Uzbekistan after Karimov: a EU on the sidelines?

Commentaries and Op-eds September 3, 2016, EuropeNext

On August 29, news broke of the death of the President of Uzbekistan, Islam Karimov, at the age of 78. Amid conflicting reports on the status of the president’s health, ranging from ‘full vigor’ to a possible stroke, it soon became clear that there was no succession plan to speak of in place. The country’s Independence Day celebrations scheduled for September 1 were cancelled, causing states which had prepared to send celebratory delegations to scramble to formulate an entirely different diplomatic response. Born in Samarkand in 1938, Karimov joined the Communist Party in 1964. The longest-ruling leader of any state in the post-Soviet space, he has run the Uzbek SSR and then an independent Uzbekistan since 1989, having been reelected in 2000, 2007, and 2015. The fallout after Karimov’s death, who was a skilled power broker between the country’s various clans and ethnic groups — be it an orderly succession, a power struggle among the elites, or even a civil war scenario — will most certainly be closely watched by leaders of neighboring states who are likely crafting strategies for a generational change in leadership themselves.