Kazakhstan, Germany reached high level of mutual understanding and share similar positions on current int’l issues - Y. Kazykhanov

Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan Yerzhan Kazykhanov has visited Belgium, Great Britain and Germany on July 18-20.

Today, the Foreign Minister addressed political and business circles of Germany in the capital of the country - Berlin.

First of all, I would like to thank the Koerber Foundation for this kind invitation to share Kazakhstan's vision on issues of bilateral relations and topical international issues.

In my address, I will cover four points:

Firstly, the domestic context of Kazakhstan's foreign policy

Secondly, Kazakh-German relations and relations with the EU

Thirdly, relations with Russia and China

Finally, I will conclude with some brief thoughts on relations between the West and the Islamic world

I look forward to having a discussion with you afterwards.  I certainly don't want to be doing all the talking!

Let me start with a few words about today's Kazakhstan.

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We have managed to develop in a timely fashion our own programme of actions aimed at countering the global financial and economic crisis.

As a result, in 2010 Kazakhstan's economy grew by 7 percent. The unemployment level in 2010 reached 5.5 percent (in 2009 it stood at 6.6 percent), the real incomes grew by 6.3 percent and the real salaries by 7 percent.

In 2010, Kazakhstan's position according to Doing Business ratings of the World Bank improved by 15 points, reaching 59th place. Kazakhstan for the first time headed the list of the top 10 countries, which have successfully implemented reforms to improve the business climate.

Kazakhstan's Strategic Development Plan until 2020 identifies the key areas of the country's modernization in the 10-year period. It deals with accelerated diversification of the economy, human capital development, favourable business and investment climate, quality public services and inter-ethnic harmony.

Kazakhstan has put forward its candidacy for hosting the World EXPO 2017 Exhibition on the subject "Energy of the Future". We believe this subject is very relevant and interesting for our European and, in particular, German partners.

Kazakhstan will celebrate the 20th anniversary of its independence this coming December.  We believe that we are continuing to make a significant contribution to strengthening regional and global security. The closure of the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site and the voluntary renunciation of the world's fourth largest nuclear arsenal was a historic decision of our country. In 2009, at Kazakhstan's initiative the UN General Assembly passed a resolution proclaiming August 29 as the International Day against Nuclear Tests

As you know, Kazakhstan became the first former Soviet republic and the first Central Asian nation to chair the OSCE.

The first OSCE Summit in the new millennium, held at the initiative of President Nursultan Nazarbayev, was an indisputable success of the Chairmanship and the whole Organization. We were able to prove the relevance and viability of the OSCE and to give a much-needed boost to its renewal.

The Astana Declaration adopted at the Summit clearly identified the new challenges and threats faced by the Organization, consolidated general understanding that the traditional area of responsibility of the OSCE has undergone serious changes and now encompasses a vast Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian space.

On 3 April this year Kazakhstan held an early presidential election, in which the incumbent President, Nursultan Nazarbayev, gained a clear-cut victory.

In his inaugural speech the President noted that the speed of our reforms is higher than in any developed country where democracy has been evolving over the centuries. We will continue our efforts on further democratization of the society, including strengthening the powers of the Parliament, improving the election process, promoting effective decentralization of power and delegation of authority to the regions.

We will continue developing a system of responsible and free media. We intend to take further steps to ensure the continued effectiveness of the judicial system and to continue an uncompromising fight against corruption.

Kazakh-German Relations. Since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1992, Kazakh-German ties have been developing successfully at a rapid pace. The intensive political dialogue at the highest level has been established, and the mutual interest in strengthening ties in security, energy and technology, trade and investment, science, culture and education has been growing.

The dialogue at the high and highest levels has also made quick progress. The Federal President of Germany visited Kazakhstan in September 2008, the President of Kazakhstan paid a visit to Berlin in February 2009, and in 2010 the Federal Chancellor visited Kazakhstan twice. including in order to participate in the OSCE Summit in December in Astana.

The visit of President of Bundestag Norbert Lammert to Kazakhstan on 12 October 2010 was the first visit of the head of the lower Chamber of the Parliament of Germany to Kazakhstan in the history of the Kazakh-German relations.

The rapprochement of our people and strengthening of cultural cooperation was promoted by the successful holding of the Year of Kazakhstan in Germany in 2009 and of the Year of Germany in Kazakhstan in 2010.

Today, Kazakhstan and Germany have reached a high level of trust, openness and mutual understanding, and share similar positions and evaluations on current international issues such as the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and the situation in Afghanistan. Kazakhstan supports the efforts of Germany to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council.

Today, Kazakhstan is the leading economic partner for Germany in Central Asia, while Germany is one of the main trade partners for Kazakhstan in Europe. The mutual trade turnover exceeded 5.2 billion Euros in 2010, registering a growth of 43 percent.

In the trade and economic sphere, we have laid a sound legal and institutional framework. In addition to the Intergovernmental Kazakh-German Working Group on Trade and Economic Cooperation (IWG), the Kazakh-German Business Council for Strategic Cooperation has been in operation since July 2010, bringing together the leading Kazakh and German economic structures and becoming a real bridge between businesspeople of both countries.

Kazakhstan is becoming increasingly important for European energy security. Our country is one of the three leading oil suppliers to Germany. We can increase our contribution to satisfying Germany's energy needs on the basis of significant further investment in our energy sector and continued introduction of advanced technologies as well as energy-saving policies and alternative energy projects. This is a very important area for future co-operation between Kazakhstan and Germany.

Kazakhstan and Germany also have the opportunity to develop significant potential in the cultural and humanitarian sphere. A successful example of the cooperation is the joint work on development of the Kazakh-German University (DKU) in Almaty. Due to the increasing number of Kazakhstan students a branch office of the Center for International Programmes "Bolashak" was opened in Germany in 2009. Since October 2010 the classroom "Kazakhstan and the Kazakh language" for all interested people was opened at the Humboldt University in Berlin. This is the first Kazakh project of its kind outside the CIS.

Another important link between the two countries are the citizens of Kazakhstan of German descent numbering 230,000, as well as over 900,000 ethnic Germans and former citizens of Kazakhstan now living in Germany and 1,000 ethnic Kazakhs. In order to support the interests of the German diaspora there is a Kazakhstan-based Kazakh-German Intergovernmental Commission for Ethnic Germans living in Kazakhstan.

 Kazakhstan is paying close attention to meeting cultural and linguistic needs of the German diaspora. There is an actively working association of Germans "Wiedergeburt" in Kazakhstan with 18 regional ethnic cultural associations throughout the country. German Sunday schools, and a German language nationwide newspaper and a TV channel work in Kazakhstan with support from the Government.

Relations with the European Union. This year the three year programme "Path to Europe" is nearing its completion. Over the past three years, we have signed Strategic Partnership Agreements with France, Italy and Spain. An Intergovernmental Action Plan within the framework of the Partnership for the Future was signed with Germany (2009), and the Year of Germany in Kazakhstan successfully concluded in 2010.

The European Union is the leading trading and investment partner of Kazakhstan. The EU accounts for 47 percent of the total foreign trade turnover of Kazakhstan and a third of investments attracted to our country. In 2010, the trade turnover between Kazakhstan and the EU totalled 38 billion dollars. The gross flow of direct investments from EU countries to Kazakhstan's economy since 2003 comprised more than 52 billion USD, including 10.8 billion in 2010.

We are working to further improve the investment climate for foreign companies. As an indication of this, we have taken the decision to work to introduce a visa-free regime for representatives of OECD member states that are major investors in Kazakhstan.

Accession to the WTO remains our strategic goal.

At the end of June this year negotiations on the new Agreement on expanded partnership and cooperation between Kazakhstan and the EU were officially launched in Brussels. Kazakhstan is the only country in the region, which has reached a qualitatively new phase of the dialogue with the EU due to its role as a regional leader and a generator of stability in Central Asia. On the EU side, such an agreement with a state outside of the united Europe will be the first one.

I also would like to discuss briefly some issues of regional and international nature. I will start with the situation in Central Asia. The tragic events in Kyrgyzstan in 2010 became a serious challenge for Kazakhstan as the Chairmanship-in-Office and the entire OSCE community. It was the OSCE that has played a key role in preventing civil war in the country, reducing the tension and returning the country to the legal framework.

Kazakhstan also supplied over 20 million dollars worth of humanitarian aid to Kyrgyzstan, including food, medicines and medical equipment as well as construction materials and fuel.

We will continue to provide the necessary financial, economic and other support both bilaterally and through a number of UN agencies.

During the visit of Kyrgyzstan's Prime Minister Almazbek Atambayev to Astana on 3 July, President Nursultan Nazarbayev expressed his support for the efforts of the Kyrgyz leadership to ensure political stability and national economic development. He also expressed confidence that the presidential election scheduled for October 30 will be held in a spirit of constructive cooperation and collaboration of all political forces in Kyrgyzstan.

Afghanistan. The stabilization of the situation in Afghanistan was one of the main priorities of our OSCE Chairmanship. We aimed to focus, first of all, on the humanitarian aid component.

At the initiative of President Nazarbayev, Kazakhstan is implementing an educational programme training 1,000 Afghan students in priority specialties at the universities in our country during 5 years. For this purpose, the Government of Kazakhstan has allocated 50 million USD. In September of this year these universities will receive another group of 195 Afghan students.

As they gradually withdraw their troops from Afghanistan, the countries of the international coalition should do their best to leave a positive legacy in Afghanistan and reorient the Afghans to peaceful and productive life.

Astana positively assesses the Berlin process for Afghanistan. We hope the International Conference on Afghanistan scheduled for December in Bonn will be successful.

In mid-June, Astana hosted a meeting of the Heads of State of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). Although the Organization is aimed at maintaining security and fighting terrorism and extremism, the SCO is not a military alliance. The main emphasis is on trade and economy. That is why several countries wish to become members or to gain an observer or partner status of the SCO. These include India, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Mongolia and Belarus. Today we can easily say that the SCO has become a pillar of the emerging security system in Central Asia and a major factor in the international security system.

Kazakh-Russian Relations. Russia is our largest trading partner and military and political ally. Our relations with Russia are also strengthened within the framework of the Customs Union (customs control at the borders of three countries was abolished from 1 July) and the Common Economic Space (will be launched from 1 January 2012). The first results of the Customs Union show that the trade turnover of Kazakhstan with its partners in the Customs Union in 2010 increased by 28 percent to 16.5 billion USD, and comprised 18.5 percent of the total turnover of Kazakhstan.

At the core of our integration lies an obvious pragmatic interest. Suffice it to say that the participation in the Customs Union provides Kazakhstan with access to European consumers on internal Russian tariffs. At the same time, our partners get access to a market of 165 million people.

Kazakh-Chinese Relations. The border issues which we inherited as a historical legacy have been settled between our states. The Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Good Neighbourly Relations was signed and relations of strategic partnership were established.

You will be interested to know that in June this year during the seventh visit of President Hu Jintao to Kazakhstan the twenty fifth meeting of the leaders of Kazakhstan and China has been held. Last year the bilateral trade volume exceeded 20 billion and China was ranked first in exports from Kazakhstan.  So this is a fast-growing and successful relationship.

We attach strategic importance to implementing joint projects in the energy sector: the second phase construction of the Kazakh-Chinese gas pipeline "Beineu-Bozoy-Shymkent", the expansion of the capacity of the Kazakh-China oil pipeline, and the upgrade of refineries and Moynak hydro-electric power station. A key project of the Kazakh-Chinese cooperation was the construction of the Western China - Western Kazakhstan highway about 2,800 km in length. It will become a part of the China-Russia Transcontinental Railway more than 8,000 kilometres in length.

I would like to particularly note the cooperation in the non-primary sector. The construction of an aluminum plant, a plant for bitumen production in Aktau, a polypropylene production complex, etc. is underway.

Speaking about Kazakhstan's approaches to assessing global trends, I cannot avoid the issue of relations between the West and the Islamic world. Some parts of western public opinion have been infected by the myth of the hostility of Islam to Western cultural values, and the inability of the Muslim mindset to embrace innovation and progress. The Islamic Ummah today represents more than two billion people, a quarter of the mankind and 70 percent of the world's natural resources. At the same time, the share of Muslim countries in global GDP is only 7.5 percent and only 11 percent in the world trade.

As a country with a majority Muslim population that is both in Europe and Asia, we feel that we understand these issues well.  Kazakhstan believes Islam needs radical modernization, especially in the technological, scientific and economic fields. The issue of adapting Muslim societies to modern realities is quite topical. It relates to respecting human rights and freedoms, gender equality, tolerance and more. Is it possible to introduce the abovementioned to Islam? We can confidently answer "yes". The example of Kazakhstan as a Muslim country with a European consciousness convincingly refutes any stereotypes. It was the main point of the message of President Nazarbayev at the recent 38th Session of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Astana.

I want to stress that Kazakhstan, as the Chairman of this global organization, intends to fill its activities with specific actions. At our initiative, the Organization received a new name - the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation. We strive to avoid confrontation, disunity of the Islamic world, to show the world that Islam and extremism are incompatible, and the true causes of the general backwardness of Muslim countries have economic and social origin. Kazakhstan intends to focus on further promotion of interfaith, intercultural and interethnic dialogue as a barrier to terrorism, extremism, racial and religious intolerance.

I take this opportunity to remind you that Germany has the unique experience of interaction with the Islamic world. Hundreds of thousands of Muslims from around the world have found their second home here and become full-fledged members of the society. We are ready for constructive cooperation with our German colleagues, not only through state agencies but through actively engaging civil societies to combat Islamophobia.

I thank you for your attention.