Struan gave the following speech at a roundtable discussion he chaired examining business and investment opportunities and the roles of SMEs in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan on 24 April.
Your Excellencies the Ambassadors to the EU of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, Ministers, Ladies & Gentlemen,
In 2010, I was privileged to be appointed Personal Representative of the Chairman in Office of the OSCE - almost like a Roving Ambassador - by Kazakhstan, who held the rotating presidency that year. My remit was to draw up an extensive report on the environmental issues affecting the five Central Asian Republics of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. I travelled widely throughout Central Asia, visiting all 5 republics and also Afghanistan. I published a 250 page report for the OSCE and subsequently wrote a book - 'Stalin's Legacy - the Soviet War on Nature', detailing the legacy of Soviet nuclear tests in the Polygon of East Kazakhstan and the desiccation of the Aral Sea. It was during my travels to the upstream, mountainous countries of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikstan that I discovered the unparalleled beauty of the High Pamir and Tien Shan mountains and the boundless opportunities for inward investment and job creation in those two young and energetic republics.
It is interesting to note that both Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan place a great value on their ecology and environment and put considerable efforts into its protection. Both countries also carefully manage their extensive water resources, harnessing hydro energy, while ensuring a plentiful supply for their downstream neighbours who require water for crop irrigation. There are many business opportunities in the water industry, but aside from their rich water resources, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan both have extensive mineral and gas resources that are ripe for development. These are lands of opportunity for EU SME's looking to spread their wings and develop new businesses in Central Asia. That's why this afternoon's Round Table discussion with interventions from leading experts on foreign trade, economic development and EU support, is both timely and totally relevant. With the European elections due to take place in May and a new Parliament and Commission soon to take up their posts for the next 5 years, what better time could we have chosen to lay the groundwork for future EU-Central Asia cooperation and business development.