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Kazakhstan seeks closer links both with Europe and within Central Asia




The deputy foreign ministers of Central Asian countries and the Deputy Secretary-General of the European External Action Service have held a High-Level Political and Security Dialogue in Brussels. They discussed the joint road map for deepening ties between Central Asia and the EU, touching on transport, trade, economic, energy and climate relations, as well as common security challenges related to the situation in Afghanistan, writes Political Editor Nick Powell.

Kazakh Deputy Foreign Minister, Roman Vassilenko, said afterwards that in today’s Central Asia, all five countries in the region “are all leaders, we work as a team”, although a Commission source identified Kazakhstan as the most active in building ties with the European Union, having implemented a comprehensive trade and cooperation agreement with the EU.

The Deputy Foreign Minister said it is important that the expanding trade route across Kazakhstan not only links Europe and Asia but has branches running between north and south that include all Central Asian countries, so that none are left behind. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, they had traded less with one another but that was changing, with intra-regional trade doubling in value over six years.

The development of the Trans-Caspian route, also known as the Middle Corridor or the New Silk Road is too often discussed as if it was only about transit between China and Europe and not also about trade between Central Asia and the EU. Kazakhstan has most of the rare earth metals that are essential to the green transition. Roman Vassilenko said it was important to process those natural resources in his country, making their shipment to Europe more economically viable by increasing their value.

Another area of huge opportunity is Kazakhstan’s vast agricultural potential, with only half of its 200 million hectares are productive land currently in use. The minister stressed that it was environmentally friendly production, notably of grain but also of other products, such as honey and meat, where Kazakhstan was working on the organic certification that European consumers expect -and EU rules require.

He said Kazakhstan is also on course to produce two million tonnes of green hydrogen annually by the early 2030s, which is about 20% of the European Union’s expected requirement. The sheer size of the country also gives it the capacity to produce cost-effective solar and wind power.


A youthful and educated workforce, with high female employment, is also important factor and Roman Vassilenko urged the EU to use its soft power advantage. He said Kazakhstan is grateful to the European Commission and to member states for moving ahead with preparations for negotiations on visa facilitation. There was no migration risk for Europe but rather an opportunity to open up to tourism and study.

Taneli Lahti, the head of cabinet of the European Commissioner for International Partnerships, has offered the assessment that there is enormous economic, political and cultural potential in the European-Kazakh relationship. An era of rapid realignment of global supply chains is giving Kazakhstan an opportunity and the EU’s Global Gateway initiative is not just about infrastructure but about people-to-people contact.

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