With its geographic location, potential, ambitions and political priorities, Uzbekistan could play a leading role in Central Asia. The international community has perceived the country as the pillar of stability in the region. This perception was further reinforced after 11th September 2001 and was certainly among the factors that inspired the United States to start closer political and military cooperation with Tashkent.
Tajikistan in its present state has been built on the civil war experiences and provisions of the peace accords signed in 1997. These have had a great impact on the present form of the state, its political scene and power mechanisms. President Emomali Rakhmonov is the central figure in the state. The political system, which he has cocreated, is based on - unique in this region - political pluralism (the existence of the Islamic party), decentralisation (far-going independence of the regions and relatively limited potential of the central structures) and compromise as the basic way of resolving conflicts. Such a system has so far guaranteed stabilisation and normalisation of the country.
Just several years ago, the position of Kazakhstan as the regional leader was not so obvious. Since the emergence of the independent republics in Central Asia, there has been rivalry for leadership between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, which to a great extent has been an effect of the personal leadership ambitions of the countries' respective presidents, Nursultan Nazarbayev and Islam Karimov. While Uzbekistan prefers the model of leadership based on political and military hegemony, Kazakhstan chooses economic development. Nevertheless, Kazakhstan has managed to outdo Uzbekistan in the military field, too.
Russians or so-called Russian-speakers in Latvia and Estonia pose a significant problem for both countries. Russian-speakers are a numerous minority in Latvia and Estonia, which causes deep division in these countries from the ethnical point of view. The problem of highest importance in the legal aspect is the unregulated status of the Russian-speakers. Though they are permanent residents of Latvia and Estonia many of them still do not have these countries' citizenship. The complex naturalisation procedure introduced by Latvia and Estonia soon after restoring independence in 1991 is considered to be main responsible for this.
The European Union's new border with Eastern European countries, Russia, Belarus and Ukraine, is approximately 3000 km long. It has vital meaning for the Union in terms of security as well as for social and economic reasons. Unlike the southern maritime border of the EU, the eastern land border poses a number of different challenges
Public debate continues to be full of myths and misconceptions about the conditions at the Community's new external borders and the consequences of enlargement in this respect.
The relations between Turkey and the European Union are special for several reasons. Of all candidates, Turkey has been aspiring to EU membership for the longest time. With 70 million citizens, it is the most populous candidate country, and if it were admitted to the EU, around the year 2020 would become the single most populous Member State. It would also be the only UE Member State inhabited almost exclusively by Muslims. Like Cyprus, it lies almost entirely in the Asian continent.
The assumption behind the EU's policy is that Moldova is not going to join the Union, though theoretically, such a development is not precluded. Chisinau does indeed aspire to join the European Union.
European leaders promised the Western Balkan states during the EU summit in Thessaloniki in June 2003 that their future was within the united Europe, and that each of them could prospectively become an EU member.
The former USSR area plays a great role in the international oil and gas market. Russia is a real gas giant, with the richest deposits of this material in the world. Russia is also the main exporter of natural gas to many European countries. Keeping a strong position in this market remains a priority for the Russian Federation's economic policy