From 22 to 26 May, Andreas Peschke, Director for Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia at the Federal Foreign Office, had talks in Tajikistan. His schedule included official consultations with the Foreign Ministry, talks with parliamentarians, representatives of civil society, international observers as well as a visit to a project in the eastern region of Gorno-Badakhshan on the border with Afghanistan.
Goal: Stepping up bilateral cooperation
These were the first consultations between Peschke and the Tajik Deputy Foreign Minister Huseynzoda. The aim is to extend the dialogue between Germany and Tajikistan and not only to intensify political relations but also to expand economic, cultural and development cooperation.
Foreign Minister Steinmeier visited Tajikistan, the smallest of the Central Asian republics, two months ago as part of his trip to the region. Tajikistan has a 1300 km long border with Afghanistan and plays a key role in ensuring stability throughout the region. Linguistically and culturally, it has strong ties with the northern region of its neighbour. The mountainous country has immense hydroelectric resources, only a small portion of which have been used until now.
Cooperative use of water resources in Central Asia
In his official talks, Peschke called for greater cooperation in the region and for cooperative solutions to the, in some cases controversial, use of water resources. While Tajikistan, which lies in the upper reaches of the major Central Asian rivers, wants to utilise them primarily to generate electricity, the biggest state in the lower reaches, Uzkebistan, is mainly interested in using water for agricultural irrigation in arid regions. In an attempt to contain these conflicts, the Berlin Process on the cooperative use of water resources in Central Asia was established by Germany under the aegis of Foreign Minister Steinmeier in 2008.
Germany’s engagement in Tajikistan
With the aim of fostering stability and mutual development, Germany is supporting projects to promote cross-border development on the border with Afghanistan, such as bridges, joint market places and hydroelectric power stations. Among other places, Andreas Peschke visited Khorog, the capital of the autonomous province of Gorno-Badakhshan, which lies in the Pamir Mountains, a range with some summits over 7000 metres. With the support of the German development bank KfW and the Aga Khan Development Network, hydroelectric power stations around Khorog are being either overhauled or constructed. They now not only supply 96 per cent of the 250,000 inhabitants of the Tajik border province with energy but also more than 20,000 inhabitants in the Afghan province of Badakhshan on the other side of the border. A further expansion of this cross-border cooperation, aimed at fostering stability, is planned.
In the sphere of development cooperation, Germany has pledged more than 50 million euros in support for Tajikistan over a two-year period. The priorities are health care, sustainable economic development and education. Last year 32,000 school children in Tajikistan learned German, including those at five partner schools of the PASCH initiative. Just under 200 Tajik students were studying in Germany in 2015.
Vibrant civil society key to social development and stability
Especially in his talks with representatives of civil society, Peschke stressed to what extent we believe social development and stability depend on a strong and vibrant civil society in which civil liberties are protected. In a referendum last Sunday, President Rahmon gained the right to stand for office for an unlimited number of terms. In the last few years, political observers have pointed out growing restrictions on political freedoms.