Merkel in Kyrgyzstan: no news from the western front


BISHKEK (TCA) — The visit of Germany’s Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel to Bishkek this week, part of a tour in the region which also included Mongolia as the end destination to join a summit of Eurasian heads of government (including Russia’s Dmitry Medvedev and China’s Li Ke-qiang), has not gone unnoticed in Germany. In Kyrgyzstan, President Atambayev has seized the opportunity to boost his own profile. Substance and tangible results of the visit, however, look hard to distinguish.

What Germany and Kyrgyzstan have in common is that the “real power” is in the hands of the Chancellor, whose position in Germany is equivalent to that of Prime Minister in places such as Britain, The Netherlands and Spain. Not for the first time, Atambayev has made it clear that he sees his position as much more significant, to be compared with France’s François Hollande rather than Queen Elizabeth.

The name of Kyrgyzstan’s Prime Minister Sooronbay Jeenbekov, who is supposed to hold the real power as head of the Government, never appeared either in the local media or in German reports on the occasion. Only the Parliament Speaker, Chynybay Tursunbekov, appeared in the margin.

“Merkel [told Tursunbekov] that the bilateral relations between Kyrgyzstan and Germany are developing steadily, but there is a need for a more dynamic development of economic cooperation,” a report from the Kyrgyz state news agency Kabar was to read. “The Federal Chancellor said that Germany will certainly support the development of small and medium-sized businesses in Kyrgyzstan.”

The two leaders praised each other and agreed on the need to increase the role of women in society, to combat extremism and do something about trade and consumption of narcotics. Relations between Germany in the domains of trade and education must be expanded. In other words, diplomatic courtesies but nothing else.

Hotter items such as Kyrgyzstan’s position in the dispute over Ukraine were carefully kept in line with the agenda. Nothing appeared in the open on NATO’s desire to use Kyrgyzstan once more as a hub for operations in Afghanistan. That would have been useless anyway: an overwhelming majority in the Kyrgyz Parliament would certainly block any move in such a direction.

So the protocol also moved that issue to the background. It was smiles and smiles all over instead. “We, as a Eurasian country, feel the consequences of the conflict in Ukraine and the crisis between Europe and Russia. It is necessary to settle the conflict as soon as possible. We call upon both Europe and Russia to find a compromise. Recently I watched Angela Merkel’s speech, where she said that the people of these countries are gradually approaching each other and there is a possibility of creating a single economic area from Lisbon to Vladivostok, and then to Bishkek,” the Kyrgyz President told a press conference as part of the visit. But Merkel remained stoic on the issue – instead clinging to the most terrible clichés. “You have a small and beautiful country, and in the future we will support. You have a long economic path, and you have chosen the democratic path,” she told the same press conference. Yawn…

The funniest thing of the entire event is that in contrast to most other official visits, there has been no mention of any new treaties, protocols or even declarations of intention during this particular event. With eastern Ukraine, Syria, Iraq and other hotbeds in flames, Europe once more the target of blind terror pointing at Daesh and consorts, European “leaders” keep up their broad smiles…