How Does the EU’s Energy Strategy Impact Central Asia?

June 2024

Chiara Gaffuri

THRI Research Fellow 

In today’s world, energy transition and energy security are strictly intertwined in their development and States’ priorities. The energy transition is confronted with geopolitical and geoeconomic challenges, which results in matters and concerns of energy security.

The energy trilemma based on the three core dimensions of energy, availability, affordability and sustainability, is the leading strain for the energy strategies of countries: the three elements must be addressed at the same time (World Energy Council 2024).

The energy transition, meaning the shift towards renewable energy sources that could replace the fossil ones, is affecting the distribution of geopolitical power and changing the power dynamics between countries. In the energy realm, holding specific resources results in power hierarchy, the need for a change in the energy sources and a differentiation in the interdependence among States are transforming the global and regional energy order.

The European Union’s (EU) objective is to reduce its dependence on fossil fuel sources, specifically the Russian ones, and to promote the target of energy neutrality while enhancing the region’s energy security. Nevertheless, the EU is expanding its relationship with Central Asian countries for oil and gas interests, and Central Asia is strengthening ties with the European Union to counterbalance the Russian power in the region to respond to the geopolitical turmoil resulting from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

As a consequence, the strategies, choices, struggles and priorities of the EU meet the ones of Central Asia in terms of energy, specifically in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in 2022.

“These days, Central Asia is at the centre of events, in geo-strategic and geo-economic terms. It is obvious that the region is looking to diversify its relationships and that they see the EU as a partner of choice.”

Josep Borrell, High Representative of the European Union, recognised the importance of EU-Central Asia ties in 2022 during important meetings in Samarkand: the EU-Central Asia Ministerial meeting and the EU-Central Asia Connectivity conference (EEAS 2022).

Their relationship will be investigated from both perspectives, unveiling the main actions and approaches of the two regions.

“Kazakhstan specifically plays a key role within the EU’s relations, presenting a major source of oil imports for the region, about 8% of the total imports”.

European Union: strategy and targets

The European Union has defined its policies towards renewable energies, providing the tools to substantially answer its needs: mitigating climate change and providing for the energy security of the region.

“In recent years, the EU has shaped its trajectories towards the energy discourse, first addressing the sustainability aspects and, secondly, the security ones”.
The 2040 Climate Target Plan and the REPowerEU Plan are the most recent energy developments and updates within the European Union. The former focuses on Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions reduction and climate neutrality targets, while the latter deals with energy market disruption, aiming to decrease external energy dependency and increase energy supply diversification and deployment of renewable energy.

Earlier in February 2024 the European Commission published a detailed impact assessment on possible pathways to reach the agreed goal of making the European Union climate-neutral by 2050, recommending a 90% net greenhouse gas emissions reduction by 2040 (European Commission 2024).

In the context of both energy security and energy transition, in May 2022, the European Commission launched the REPowerEU Plan, helping the EU to save energy, produce and invest in renewables, and diversify Europe’s energy supply (European Commission 2022). the Plan intends to address the double urgency that Europe’s energy system is facing: ending the EU’s dependence on Russia fossil fuels and tackling the climate crisis.

The common thread in the two European Commission proposals is the willingness to achieve green and sustainable targets, also acknowledging the fact that clean and renewable energies are becoming a way to ensure energy security, especially if developed within the European region, decreasing and reframing the energy and supply interdependence.

Central Asia: needs and priorities

Central Asian countries have been strongly affected by the Russian invasion in Ukraine, specifically in regard to the import and export of natural gas, as well as geopolitical, ideological, and strategical factors. Despite Russia representing a key element in the Central Asia export route, especially for geographical and practical reasons, the region’s countries are progressively detaching from Russian dependency, as the EU has been doing for the past two years (Ziomecki 2023). Consequently, Central Asia is trying to find new transport corridors not depending on Russia.

“Kazakhstan specifically plays a key role within the EU’s relations, presenting a major source of oil imports for the region, about 8% of the total imports”.
Kazakhstan perceives the EU as an attractive region for trade: the EU needs oil and gas, which are crucial for European countries to diversify their supplies away from Russia, and Kazakh oil can respond to this need, enlarging Central Asian ties with other countries other than Russia (Matveeva 2023).

Indeed, since 2022 Central Asian leaders have expanded their foreign policy options and decision making in the direction of the EU strengthening their ties. Following the first-ever high-level talks between the President of the European Council and the Heads of State of Central Asia in 2022 and 2023, a new collaborative roadmap for strengthening EU-Central Asian relations was created, and the first EU-Central Asia leaders summit will take place in 2024 (EPRS 2024).

Until the end of 2022, Russia was the biggest oil supplier of the European Union, however, the EU needed an alternative and Kazakhstan stepped in cooperating with the region. “Kazakhstan is eager to keep up its reputation as a trustworthy provider, especially to the European Union, which is its key trading and investment partner. Also, the majority of the nation’s export earnings come from oil”.

EU and Central Asia: intertwined scenarios
The need for energy security can be intertwined and lead to cooperation between the EU and Central Asia. Both regions need independence in terms of energy supplies from Russia, the second-largest supplier of natural gas and oil in the world, and in general less ties with the country.

However, while supporting renewable energy sources, EU positions on climate neutrality and efforts to mitigate climate change should also take into account the avoidance of another dependence on third countries. The dependency on Central Asian oil and gas is, of course, an answer to the need to ensure the security of supply of the EU; however, it lacks in achieving the energy neutrality target.

As said, the diversification of energy supply is one of the main priorities for the EU after witnessing unsteady supply and high prices in the aftermath of the Russian invasion. Indeed, Central Asia is providing tools and solutions to manage the effort of not relying on Russia.
The EU is developing different strategies: REPowerEU Plan demonstrates the effort in reducing and replacing the fossil fuels coming from export, showcased through the increased partnership with Central Asian countries; 2040 Climate Target Plan shows the need for improvement in mitigating climate change, substituting fossil fuel resources with renewable energy alternatives.

The recent events indeed have been showing the cost of dependency and absence of choice. Europe’s ambition for green policies and a net zero emission economy by 2050 does not match a new dependency on other countries. At the same time, from a short-term perspective, the diversification of supply and security of supply are fulfilled through the connection with countries with the same geopolitical intent as the EU: the counterbalance of the energy superpower that Russia is.

The resonance and relevance of the clean-energy transition have transformed the order of the geopolitics of energy redistributing the power and the scope of dependence layered through the years: with the rise of renewables, Russia’s position as an energy superpower has shifted and changed (Skalamera 2023).

Renewable energy sources are now in the interest of the geopolitical dilemma and discourses. The energy mix can be various, and the choices are multiple, so it is important to consider them all, prioritising the local, affordable, and available ones. The local element preserves from the risk of dependency on resources, the affordability responds to the need for the security of supplies and the availability to the need of a scalable solution to mitigate climate change as soon as possible.
To combine the European Union’s different objectives with Central Asia’s needs and priorities, less dependency on both sides should be promoted and addressed to create a cooperative scenario on energy needs, specifically focused on renewable energy sources.

“This would help both regions better manage the growing impact of climate change, enhancing independence to achieve a reframed energy order in which clean energy can emerge as an energy security tool”.


EEAS. “Central Asia’s Growing Importance Globally and for the EU.” (2022).’s-growing-importance-globally-and-eu_en

European Commission. “European Commission Communication on: REPowerEU Plan”. (2022). 

European Commission. “European Commission Communication on: Securing our future Europe’s 2040 climate target and path to climate neutrality by 2050 building a sustainable, just and prosperous society”. (2024). 

EPRS. “The EU Strategy on Central Asia: Towards a new momentum”. (2024). The EU strategy on Central Asia: Towards a new momentum? ( 

Matveeva, Anna. “A New Opening for EU–Central Asia Relations?” Carnegie Europe. (2023).

Skalamera, Morena. “The Geopolitics of Energy after the Invasion of Ukraine.” The Washington Quarterly 46, no. 1 (2023): 7–24.

World Energy Council. “World Energy Trilemma 2024: evolving with resilience and justice”. (2024). 

Ziomecki, Mariusz. “Kazakhstan May Improve the EU Energy Security – GIS Reports.” Geopolitical Intelligence Services AG. (2023).

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