Kazakhstan, EU review progress in cooperation, outline future plans

In the past twenty years, Kazakhstan has developed an extended partnership with the European Union through bilateral cooperation with its many countries in a variety of fields and with the help of state-sponsored projects such as a three-year programme called "Path to Europe."

Kazakhstan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs organized an international conference on November 24 in Astana to discuss the results of this Programme that has run since 2009, summarise the Kazakhstan - EU cooperation, and identify new aspects of future interaction, the Kazakh MFA's press service informs.

The conference gathered more than 150 participants, including Chairman of Kazakhstan's Constitutional Council Igor Rogov and France's ex-Foreign Minister and former President of the Constitutional Council Roland Dumas, both of whom participated in the development of Kazakhstan's Constitution of 1995. Among other attendees were heads of relevant state bodies of Kazakhstan, ambassadors of a number of European countries, as well as experts and guests from the EU and the OSCE member states.

The "Path to Europe" Programme is one of the successfully implemented initiatives put forward by President Nursultan Nazarbayev in recent years, Kazakhstan's Foreign Minister Yerzhan Kazykhanov said in his opening speech at the conference.

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"As a result of this Programme, the European Union has firmly established its position as Kazakhstan's leading trade and investment partner. Today, the EU accounts for 50 percent of Kazakhstan's foreign trade and one third of investments. The trade turnover between Kazakhstan and the EU in the first half of 2011 amounted to US$ 25.4 billion (for comparison, the figure for the same period in 2010 equalled US$ 18.6 billion)," Kazykhanov said.

From 1993 to 2010, gross inflow of direct investment from EU countries into Kazakhstan's economy, according to the minister, amounted to more than US$ 52 billion, including more than US$ 10 billion in 2010.

Over the past three years, Kazakhstan concluded treaties on strategic partnership with France, Italy, Spain, and Turkey. The intergovernmental Action Plan within the Partnership for the Future has also been signed with Germany. The European states continue to contribute to the implementation of Kazakhstan's Programme for Accelerated Industrial and Innovative Development (PAIID) 2010-2014. Kazykhanov highlighted other important areas of collaboration between Kazakhstan and the EU such as security issues, cooperation on Afghanistan, and practical dialogue within international organizations, including NATO.

"The vivid evidence of the successful implementation of the "Path to Europe" Programme is the development of a new agreement on enhanced partnership and cooperation between Kazakhstan and the EU. Kazakhstan and the EU aim to sign a comprehensive document oriented toward long-term goals of our collaboration," Kazykhanov said. Another important work ahead is the transition to a simplified regime for travelling between the two sides, the minister said.

Kazykhanov underscored his country's interest in further implementation of the EU Strategy for Central Asia and commitment to maintain political dialogue at the highest level.

Roland Dumas, the guest of honour at the conference said that in many ways Kazakhstan is a part of Europe. "I notice a special identity of your country in every discussion that takes place in Paris and other European capitals," he said. "I have already decided that Kazakhstan's place is in Europe, and I am more than convinced of that today. Your geographical location, your roots, your Constitution, all of these show that Kazakhstan has a place in the European region," Dumas added.

Kazakhstan's Chairman of the Constitutional Council Igor Rogov highlighted the importance of the country's main law especially during the early years of statehood. Speaking of the political and legal aspects of Kazakhstan's partnership with the European Union and the Council of Europe, Rogov said the European experience is significant for Kazakhstan in its efforts to improve the institutional legal base.

In his statement, EU Ambassador to Kazakhstan Norbert Jousten went over the important milestones in the relationship between the EU and Kazakhstan. On the basis of the EU Strategy in Central Asia, the two sides have moved to a qualitatively new level of both bilateral and regional cooperation, he said. Our main goal is to expand and deepen areas of collaboration, Jousten added.

Ambassadors of France, Italy, Spain, Germany, the United Kingdom, and Turkey shared their experiences in the practical implementation of the treaties on strategic partnership and inter-governmental programmes on cooperation with Kazakhstan.

The attendees also discussed other areas of cooperation between Kazakhstan and the EU such as the inter-parliamentary dialogue, collaboration in human dimension, as well as cooperation in education, trade and economy, and energy. The second part of the Conference was devoted to issues of security and cooperation in the OSCE area.