The European Union (EU), under its Technical Assistance to the Commonwealth of Independent States (TACIS) programme, plans to invest up to 35 million euros (US $42.5 million) in Turkmenistan over a period of five years.
The aid package was disclosed during the recent visit by an EU delegation to the reclusive former Soviet republic this month as part of the current national programme for all countries in the region, aimed at supporting the development of each country and providing technical assistance.
"This is important to Turkmenistan as they are now extremely interested in technical support in all sectors and realised that capacity building and training is the precursor to sustainable development and investment," Michael Wilson, country adviser for the EU-TACIS programme, told IRIN on Wednesday from the Turkmen capital, Ashgabat.
The package is a continuation of the EU's ongoing technical assistance programme to the country focusing on a wide range of issues including education, the environment, drugs trafficking and capacity building.
According to the TACIS official, the national programme budget for Turkmenistan is expected to rise from 2.2 million euros ($2.8 million) per year to about 4 million euros ($4.8 million), almost twice its previous size since the support budget began decreasing in 1998.
"The other regional and interstate components are subject to inclusion and participation in the projects but could possibly benefit Turkmenistan by [up to] 3 million euros ($3.6 million) per annum," he added, noting that European Commission (EC) had decided on possibly increasing assistance in some areas after a better understanding in relations with Turkmenistan, resulting from the visit to the country and meetings in Brussels early this year.
The EU TACIS programme of technical assistance to Central Asia is a regional strategy currently consisting of an action programme for 2004 with a budget of approximately 50 million euros ($60.5 million) for the five Central Asian states. The so called Indicative Programme for 2005-2006, proposed on the basis of the EU visit to Turkmenistan, could, subject to finalisation, possibly amount to 100 million euros ($121.4 million).
The aid package for the rest of the region will be focused on several areas, according to the needs of each country, with special attention on public participation, strengthening civil society, border management and poverty alleviation.
"Most of the other countries are involved in similar projects [to Turkmenistan], except for Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and also Uzbekistan in the Ferghana valley where we will be focused on poverty alleviation," the TACIS official explained, noting that grant funding will not necessarily be equally divided among the states.
Launched by the EC in 1991, the TACIS programme provides grant-financed technical assistance to 12 countries of Eastern Europe and Central Asia (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan), and mainly aims at enhancing the transition process in these countries.