by Nick Powell in Astana
As the EU searches for reliable energy sources and natural resources as well as safe trade routes between Europe, Asia and Europe, Kazakhstan has been a key strategic partner. The EU supported Kazakhstan’s significant political and economic reforms in order to establish a new, just, and fair republic through a joint statement celebrating 30 years of diplomatic relations.
With the next month’s election of the Mazhilis to the lower house of parliament, Kazakhstan’s political reform program is close to completion. After a referendum on constitutional reforms, and a presidential election, voters will now have seven options to choose from when they go to the polls for the third time in less than one year. On March 19, new local bodies will be elected.
Roman Vassilenko, Deputy Foreign Minister of Kazakhstan, told foreign journalists that he believes his country is going through something “special”. His country is now difficult to recognize as it was during the Tragic January events at the beginning of 2022. Initial peaceful protests were hijacked initially by armed men, and 238 people were killed, with the worst violence occurring in Almaty, the largest city.
Many of the arrested were given lenient treatment, with less than 10% leading to imprisonment. However, those believed to be the ringleaders of the attack, including former members and staff of the National Security Council are still being investigated. Ministers and prosecutors are not afraid to refer to the incident as a attempted coup d’etat.
In response to this, political and economic reforms were proposed in an effort to make every citizen feel that they have a stake. The Agency for Strategic Planning and Reforms drives forward policies that promote fair competition, stable tax policies, and transparent public procurement.
This is a moment when Kazakhstan’s multi-vector, pragmatic foreign policy is struggling to cope with the challenges and tensions that have resulted from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. While Russia is a crucial part of Kazakhstan’s relationship, President Kassym Jomart Tokayev of Kazakhstan has stood firm in defense of the principle of inviolability.
Josep Borell, the High Representative of the EU, and Mukhtar Tileuberdi, the Kazakh Foreign Minister, reaffirmed their commitment to the UN Charter and international law in a joint statement commemorating 30 years of EU-Kazakhstan relations.
The EU expressed its full support for Kazakhstan’s massive political and economic reforms in order to further its vision of a just, fair and peaceful country. It also pledged to an open and transparent investigation into the events of January 20,22. The growing economic relationship was also discussed.
In 2020, an Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement was concluded. It covers 29 areas of cooperation -from investment and trade to aviation, education and science, civil society and human right. A memorandum was also signed to establish a strategic partnership for sustainable raw materials, batteries, and renewable hydrogen value chains. This is crucial to digital and green transitions.
Kazakhstan produces almost 90 million tonnes per year of oil. Most of this oil is exported to Europe via a pipeline that runs through Russia to reach the Black Sea. Roman Vassilenko noted that connecting to the open ocean is a top priority for the largest landlocked nation in the world. Azerbaijan has agreed to export 6.5 millions tonnes via its pipeline. Two additional oil tankers will be built as part of a deal with the Union Arab Emirates.
According to the Deputy Foreign Minister, alternative routes need to be explored, particularly the Trans-Caspian route. This will require the use of the EU’s technology and resources through the Global Gateway project. The agreement between Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Georgia, Turkiye, provided a blueprint for the EU and other stakeholders to reduce bottlenecks. This will not only benefit the EU’s trade relations with Kazakhstan, but also with Central Asia.
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