A chance to showcase current and future collaboration between the #EU and #Kazakhstan

| May 16, 2019

Upcoming elections in the EU and Kazakhstan represent a chance to forge “ever closer” relations between the two sides, according to a Brussels-based Asia expert. European elections from 23-26 May and presidential elections in Kazakhstan on 9 June are an “ideal opportunity” to step up relations, writes Fraser Cameron, of the EU-Asia Centre.

In between the two polls, on 16th and 17th May, is the annual Astana Economic Forum (AEF) and this is also a chance, he believes, to showcase current and future collaboration between the EU and Kazakhstan.

More than 3,000 domestic and international economists, political leaders and civil society representatives are expected to gather in Nur-Sultan (formerly Astana) for the AEF. Approximately half of the participants will be delegates from more than 100 countries. The forum will address changes in global economies, the social sector, digital technologies, multiple industries and the unfolding Fourth Industrial Revolution. International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde, 2018 Nobel Prize Winner in Economics and World Bank Chief Economist Paul Romer are among the speakers.

Lagarde will take part in the plenary session about the new economy and Kazakhstan’s growing investment potential

The AEF was convened for the first time in 2008 in the midst of the worldwide financial crisis and has grown into an international platform that helps shape the global economic agenda.

Cameron, Director of the EU-Asia Centre, told this website that “the moment was opportune for a step up in EU-Kazakh relations.”

The former European Commission adviser added: “This summer there would be new leaderships on both sides and one could envisage a broader agenda focusing on connectivity.

“Kazakhstan is at the heart of both the Belt and Road Initiative and the EU’s connectivity strategy. It would be a boost also for EU-China relations if Brussels and Beijing could work with Kazakhstan partners to overcome some of the hold ups on infrastructure and digital commerce.”

Europe and Central Asia European External Action Service Deputy Managing Director Luc Devigne believes 2019 could be an important year for EU-Kazakhstan relations.

He was speaking in anticipation of the full entry into force of the Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (EPCA) between Kazakhstan and the EU. Other issues included strengthening the foundations for economic success and regional and security matters.

Pointing out that the EU is the largest investor in the economy of the country, he also believes Kazakhstan is an important partner. He spoke recently of the “high level of relations between Kazakhstan and the EU in the economic, political and cultural-humanitarian spheres” and noted that the Agreement on Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation signed in 2015 will promote further development. This, he noted, also coincides with Kazakhstan’s modernization plans.

Examples of close cooperation between the two sides includes the European Union ‘Enhancing Criminal Justice in Kazakhstan’ (EUCJ) project under which the EU provided 261 stationary computers and printers to improve the material and technical base of its probation service.

Kazakhstan has opened Central Asia’s largest solar power plant in Karaganda region, another example of current collaboration.

The project was led by stakeholders from EU members Czech Republic, Slovakia and Germany and attracted foreign direct investments totalling $340 million.

The EU is the country’s biggest trading partner and investor, each accounting for 50%, but oil makes up no less than 88% of all Kazakh exports to Europe.

Since its independence, there has been $300 billion foreign direct investment in the country but the “lion’s share” went to extractive industries.

Kazakh Prime Minister Askar Mamin met recently with the EU’s ambassador to the counry, Sven-Olov Carlsson, and others to discuss new approaches to investment co-operation. In 2018, foreign direct investment in Kazakhstan increased 15.8% to $24bn and foreign trade increased 20%. The sides discussed recently adopted approaches for attracting investment.

Annually some 100,000 Kazakh citizens travel to Europe for business, tourism and to study and, looking to the future, it is hoped that a visa facilitation scheme will further enhance such “people to people” contact.

All eyes now switch to the upcoming elections and the Forum where the main theme is ‘Inspiring Growth: People, Cities, Economies’.

Over the past decade, the Forum has gained recognition as a leading international conference addressing global economic and financial issues.

Participants will discuss new ways for sustainable growth, human capital development and capacity building in cities as international knowledge and innovation centres.

The 2 days will see global visionaries and leading international experts come together to discuss the most crucial issues facing the world economy and formulate solutions.

A spokesman for the organizers said: “The participation of such top politicians and experts in this year’s edition of AEF is not only an indicator of the growing interest in the event itself, but also of the readiness for open dialogue and mutual co-operation.”

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