Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law

School of Politics and International Studies

Research Student: Aijan Sharshenova

EU democracy promotion in Central Asia: Implementation in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan

Photo of Aijan Sharshenova

Central Asian countries have only recently emerged as sovereign actors in the international system. For more than seventy years, these countries were tightly integrated with Russia, and have virtually no historical record of interaction with external powers in the twentieth century. In the twenty first century, Central Asian countries face an opportunity and a challenge to interact with numerous powers, all of whom aim to influence the political, economic and cultural development in Central Asia.

Out of these external powers, the EU promises to be an actor which might promote positive changes. In 2007, under the German presidency, the European Council issued a seminal document, ‘The European Union and Central Asia: strategy for a new partnership’, which listed seven priority areas of cooperation and assistance to Central Asia: human rights, rule of law, good governance and democratisation; youth and education; economic development, trade and investment; energy and transport links; environmental sustainability and water; common threats and challenges; and, intercultural dialogue.

My research will focus on the first priority area of the EU’s strategy: human rights, rule of law, good governance and democratisation. I will analyse the democracy promotion agenda of the EU’s strategy towards Central Asia, analyse its applicability to the region, and assess the responsiveness of local governments through a comparative case study of the Kyrgyz Republic and Kazakhstan.

For this aim, I will identify and discuss the EU’s democracy promotion agenda within the framework of its general strategy for the region; estimate the responsiveness of Central Asian governments to the EU’s efforts to promote its values in the region; and critically evaluate the underlying factors that undermine the EU’s democracy promotion policy in Central Asia.


I hold a Master in Arts degree in EU and Central Asian studies from the Institut für Europäische Politik (IEP) and the Centre International de Formation Européenne (CIFE). I also hold a Master’s degree in International Studies awarded by the University of Leeds, and a Diploma of Specialist (5 years) in International Relations from the Kyrgyz-Russian Slavic University. Prior to starting my doctoral research in Leeds, I have worked in USAID projects on judicial reform and parliamentary support in Kyrgyzstan, and was a research fellow at the American University of Central Asia.

Additionally, one of my essays has recently been awarded first prize in a legal writing competition held by the Rule of Law Platform for Central Asia.

What motivated me to undertake PhD study?

Undertaking PhD study was in my agenda since high school. Doing research on a topic you like is an amazing opportunity, and I could not miss this opportunity to develop professionally and personally.

What makes me passionate about my subject?

Firstly, my current research requires studying some areas I have not been familiar with, and this motivates me to keep learning. Secondly, in the course of doing this research, I have met a lot of interesting people from various backgrounds, and I appreciate these social connections. Finally, the research is empirical policy-relevant work, which might potentially make a small contribution to the general field of development assistance and external democracy promotion.

What are my plans once I have completed my PhD?

I plan to submitt few publications and find a job either in academia or in policy-making.

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