Ambassador of Kazakhstan: Lithuania as a Bridge to European Bodies

By Konstantin Ameliushkin

Galymzhan Koishybayev


Interests of Kazakhstan and Lithuania within the sphere of energy are mutually complementary, thinks Kazakhstan Ambassador to Lithuania Galymzhan Koishybayev. "We are energy suppliers, and Lithuania is a consumer and a transiting state of this energy", - he underlines. He estimates the level of relations between the two states as “pretty high”. According to his words, Lithuania as the EU member can “play the role of a bridge between Kazakhstan and general European bodies”. Kazakhstan is the 9th biggest country in the world, its population is more than 15 million people. The Embassy of Kazakhstan in Vilnius the same as the US embassy is the only one for Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Finland. The goods turnover between Kazakhstan and Lithuania in 2008 comprised $179,8 millions. In 2009, according to Galymzhan Koishybayev, the goods turnover increased up to $230 millions. “I wouldn’t yet characterize the economic presence of Kazakhstan in Lithuania as extended, still we are talking more about potential”, - underlined  Ambassador during the interview.
- It’s hard to say that Kazakhstan is a popular subject in Lithuania. However, considering the dynamics of communication between the states, it gets more intensive annually. How do you assess the level of relations between Lithuania and Kazakhstan at the moment?

- The level of relations between our states can be easily estimated as a quite high one. During these years Lithuania and Kazakhstan have become close partners, between with a trustful dialogue on all the spectrum of bilateral cooperation and interaction within international organizations.

This year, naturally, one of the main directions of our cooperation is the joint activity within the frameworks of OSCE.

> Kazakhstan Map
Our states have much in common, we’ve got a similar history, in Kazakhstan there is a sufficient Lithuanian community, and plenty of our compatriots live in Lithuania. Business bodies of our countries reveal a serious interest in the development of mutually beneficial trade-economic relations. In general, bilateral relations are not burden with problem and controversial issues.

So to be short, we assess the level of our relations as high as there is a constructive approach and mutual understanding on important issues of policy, economy and culture.
- What are the priorities of Kazakhstan in relations with Lithuania?

-  In political sphere naturally this is a development of a constructive dialogue between our states. As I have already noted, this year the interaction within the frameworks of OSCE is of priority. Kazakhstan as you know chairs the Organization this year, and Lithuania will be the Chairman next year. We cooperate closely within the frameworks of a so-called ruling “Three”. In the view of succession within the activity of the Organization a good contact of a Chairman-in-Office with a future one is urgent. Here we have a complete mutual understanding and we hope that positive developments and achievements which were done during our Presidency will be promoted and extended during the Chairmanship of Lithuania.

Except for that, our states have established interaction on the line of cooperation between Kazakhstan and the European Union. In recent years it has gained active development within the frameworks of two symmetric programs – Strategy of the EU towards Central Asia and the State program of Kazakhstan “Way to Europe”. The name of Kazakhstan program proves the intention of our state to inherit European experience – institutional, infrastructural, in the sphere of education, quality of life, etc. And in this respect Lithuania as an authoritative member of the EU can become a bridge between Kazakhstan and general European bodies.

> Lithuania Map
Within economic sphere priorities of cooperation, as a rule, are follow the needs of life. In our case, the most important is a transit-transporting sphere. Being the 9th biggest state in the world Kazakhstan is also the biggest state without direct access to the world ocean. Possessing serious export potential, we are interested in transit ways development to deliver our goods to the world market.

We of course are joking that Lithuania has only one Sea, and Kazakhstan two – Caspian and Aral – but unfortunately, they are closed. That is why states possessing a good developed infrastructure with an access to the world ocean are really important for us. And Lithuania, as well as other Baltic states with developed port infrastructure is of a significant interest for Kazakhstan.

The sphere of agriculture is also a priority for us, a traditional priority. We and Lithuania have serious agricultural potential. We also cooperate within energy sphere, naturally.

In the area of cultural-humanitarian cooperation first of all the most important thing is to learn each other better. In due time our intellectuals, artists and simple citizens had good contacts. Unfortunately, in the course of time we lost them a bit, but now we strive to renovate the old connections and to establish long-term exchanges in the sphere of culture, tourism, to promote mutual travels of citizens. As the kind of exchanges create the basis of daily relations through which the states become more clear and close to each other.
- In respect to the Chairmanship of Kazakhstan in OSCE the interest of Europe to your state has risen. What could say about your activity with Lithuania within the frameworks of OSCE?

- We are greatly honored to head the kind of an authoritative organization as OSCE, uniting 56 states of Europe and not only Europe. But this is also a great responsibility. Kazakhstan is the first post-soviet and the first Central Asian state heading this organization and we want for the period of our presidency to strengthen the Organization and its authority to enhance. As President Nursultan Nazarbayev said, the slogan of our Presidency is the thesis of Four “T”: trust, tradition, transparency and tolerance.

We develop all the three directions of activity of this organization – military-political, economic-ecological and humanitarian. The acting OSCE Chairman, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan intensively travels around regions, including those states, where the so called “frozen” conflicts prolong. In the middle of July in Alma-Ata there will be held an informal meeting of OSCE member-states Ministers of Foreign Affairs, during which they will discuss the issues of further development of the Organization.

During the meeting in Alma-Ata Ministers will discuss in details the agenda of the OSCE Summit. As known, the last OSCE summit was held in 1999 in Istanbul. Long time has past since, and many issues have accumulated, but the main thing is that the international situation now is pretty favorable for this Summit. Uniting platforms are seemed to be real on many issues.

It’s supposed that main subjects of the Summit will include the issue on European security, Afghanistan problem. Another issue is tolerance. For Kazakhstan this is a very important issue as in our country we have about 120 ethnic groups, practicing different believes. Among them there are also Lithuanians for whom beautiful churches are available... As you know in 2001 the Pope John Paul II visited Kazakhstan.

In economic-ecological basket of our Presidency in OSCE transit-transporting cooperation is an important issue. And this subject is equally interesting for us as well as for Lithuania as a future Chairman.That is why we appointed Lithuanian diplomat Vytautas Nauduzas as a Personal Representative of the Chairman-in-Office on transit-transporting issues.

At the moment we are closely interacting with Lithuania within the frameworks of the “Three”, but earlier since 2008 we have already worked within the so-called “Quintet”, i.e. five prospect OSCE Chairmen. Previous year when then Head of the Foreign Ministry of Lithuania Vygaudas Usackas held a visit to Kazakhstan, they adopted a joint statement on cooperation of our countries within the frameworks of OSCE. There are constant consultations, delegation exchanges for “synchronizing the actions”.

Recently in Istanbul there has been the third Summit on the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia. The initiative of СICA establishment in due course was presented by the President of Kazakhstan. The prototype of this biggest Asian Forum was OSCE. And it’s not an accident that this year Istanbul welcomed a special event – the meeting of Foreign Affairs Ministers of CICA member-states and the “Three” of OSCE. And of course, the Head of Lithuanian Foreign Affairs Ministry Audronius Ažubalis also participated in it. Except for that there was a fruitful meeting of two our ministers.

We know that Lithuanian Foreign Ministry is getting ready for the Chairmanship in OSCE seriously, to this new and complicated mission. With greater pleasure we are noting the succession within our Chairmanships. For example, within the issues of tolerance, transit-transporting, energy cooperation.
- Energy safety is the issue of almost all the big meetings, summits. What is the situation within this issue in the cooperation of Kazakhstan and Lithuania?

- Energy sphere has the key significance for Kazakhstan, as our country is one of the greatest players within energy market. We have serious export opportunities on supplies of hydrocarbons to the world market and we increase them. Within the issues of energy cooperation we are interested in diversification of the ways of energy sources deliveries to the world market. We participate in all economically-efficient projects.

Our line in this issue is very clear: as exporters we are engaged for the ways of delivery were maximum convenient, economically efficient and safe. Lithuania as a country with a developed infrastructure, possessing the access to the world ocean is of a great and serious interest for Kazakhstan. We think that our states have great potential for pretty promising forms of energy cooperation.  Our interests complement each other. We are energy suppliers, Lithuania is a consumer and a  transiting state of these energy.
- How would you assess the level of business relations of Kazakhstan and Lithuania?

- As economic partners Kazakhstan and Lithuania are really attractive for each other. During the crisis of 2009 the goods turnover between Kazakhstan and Lithuania increased for 22% and reached 230 million dollars. On the background of the global reduction of goods turnover on the average 40%  and a significant reduction of Kazakh goods turnover with the states as Russia, China and the EU (our greatest trade partner) this is a brilliant result, proving the great potential of trade-economic cooperation.

We are the states not with competing but with mutually complementing economies. Kazakhstan is involved with the energy export, raw materials processing (hydrocarbons, metals, coil, etc), new technologies development. Recently we have launched the program of the forced industrial innovative development. All these are new possibilities for mutually beneficial cooperation. I wouldn’t call the economic presence of Kazakhstan in Lithuania extended, yet we are talking more about potential. But for that we have established a good institutional ground. By the way, an intergovernmental commission on trade-economic cooperation has already worked for along time. And another meeting is planned on July 2nd.

As an illustration of our economic partnership I would give you the project that is famous today. At the moment together with Lithuanian company "Snaige" we are arranging the opening of the refrigerators producing factory in Kazakhstan. We have a nice start in agricultural sphere. Lithuanian dairy and meat products have a great reputation in Kazakhstan, and we would like not just to import them but also to establish joint manufacturing factories transferring Lithuanian technologies.
- Starting from July 1st the Customs Union of Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus comes into force. Which way will that influence Lithuania?

- Yes, a Customs Code comes into force. We think that this union is only an economic establishment, which will be beneficial for the economy of Kazakhstan. First of all, the market outlet for Kazakh goods will extend, all the barriers and obstacles for the cooperation between the states will be destroyed.

Talking about Kazakhstan and Lithuania in this context, then since July 1st we will gain a common customs frontier. Lithuanian-Belarusian, Lithuanian-Russian customs frontiers will become in general Lithuanian-Kazakh customs frontiers. Transit-transporting cooperation will promote. I think that the economies of our states will only benefit from this.

For us, a sensitive issue was the customs duties on cars. Recently in Saint-Petersburg during the meeting of Prime Ministers of Russia and Kazakhstan, they have adopted a decision to prolong the validity term of previous duties on cars. I focus the attention on this issue, as the supply of cars of European manufacturers to Kazakhstan was one of the forms of a profitable business. Kazakhs were desired clients in Marijampolė or Kaunas car markets.
- Lithuania and Kazakhstan are the members of different military-political blocks and organizations – CSTO, CIS, NATO and the EU. Does this impede your cooperation?

- The main principle of foreign policy of Kazakhstan is multiple vectors. We develop equally good relations with the leading centers of international policy, with neighboring states. We have built good relations with Russia, China, the EU and the USA, etc. We do not accept block-like thinking as inefficient and archaic, as the world has become interdependent.

The thing, that we are the members of different organizations is only a positive feature. Being a member of CIS and CSTO Kazakhstan also participates within SCO and CICA. Except for that, Kazakhstan has close, partner relations with the EU and that is why the membership of Lithuania in the EU is another positive feature. Via Lithuania the European Union become clearer for us, and we become clearer for the EU, as for Baltic states Kazakhstan is not a terra incognita, they perfectly know and understand us. In a few years, Lithuania will chair the EU.

This is another arena for more close communication. As for NATO, then we participate within the program “Partnership for Peace”, that is why we also have our own track of relations with the Alliance. Except for that, we can cooperate on interregional level more actively, for example, in the mentioned format of OSCE – CICA or on already proved-to-be-effective arena Nordic - Baltic - Central Asia, uniting Northern, Baltic and Central Asian states.
- “Establishment of bridges”, obviously is the key of prospects of relations development?

- As an ambassador, I should not only see good prospects but also promote their accomplishment with all means. I’m glad that without any bias between our states there are relations of trust and mutual understanding. We have good contacts, understand each other, we see fascinating spheres for cooperation.

I have already told that Lithuania as other Baltic States can become a link between Kazakhstan and Europe. From our part, we are ready to represent the interests of Lithuania not only in Central Asia, but also even wider in East and South Asia, which are pretty specific for Lithuania.
Translated by EuroDialogueXXI from ru.DELFI.lt