The EU, Central Asia, and the Development of Continental Transport and Trade
Since the collapse of the USSR, a number of initiatives have embarked, separately or together, on the momentous task of rebuilding trade and transportation arteries across Central Asia and the Caucasus. The underlying logic has been two-fold: by reconnecting the landlocked new states of the region to their neighbors and historic trading partners, the heart of Asia can become a land corridor connecting Europe to Asia. This paper plots out the main lines of transport and trade development in Central Asia and their potential for both regional states and the European Union. To this end, the paper presents an overview of existing arrangements and plans, ranging from the EU’s TRACECA project to China’s Silk Road Economic Belt. Following this, it seeks to look two decades into the future of Eurasia-wide transport and trade. On that basis, it identifies four major emerging issues, including the geopolitics of transport and trade as well as the necessity of developing soft infrastructure, which are bound to become important both to Central Asia and Europe but which, to date, have been relatively overlooked.
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