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EU and Kazakhstan have committed to 'further strengthening' bilateral relations between the two sides

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The pledge came following a meeting in Brussels on Monday (10 May) of the Co-operation Council, the body that oversees EU/Kazak relations, writes Colin Stevens.

The EU said it “looked forward” to the first official visit of President Tokayev to Brussels.

The Co-operation Council, the 18th to be held, reviewed the progress made in the implementation of EU-Kazakhstan Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (EPCA), which entered into force on 1 March 2020.

After the meeting Kazakhstan's Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Mukhtar Tileuberdi and Augusto Santos Silva, minister of state and minister for foreign affairs of Portugal held a joint press conference.

Tileuberdi, who led the Kazak delegation, told reporters, “This meeting was a welcome chance to discuss, in person, the strength of our relationship with the EU and new opportunities presented by this Agreement.

“The EU continues to be our largest trading partner, accounting for nearly half of our for trade and investment and I hope thiswill continue because the new Agreement will open up 29 areas of co-operation.”

He added: “We are also ready to create ‘most favourable economic’ conditions for European companies in Kazakhstan.We also want to strengthen people to people contact, another important item on our agenda, and hope to facilitate a visa regime for Kazak citizens wishing to visit Europe, which is also high on our agenda. We hope to launch discussions soon on this issue.

“We also discussed the ongoing economic and social reforms initiated by our president which demonstrate our continued commitment to strengthening a range of issue, including human rights. We also noted the importance of  our target of achieving carbon neutrality.”

He said: “In general, implementation of the Agreement marks a  new stage in our relations with the EU and will pave the way for new opportunities.  I reiterate our firm commitment to continue these close contacts.”

Speaking alongside him, Santos Silva said: “We have a very constructive and fruitful discussions. Our relations have progressed  steadily through continued exchanges in the Cooperation Committee, subcommittees and dialogues.Kazakhstan remains our main trading partner in central Asia and trade, even in this most difficult of years, has consolidated.”

The minister, who chaired the meeting, noted, “We also discussed good governance, human rights and engagement with civil society. The EU strongly supports Kazakhstan in its reform and modernisation process and hopes that these will be effectively implemented.

“We look forward to further strengthening our bilateral relations and the EU looks forward to 1st official visit of the Kazak president when conditions allow.”

In relation to trade, even in a year as difficult as 2020, the EU has consolidated its position as Kazakhstan’s first trade partner and first foreign investor. Total EU-Kazakhstan trade reached €18.6 billion in 2020, with EU imports worth €12.6bn and EU exports €5.9bn. The EU is by far Kazakhstan's first trading partner overall, representing 41% of total Kazakh exports.

The EU welcomed the progress made in the framework of the high-level platform for dialogue between the Kazakhstan Government and the EU on economic and business matters (Business Platform), launched in 2019 and chaired by the Prime Minister, Askar Mamin. The platform acknowledges the importance of the EU in Kazakhstan's external trade, and discussions on a range of issues contribute to attract more investment in Kazakhstan.

The Co-operation Council meeting on Monday also provided an opportunity for reinforced political dialogue and the EU welcomed Kazakhstan’s ratification of the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

A council spokesman told this website that the European Parliament Resolution on Human Rights, adopted in February, was discussed, and Kazakhstan’s recently announced third stage of political reform aimed at further democratisation of society. The EU stressed the importance of “tangible results”, in particular in addressing obstacles to the independence of lawyers, freedom of expression, as well as freedom of assembly and association, including trade unions, independence and pluralism of the media and a thriving civil society. The EU, said the spokesman, “continues to advocate for the criminalization of domestic violence”.

The EU, he said, appreciates Kazakhstan’s offer to host the third EU-Central Asia Civil Society Forum to take place in Almaty later this year.

The Council welcomed Kazakhstan's Green Agenda and the EU said it looks forward to the EU-Kazakhstan Climate Conference on 3 June, in Nur-Sultan, and joint work towards the COP26 on climate, especially in light of President Tokayev’s pledge for Kazakhstan to become climate neutral by 2060.

The two sides also discussed recent developments as regards Central Asian regional cooperation and the EU thanked Kazakhstan for its active role in promoting peace, stability and security in the wider region, including with Afghanistan. Regional security was also discussed, including border management, counter-terrorism and the fight against drug trafficking.

In the margins of the meeting, Tileuberdi had a bilateral meeting with the EU High Representative, Josep Borrell, where they discussed EU-Kazakhstan relations, including human rights, as well as regional and international developments and cooperation. Tileuberdi also met with European Union Special Representative for Human Rights, Eamon Gilmore.

Belgium

Iranian Opposition rally in front of US embassy in Brussels to ask US and EU for a firm policy towards Iranian regime

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Following the G7 summit in London, Brussels hosts the NATO summit with US and EU leaders. It is the first trip of President Joe Biden outside the US. Meanwhile, the Iran deal negotiations have started in Vienna and despite the international efforts to return Iran and the US to compliance with the JCPOA, Iranians regime showed no interest to return to its commitments under JCPOA context. In the recent IAEA report, important concerns have been raised that the Iranian regime failed to address.

The Iranian diaspora, supporters of the National Council of Resistance of Iran in Belgium, held a rally today (14 June) in front of the US embassy in Belgium. They held posters and banners with the picture of Maryam Rajavi, the leader of the Iranian opposition movement who has declared a non-nuclear Iran in her 10-point plan for the free and democratic Iran.

In their posters and slogans, Iranians asked the US and the EU to work harder to hold the mullahs’ regime accountable for its human rights violations too. The protesters emphasized the need for a decisive policy by the US and the European countries to harness the mullahs’ quest for a nuclear bomb, stepped up repression at home, and terrorist activities abroad.

According to the new IAEA report, despite the previous agreement, the clerical regime refuses to answer IAEA questions on four disputed sites and (to kill time) has postponed further talks until after its presidential election. According to the report, the regime's enriched uranium reserves have reached 16 times the limit allowed in the nuclear deal. The production of 2.4 kg of 60% enriched uranium and about 62.8kg of 20% enriched uranium are of grave concern.

IAEA Director-General Rafael Grossi said: Despite agreed terms, “After many months, Iran has not provided the necessary explanation for the presence of the nuclear material particles…We are facing a country that has an advanced and ambitious nuclear program and is enriching Uranium very close to weapons-grade level.”

Grossi’s remarks, also reported by Reuters today, reiterated: “The lack of clarification of the agency’s questions regarding the accuracy and integrity of Iran’s Safeguard Declaration will seriously affect the agency’s ability to ensure the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program.”

Maryam Rajavi (pictured), the President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), said that the recent report of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the remarks by its Director-General once again show that to guarantee its survival, the clerical regime has not abandoned its atomic bomb project. It also shows that to buy time, the regime has continued its policy of secrecy to mislead the international community. At the same time, the regime is blackmailing its foreign interlocutors into lifting sanctions and ignoring its missile programs, export of terrorism, and criminal meddling in the region.

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Brexit

Ex-EU Brexit negotiator Barnier: UK reputation at stake in Brexit row

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Head of the Task Force for Relations with the UK, Michel Barnier attendsthe debate on EU-UK trade and cooperation agreement during the second day of a plenary session at the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium April 27, 2021. Olivier Hoslet/Pool via REUTERS

Michel Barnier, the European Union's former Brexit negotiator, said on Monday (14 June) that the reputation of the United Kingdom was at stake regarding tensions over Brexit.

EU politicians have accused British Prime Minister Boris Johnson of not respecting engagements made regarding Brexit. Growing tensions between Britain and the EU threatened to overshadow the Group of Seven summit on Sunday, with London accusing France of "offensive" remarks that Northern Ireland was not part of the UK. Read more

"The United Kingdom needs to pay attention to its reputation," Barnier told France Info radio. "I want Mr Johnson to respect his signature," he added.

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coronavirus

Parliament president calls for a European Search and Rescue Mission

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European Parliament President David Sassoli (pictured) has opened a high-level interparliamentary conference on managing migration and asylum in Europe. The conference focused particularly on the external aspects of migration. The president said: “We have chosen to discuss today the external dimension of migration and asylum policies because we know that only by tackling the instability, crises, poverty, human rights violations that occur beyond our borders, will we be able to address the root causes that push millions of people to leave. We need to manage this global phenomenon in a human way, to welcome the people that knock on our doors every day with dignity and respect.
 
“The COVID-19 pandemic is having a profound impact on migration patterns locally and worldwide and has had a multiplier effect on the forced movement of people around the world, especially where access to treatment and healthcare is not guaranteed. The pandemic has disrupted migration pathways, blocked immigration, destroyed jobs and income, reduced remittances, and pushed millions of migrants and vulnerable populations into poverty.
 
“Migration and asylum are already an integral part of the external action of the European Union. But they must become part of a stronger and more cohesive foreign policy  in the future.
 
“I believe it is our duty first of all to save lives. It is no longer acceptable to leave this responsibility only to NGOs, which perform a substitute function in the Mediterranean. We must go back to thinking about joint action by the European Union in the Mediterranean that saves lives and tackles traffickers. We need a European search and rescue mechanism at sea, which uses the expertise of all actors involved, from Member States to civil society to European agencies.
 
“Second, we must ensure that people in need of protection can arrive in the European Union safely and without risking their lives. We need humanitarian channels to be defined together with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. We must work together on a European resettlement system based on common responsibility. We are talking about people who can also make an important contribution to the recovery of our societies affected by the pandemic and demographic decline, thanks to their work and their skills.
 
“We also need to put in place a European migration reception policy. Together we shoulddefine the criteria for a single entry and residence permit, assessing the needs of our labor markets at a national level. During the pandemic, entire economic sectors came to a halt due to the absence of immigrant workers. We need regulated immigration for the recovery of our societies and for the maintenance of our social protection systems.”

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