Kazakhstan - important partner for European Union

ANA, October 20. KAZINFORM./Muratbek Makulbekov/ With the adoption of the EU Strategy for Central Asia in 2007, our relations received an additional impulse - says in his interview, dedicated to 15th Anniversary of the EC Delegation's presence in Kazakhstan, Mr Horbert Jousten the Head of Delegation.

Your Excellency, we can already observe 15 years of EU delegation presence in Kazakhstan. What has been achieved within this period? Has the pace of bilateral relations between the EU and Kazakhstan changed during the last years?

It was a long way during these 15 years. In 1994 we started with one room in Almaty and now we have four offices. Our main office is in Astana, we have a cooperation office in Almaty and two regionalised delegations in Bishkek and Dushanbe. All together this makes 82 staff members and of this 82, 57 are in Kazakhstan. Among them 21 are expatriates; and 36 of them are located in Almaty and 21 are located in Astana.

Similarly, with the development of the Delegation also our relations evolved. From Agreements on textiles and nuclear safety we afterwards concluded a full-fledged Partnership and Cooperation Agreement which is all comprehensive in our relations and which is legally binding.

With the adoption of the EU Strategy for Central Asia in 2007, our relations received an additional impulse. With this strategy we documented that the relations with Central Asian are important for the European Union, and Kazakhstan and other Central Asia countries are important partners for the EU.  It mentions particular areas such as regional stability, energy, transport, environment and climate change, combating illicit trafficking and particularly drugs trafficking and combating terrorism. And this was emphasised again and again over the last high-level meetings, with the latest in September in Brussels where we have a Ministerial meeting with Central Asian foreign ministers.

The relations between the European Union and Kazakhstan are also documented by our high trade turnover. The EU is a Kazakhstan's main trade partner, with a turnover of €23 billion in goods in 2008. The delegation is actively promoting our trade relations and investments at a policy level with the aim to further increase trade and investment.

What are your priorities in the cultural sphere?

In the Delegation we are also very committed to promote the European values and to bring people of the European Union and Kazakhstan closer together. To have them know each other better. As one example of how we do that, I can mention that it has now become a custom that the Delegation organises a Europe Day in Kazakhstan. Together with the Embassies of the EU Member State that are present in Kazakhstan we go to the city of Kazakhstan and we show to the people of this city information about Europe, European countries and European people. We show their culture and their traditions. We did it mainly in the capital cities of Astana and Almaty, but this year for the first time we did it also in the oblast capital - Karaganda. And we also intend to do it in the other regional cities in the future.

Another way of explaining of what Europe is and what Europe could offer to people in Kazakhstan is related to information sharing through the Universities. We have opened two EU Information Centres in Almaty and in Astana and in 15 other cities of Kazakhstan we have opened EU Corners where students could find first-hand information about the European Union. We also provide there Internet access and electronic means to communicate with us as most of current information is of course channelled through the electronic means and Internet.

It is a well-known fact that the European Union is a leading donor of international aid in the world. What kind of projects you deliver here?

One of the main activities of the Delegation of a time has been implementation of our co-operation programmes and projects with Kazakhstan. And the European Union is Kazakhstan's grant provider since its inception. In this way we are co-operating with a large number of partners in Kazakhstan - public authorities, economic actors and civil society actors. Over time Kazakhstan has received financing for more than 300 projects from the European Union and this amount to not less than €140 million. All this EU support has mainly been channelled through the Delegation. It is also worthwhile to know that the Delegation's responsibilities in the financial management of all co-operation activities have been significantly increased and we have received more responsibility from our headquarters.

For what we use all these money and what kind of projects do we finance? We are supporting the kea areas to develop the country and to improve people's life. So, we have projects in the area of good governance, rule of law, economic diversification, we work in the environment field, in energy and transport and we are also active in the health sector and very important in the education sector. In the education sector we have projects that support vocational training, which is very important for the economic development of the country and we have also high-profile support programmes for higher education. These programmes are well-known under the names of Tempus and Erasmus Mundus. Under Erasmus Mundus in particular we favour the exchanges of students.

We have established a lot of good contacts with partners in Kazakhstan and particular with actors in civil society. We provide grants to civil society actors, and we think that strong civil society is very important for the democratic development of a country.

So, besides the national programmes for co-operation with Kazakhstan, we have also regional programmes in which Kazakhstan is involved. And these projects are: in the energy and transport area and in the border management and in the drug trafficking combating area. We have flagship programmes that are well known and I would like to quote few of them - INOGATE in the energy sector, TRACECA in the transport sector, BOMCA to support border management, CADAP to fight against drug trafficking and CAREC in the area of environment and water.

Your Excellency, what are your plans for the future? What goals your Delegation puts ahead for the coming years?

As far as the future is concerned, we are committed to continue our close relations with Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan is an important partner and we look forward to our close relations in the political field, in the trade field, in the investments field, but also in the people-to-people relations. We want really that Kazakhstan and European Union people come closer together and continue to know each other better and we are very confident that we can also count on a political will of the leadership of Kazakhstan. We noted with great interest that Kazakhstan's President Nursulatn Nazarbayev has adopted a national strategy called "Path to Europe". We are committed to work with Kazakhstan's authorities to implement this Path to Europe.

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