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Volume 726: debated on Wednesday 6 April 2011


Tabled by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their political and security assessment of Kyrgyzstan one year on from the protest movement.

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper and, in so doing, declare that I am chairman of the British Kyrgyzstan All-Party Parliamentary Group.

My Lords, this is a symbolic day, in that it marks the precise anniversary of the start of the unrest that toppled Kurmanbek Bakiev’s regime. The consequences of that change and the serious clashes that followed in June in the southern cities of Osh and Jalal-Abad continue to reverberate in Kyrgyzstan. It is important, therefore, that the new political structures begin to deliver real change that helps Kyrgyzstan to move on from last year’s tragic events.

My Lords, the current situation in Kyrgyzstan is tense and complex, with a need for consensus and inter-ethnic reconciliation. What are the expectations from the delayed Kimmo Kiljunen commission inquiry report and how can the report be used in a constructive manner to promote understanding and reconciliation for internal and regional stability issues? Is it recognised that effective coalition governance and working for economic and social development are what will make the real difference for the people of Kyrgyzstan?

On the second point, yes, I am sure that it is fully recognised that that is a completely accurate assessment of what is needed. The Kimmo Kiljunen report is not due until next month—I think that there is a problem with translation aspects. Obviously, we very much hope that, as it looks back to the horrors of the multiple deaths of the past, it will be able to contribute to reconciliation in future, but we have not yet seen it.

Does the Minister agree that, given the high level of corruption that has been entrenched in the political system in Kyrgyzstan since independence, the €38 million contribution from the European Union towards public finance and social protection is to be welcomed? Will he tell us what supervision the European Union is putting in place to ensure that this funding is used in the proper manner?

My noble friend is quite right to point to the substantial contribution from the EU. As core contributors to EU and UN funds—and, indeed, through the work of the OSCE—we have a considerable concern and need to ensure that these things are properly monitored. We are assured that the monitoring is tough and close. It should also not be forgotten that we provide about £7 million a year in direct bilateral assistance through DfID, so we are making a substantial contribution both indirectly and directly. I accept the point that these things need to be very closely monitored to see that they are really doing a good job.

My Lords, as Kyrgyzstan works towards emerging from its Soviet past and, unfortunately, had terrible ethnic problems last year, which damaged the Uzbek minority there considerably, in what way are the Government assisting Kyrgyzstan in the path towards becoming a modern democratic country?

I had hoped that I had made it clear that our assistance is predominantly through the multilateral organisations: the European Union, the UN and the OSCE. I have just mentioned that we make a bilateral contribution as well. Obviously these are parts of a more general aim, in the interests of this country, to contribute to the stability of the whole region, which has important implications for the future security of the whole of Europe, including, particularly, in the energy field. I think that I have to repeat what I said earlier, which was that it is through the international institutions that we are making our main effort.

It is my understanding that many politicians from that country are keen to learn about parliamentary democracy. Could the IPU and the CPA be approached, because they have an excellent reputation for running seminars for politicians from abroad, particularly those from new democracies, to give whatever help and assistance they can and to allow Members of both Houses to share their experiences of parliamentary democracy?

That is a very positive idea. I will check with both those organisations to see what involvement they have. My half-memory is that they already have some involvement with promoting the beginnings and the embryo of parliamentary improvement and government in that country and associated countries. I will certainly approach them and check it out.

Can my noble friend say what the situation is with the freedom of the press in Kyrgyzstan at the moment?

I cannot say precisely, but there are questions about how much and whether proper freedom is being observed. There have been some criticisms. These are the sort of issues that we monitor very closely. We are not at all reticent or backward in pointing out the vital need for greater freedom of the press if democracy is to develop there.

When the Minister contacts the IPU and the CPA about the promotion of democracy in Kyrgyzstan and elsewhere, will he include the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, which was set up by the previous Conservative Government and supported by the Labour Government and works closely with the CPA and the IPU? It has an increasing role not just in the Caucasus but in the Middle East, north Africa and—in light of the next Question, which is on Côte d’Ivoire—in sub-Saharan Africa.