the Turkmen represent the prevailing ethnic group. In 1991, a presidential republic was established, with the President serving as both head of state and head of government. Turkmenistan was ruled by President for Life Saparmurat Niyazov (called “Türkmenbaşy”, “Leader of the Turkmens”) until his sudden death on 21 December 2006. Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow was elected the new president on 11 February 2007. In September 2008, the People’s Council unanimously passed a resolution adopting a new Constitution. This resulted in a significant increase in the size of Parliament and now permits the formation of multiple political parties.
Turkmenistan and the EU
Bilateral relations between Turkmenistan and the EU are governed by an Interim Trade Agreement (1998), pending ratification of a Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) by the EU member countries and the European Parliament. Recent years have seen a significant strengthening of EU–Turkmenistan relations. The European Commission, via the overall policy dialogue and Development Cooperation Instrument, has reinforced its bilateral cooperation with Turkmenistan and is supporting the economic, social and institutional sector reforms announced by the Turkmen leadership.
A Memorandum of Understanding on Energy, signed in May 2008, promotes in particular energy relations with a focus on security of energy supplies, enhancing industrial development and developing renewable energy sources.
The EU – Turkmenistan bilateral relations were given a regional perspective in the 2007 “European Union and Central Asia: Strategy for a New Partnership” (PDF version), which outlines the overall EU co-operation objectives, policy responses and priority fields for engagement in Central Asia. In June 2010, the European Council and the European Commission published their Joint Progress Report on the implementation of the EU Central Asia Strategy. The Strategy has helped intensify cooperation and political dialogue between the EU and Turkmenistan.
The EU supports Turkmenistan through national-level programmes worth € 22 million for the 2007-2010 period and € 31 million for 2011-2013. In addition, the EU regional Central Asia programmes aim to promote regional cooperation and good neighbourly relations in Central Asia.
Turkmenistan and the Rule of Law Initiative
At the Third EU-Central Asia Ministerial Conference on Rule of Law in December 2012, Turkmenistan confirmed its commitment to cooperate in the framework of the Rule of law Initiative. It was the first time Turkmenistan was represented at such a high level in an EU-Central Asia Ministerial Conference on Rule of Law. On this occasion, the Deputy Minister of Justice declared that judicial independence and competences of judges are important priorities for Turkmenistan, as a guarantee of the legitimacy and fairness of judicial decisions. Turkmenistan fully supports the improvement of its legal system and has confirmed its interest in learning from the experience of other countries in this respect.
Turkmenistan has not appointed yet a Rule of Law Initiative National Coordinator.
The Mission of Turkmenistan to the European Union in Brussels provides support to the political dialogue between Turkmenistan and the EU.
Rule of Law in Turkmenistan
The Turkmen side has expressed an interest in benefiting from European expertise on issues such as commercial law (broadly interpreted, this could include energy law, communication law, protection of the rights of investors in the context of privatization of state enterprises, etc.) The Platform will be looking to address the specific requests formulated by the Turkmen partners.
In Turkmenistan, there is currently no administrative law reform underway.
The new Criminal Procedural Code enacted in 2010 is already in the process of being amended and the specialized part of the Criminal Code is still being drafted.
At the regional seminar on capacity building and at the Third Ministerial Conference in Brussels, the Turkmen delegations expressed interest in issues related to capacity building.
Rule of Law Platform work plan in Turkmenistan
In order to complement the other initiatives of the EU in Turkmenistan, the Platform will focus its national activities on Commercial Law, Criminal Procedure and judicial capacity. These priorities are reflected in the Rule of Law Platform’s work plan for Turkmenistan, including training sessions on these topics.
As Turkmenistan is investigating best international practices for training judges, with a view to possibly creating a training unit for judges, a round-table presenting several European models in this field will be proposed.
Rule of Law Platform Stakeholders in Turkmenistan
Key partners include
1. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan
2. The Ministry of Justice of Turkmenistan
3. The Institute of Democracy and Human Rights under the President of Turkmenistan
4. Mejlis of Turkmenistan
5. The Academy of Civil Servants under the President of Turkmenistan
6. The General Prosecutor’s Office
7. The Supreme Court of Turkmenistan
8. The Institute of Law and Management
9. The Professors and Students of the Law Faculty of the Turkmen State University
10. The Professors and Students of the International Relations Faculty of the Turkmen State University
11. The Professors and Students of the Institute of International Relations under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan
12. The Bar Association of Turkmenistan
13. Judges from the Velayats
Partners for the workshops related to the commercial/economic matters include:
14. The Ministry of Economy and Development of Turkmenistan
15. The Ministry of Finance of Turkmenistan
16. The Ministry of Trade and Foreign Economic Relations of Turkmenistan
17. The Chamber of Commerce of Turkmenistan
18. The Arbitration Court of Turkmenistan