«We Intend to Proceed Enhancing Close Cooperation with Kazakhstan» — the Head of the European Commission Delegation to Kazakhstan Norbert Jousten

By Muratbek Makulbekov

The European Union is the most important partner of Kazakhstan on provision of financial and technical granting aid. This year it is 15 years since the Delegation of the European Commission had been opened in Kazakhstan. On the eve of the anniversary the Head of the Delegation Norbert Jousten during the talk to our reporter told about their achievements and about their future plans

— Mr. Ambassador, please, tell us how did it all start and what has been achieved for 15 years of operation of the Delegation to Kazakhstan?

We have made a long way for these 15 years. In 1994 we started operating in a small room in Alma-Ata hotel, and now our Delegation has four offices. The Headquarters locates in Astana, cooperation department — in Alma-Ata and two regional offices — in Bishkek and Dushanbe. In general, the whole stuff comprises 82 people, and 52 of them work in Kazakhstan — 36 work in the office of Alma-Ata and 21 in Astana.

Our relations with Kazakhstan developed also similar way. Starting from the first treaties in textile and steel in the beginning of 90-s, we eventually came to the conclusion of full-value Treaty on Partnership and Cooperation between the European Union and Kazakhstan, which fully covers the aspects of our cooperation and is the document, containing legal obligations.

— Has the tempo of bilateral relations between the EU and Kazakhstan changed? Which is their dynamics?

With adoption of the strategy of the European Union on Central Asia in 2007, our relations have gained an additional impulse. In this strategy we fixed the fact that relations with Central Asia are important for the European Union, and that Kazakhstan and other countries of Central Asia are significant strategic partners of the EU. There they mention the spheres of interests, as regional stability, energy, transport, environment and fighting climate change, drugs trafficking and terrorism. The fact is proven again and again within the frameworks of various meetings at summit level, including the last Ministerial Meeting in Brussels this September with the participation of Foreign Affairs Ministers of Central Asia countries.

Relations between the European Union and Kazakhstan are also expressed in the scope of bilateral trade. The EU is the leading trade partner of Kazakhstan with goods turnover of 23 billion EURO for 2008. The Delegation actively promotes trade relations and mutual investments at political level for their further enhancement.

— What are your priorities in cultural sphere?

Our Delegation also gives great focus to the promotion of European values and approach of the EU peoples and Kazakhstan, to strengthen mutual understanding between them. As the example of the kind, I can outline the Days of Europe, which have already become a good tradition. Our Delegation arranges these days in Kazakhstan together with the embassies of the EU member-states. We hold this holiday in the cities of Kazakhstan, in order to give the people information on Europe, European countries and peoples, their traditions and culture. Previously we held the Day of Europe only in capitals, Astana and Alma-Ata, but starting from this year we’ve arranged the holiday in the regional center — Karaganda. We plan to hold the Day of Europe also in other regional cities of Kazakhstan.

Another opportunity to tell what the EU is and what it can suggest to the people of Kazakhstan is informational resources. We’ve opened two informational centers of the EU in Alma-Ata and Astana, and also European corners in 15 cities of Kazakhstan. Those who are interested can get there informative materials on the European Union, and also use e-resources also including the Internet network.

— It is known that the European Union is one of the leading donors of international aid in the world. How are the things going in this issue in Kazakhstan? Which projects do you accomplish here?

One of the main types of activity of the Representative Office is accomplishment of joint programs and projects on cooperation with Kazakhstan. The European Union is the main partner of Kazakhstan on granting financial and technical aid. We establish cooperation with a big number of partners in the country — states bodies, economic organizations and representatives of civil community. Over time Kazakhstan has gained more than 140 million Euro as grant aid to accomplish more than 300 joint projects. All the EU aid goes to Kazakhstan mainly through our Delegation. It’s worth to note, that the level of responsibility for financial management of this aid on behalf of the Delegation has also grown significantly for past years, as well as the obligations imposed towards us by the Headquarters.

What do we spend these funds for and which projects we support? First of all we work in the industries that are key ones for country’s development and enhancement of people’s quality of life. We have projects in the sphere of efficient state management, supremacy of law, economic diversification, energy and transport, as well as health care and education. Education is a very important sector, and we help to develop professional-technical training, also to accomplish our big programs in the sphere of higher education such as TEMPUS and Erasmus Mundus. Within the frameworks of Erasmus Mundus we are especially interested in students exchange programs.

We have established good contacts with partners from Kazakhstan, including those from civil sector. We give them grants and suggest that the presence of civil sector is very important for the development of democracy in the country.

Thus, except for bilateral cooperation with Kazakhstan we also hold regional initiatives in which Kazakhstan participates equally with other partner-states. Such initiatives cover the following spheres: energy and transport, control of borders and drugs trafficking. We have leading programs in these spheres, which are widely known and I can name several: INOGATE in energy, TRACECA in transport, BOMCA in borders security, CADAP on drugs fighting and CAREC in environment and water resources management.

— Mr. Ambassador, please tell us about your future plans? Which tasks does the Delegation set at the moment?

As for future, we intend to proceed strengthening of close cooperation with Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan is our most significant partner, and we hope for our further cooperation in political sphere, in trade and energy, investments, but also in the sphere of extension of human contacts between our people. We are sincerely interested in improvement of mutual understanding between peoples of the European Union and Kazakhstan and are sure in existence of political will in this issue of the both parties. With great interest we noted the adoption by the President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev of the national strategy «Way to Europe». We intend to assist by all means to the Government of Kazakhstan in accomplishment of the given strategy on the way to Europe.
Translated by EuroDialogueXXI from KazInform