Key direction in Kazakhstan's foreign policy - development of relations with EU

By Dimash Syzdykov

Key direction in Kazakhstan's foreign policy is the development of relations with the European Union. Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Kazakhstan to Belgium and Luxembourg, Head of Kazakhstan's Mission to the EU and NATO Yerik Utembayev told about the status and prospects of development of Kazakh-EU.
Would you please comment on the status and prospects of developing political relations between Kazakhstan and the European Union?

First of all, I would like to remind of the implementation of two important political documents - "Path to Europe" State Program and EU Strategy for Central Asia. Due to these programs we managed to lay foundation for partnership, launch promising projects in the economic, political and humanitarian spheres.

Today we have all necessary prerequisites to develop relations between Kazakhstan and the European Union. Constructive and regular contacts with Brussels at the various levels are considered by Astana as manifestation of mutual interest in strengthening cooperation. Over the past year and a half strategic partnership agreements were concluded with France, Italy, Spain and Germany. Kazakh-EU interparliamentary cooperation activated as well.  Development of a new basic agreement on advanced partnership between Kazakhstan and the EU could bring bilateral cooperation to a qualitatively new level.
What is undertaken for developing Kazakh-EU interaction in economic, investment, scientific-technical, cultural and educational spheres?

Over the past four years the European Union have been the first trade and investment partner of Kazakhstan ahead of Russia and China. More than 40% of the total external trade turnover of Kazakhstan falls on the European Union. Last year the Kazakh-EU trade turnover amounted to USD 29 billion increasing nine-fold since 2002. The tendency towards world economy stabilization and development of external trade in the region allow to predict the increase in trade between Kazakhstan and the EU at 25% this year.

More than a third of foreign capital in Kazakh economy is investments of EU states. In many EU countries Kazakhstan is considered as a perspective potential investor as well. From 1993 till September 2009 about USD 102.9 billion of foreign investments were attracted to Kazakhstan. About a half of them falls on the EU states. The main investors are the Netherlands, France, Britain and Italy. The volume of Kazakh investments to EU countries exceeded USD 10 billion for the period of 1994-July 2009.

Interaction with the European Investment Bank - the biggest financial institute of the EU with share capital to the amount of EUR 164 bln will be a new component of bilateral investment cooperation.

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A bilateral agreement regulating the activity of the Bank in Kazakhstan allows to promote the development of the investment policy of Kazakhstan in European dimension. This will also allow to attract investments of the Bank to the amount of EUR 1 bln within the frameworks of the EU's mandate to the EIB for its activity in Central Asian region as well as investments of the bank beyond the mandate.

The projects for financing cover the spheres of energy, transport infrastructure and ecology. Extension of the opportunities of the bank on investing to other sectors is planned in the future. We will work on it together with the European Commission and the Bank soon.

Another perspective direction is the establishment of partnership with the European Investment Fund, 62% of shares of which belong to the European Investment Bank. Within my meeting with the President of the Fund we defined several perspective directions for cooperation, including support of the small and medium business, granting of guarantees and micro-lending of enterprises working in the field of innovations and technologies.

Concerning the cooperation in education and scientific-technological spheres it is to be noted that the Ministerial Bologna Conference was held in Budapest in March this year. At the session 46 countries - signatories of the Bologna Declaration unanimously supported the decision on Kazakhstan's joining the Bologna Process. As a result, our country became the 47th country to enter the European Higher Education Area. Earlier 30 Kazakh higher educational institutions signed the Great Charter of European Universities, which is the basis of the Bologna Declaration. The decision on Kazakhstan's joining the Bologna Process was approved by the Committee of the Ministers of Education of the Bologna Process member states that witnesses high estimate of educational reforms held in Kazakhstan.

Henceforth Kazakhstan is the first Central Asian state recognized as a full member of the European educational area. It is very important for international positioning of the national high school.

Besides, the European Commission decided to increase the financing of EC educational programs "Erasmus Mundus" and "Tempus" from EUR 5 to 10 mln this year. Within the realization of the European Education Initiative for Central Asia the European Commission set about implementation of "Central Asia Research and Education. Network (CAREN)" project aimed at provision of high-speed internet in higher educational institutions and research center of Central Asian countries. The initial phase was accomplished by holding of the second session of the CAREN Executive Committee (June 30 - July 1, 2009) and first session of the Management Committee (July 2, 2009).