The Ambassador of Kazakhstan in Bucharest : “A solid foundation for further strengthening cooperation on all levels, with European countries and Romania in particular”
On May 1st 2016 some parts of the Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement started its provisional application between the Republic of Kazakhstan and the European Union. The Agreement was signed in Astana on December 21, 2015. President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev signed a law on the ratification of the agreement on the 25th of March 2016.
In accordance with the official notification of the European side, the provisions, which fall under the provisional application, are exclusively in the competence of the European Commission. They include cooperation in the field of foreign policy and security, democracy and the rule of law, economic and sustainable development, trade, energy, transport, environment, agriculture and other fields.
The agreement will entirely enter into force after the ratification of the document by the national parliaments of all 28 EU Member States. Until then, the Agreement on Partnership and Cooperation between Kazakhstan and the European Union signed in 1995 retains its force. Kazakhstan is the first Central Asian country to sign a second-generation agreement with the European Union.
The new agreement expands the horizons of collaboration to 29 areas and opens up new opportunities for cooperation between Kazakhstan and the EU in trade, economic and investment spheres, particularly in regard of Kazakhstan’s accession to the WTO and its membership in the Eurasian Economic Union.
According to the Ambassador of Kazakhstan H.E. Mr. Daulet Batrashev, “The new agreement with the EU provides a solid foundation for further strengthening cooperation on all levels, with European institutions, European countries and Romania in particular, and will be a catalyst for further political and economic modernization of Kazakhstan”.
“The European Union – the world’s largest economic union, a priority market for us, a source of investments and advanced technologies, best practices, and many values. We are convinced that the European Union is the best integration model that retains its relevance for the whole world and Kazakhstan in particular, to study
The new agreement with the EU fully corresponds to Kazakhstan’s national path, the implementation of the strategy “Kazakhstan – 2050”, new economic policy “Nurly Zhol”, the Nation’s plan “100 concrete steps” in implementing the five institutional reforms. We now can widely use advice and experience of our European colleagues on the issue of the diversification of the economy, the transition to “green” economy and improving of public administration”.
Kazakhstan is the first Central Asian country to sign a second-generation agreement with the European Union
On December 21, 2015, the European Union and the Republic of Kazakhstan signed their new Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (EPCA) in the Kazakh capital, Astana.
As a new proof that Kazakhstan intends to continue and deepen relations with the European Union , this new development in the relationship between Astana and Brussels took place in a year when this country joined the World Trade Organization (WTO). In fact, the two agreements are deeply inter-locked: the EPCA was signed only on condition and after Kazakhstan’s accession on WTO.
The EU and Kazakhstan signed the protocol on the completion of EPCA negotiations on Oct. 9, 2014 in Brussels in a ceremony that included European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev.
15 months later, the Foreign Minister of Kazakhstan Erlan Idrissov and EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini formally signed this new agreement (photo) that replaced the original one that has been in force since 1999, at a ceremony in the Ukimet Ui (Government House) in Astana. As emphasized by both sides, this milestone event has been considered as a significant step for both sides to advance relations and strengthen political and economic cooperation.
“The new agreement covers 29 areas of cooperation, ranging from political cooperation to investment, trade, infrastructure and areas such as innovation, culture, sports, tourism and law enforcement cooperation,” Idrissov said, speaking to a group of around 100 government officials, ambassadors from European countries and local and foreign media after signing the agreement. He emphasised that the trade section of the agreement attracts attention with its extensive details on. “In the development and harmonisation of these provisions, Kazakhstan was guided by its earlier commitments to the countries of the Customs Union, the EAEU and our membership in the WTO”.
Developing human capital is a priority of the EPCA, and will be done by enhancing cooperation in educational programmes and research activities, Idrissov added.
The EPCA is important also for EU-Central Asian relations, as it is the first agreement of this kind signed by the European Union and a Central Asian country. As such, it may well have positive impacts on the EU’s relations with other Central Asian countries.
“Kazakhstan has become the first of our Central Asian partners to conclude a new generation agreement with the EU,” said EU High Representative Mogherini at the signing.
The Agreement also emphasises democracy and the rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms, sustainable development and cooperation in civil society, Mogherini said.
She used the opportunity to emphasize that both political and economic ties between the two sides are already very important, very strong, especially the European Union being the first investor in Kazakhstan. “I am convinced that this Agreement represents a significant boost to our economic and political ties, in this way also preparing the ground for something more relevant for the whole region,” Mogherini added.
“For sure, the Agreement will serve to promote mutual trade and investments but it also puts a strong emphasis on democracy and the rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms and sustainable development as well as civil society cooperation. I am convinced that it will provide us with good instruments to improve our relations on all the different issues that it covers”.
Interestingly, the signing event of the EPCA in Astana on December 21 was held alongside the European Union-Central Asia Foreign Ministerial meeting hosted by the Kazakhstan’s Foreign Ministry.
Co-chaired by Mogherini and Idrissov, the 11th ministerial since the EU Central Asia Strategy was adopted in 2007, was attended by foreign ministers from Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan and deputy foreign ministers from Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.
From the EU perspective, observers note that the main significance of this event is the broadening of the agenda from a Kazakhstan-focused one to a wider Central Asian agenda.
This is related to the fact that the EU has recently decided to update its Central Asian strategy, which offers support and assistance to all five Central Asian countries on regional sustainable development (cooperation on energy, environment/water and socio-economic development) and regional security for development (integrated border management, the fight against drugs and crime, regional security).
During the meeting’s two sessions on cooperation, participants discussed international issues including migration, terrorism and religious extremism. According to Idrissov’s statement to the media, the updated EU strategy for Central Asia formed the foundation of the talks. The new strategy, with an increased budget of 1 billion euros, calls for deeper cooperation in areas including education, institution building, trade and investment, regional security and fighting terrorism.
Following the meeting, Idrissov told a press briefing the sides found the EU strategy valid, and that during 2016 the group would meet in Brussels to discuss its implementation.
Mogherini noted that the meeting was the first since the revised strategy had been adopted the past summer, and also her first EU-Central Asia Ministerial Meeting. She called the new strategy document “not just as a paper, but as a strong sign of political investment by all EU member states, by all European institutions, in the fact that we want to invest in a strategic partnership, in a strategic relationship with Central Asia.”
She also emphasised that Central Asia and the EU can benefit from enhanced cooperation in education, the environment, energy, trade and investment, security and countering radicalisation.
“We have discussed concrete options for countering terrorism and security cooperation and also some ideas on how to work together on one regional issue that is also a high priority for the European Union,
which is the situation in Afghanistan and how to continue to keep Afghanistan high on the international agenda,” said Mogherini.
She also emphasised that Central Asia and the European Union can benefit from enhanced cooperation in education, the environment, energy, trade and investment as well as security cooperation and stability and countering radicalisation.
Speaking about current economic challenges, especially with the drop in commodities prices, the EU High Representative explained that diversification and investments, especially in human capital and the innovation sector are necessary. In addition, Mogherini also highlighted the role of democratisation, which is, according to her, important for a strong society and its security.
During the sessions, the Kazakh Foreign Minister drew special attention to the reforms of Kazakhstan and to the recent 100 Concrete Steps domestic initiative of President Nazarbayev, called Plan of the Nation, to implement five institutional reforms. He also shared that Kazakhstan in the framework of the Nurly Zhol economic programme is developing transport infrastructure to link Central Asia with the rest of the world.
The previous EU-Central Asian Ministerial meeting was held in Bishkek in 2013, where participants discussed the implementation of the EU-Central Asia Strategy adopted by the European Council in 2007 as well as EU assistance for sustainable economic development in Central Asia and other regional issues.
Through the signing of EPCA, eight years since the EU-Central Asia Strategy was adopted by the European Council in 2007, Kazakhstan confirms its role of a key partner of the EU in Central Asia. From this position, it could contribute to the EU’s Central Asian strategy by helping Brussels broaden its agenda to other Central Asian Republics. Now that the EPCA instrument is in place—opening new ways for both sides to work on strengthening their cooperation, not only on trade and investments, but in many areas—observers believe that it could also open the way for new enhanced Partnership Cooperation Agreements with other countries in the region.