After spending the end of September in New York, Kazakh Foreign Minister Erlan Idrissov travelled to Brussels the first week in October to attend conferences with European Union (EU) officials.
Working with Slovakian Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajč2ák, Idrissov co-chaired the 15th meeting of the EU-Kazakhstan Cooperation Council. The Oct. 4 session was the first following the signing and provisional application of the Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (EPCA) between the entities.
“The EPCA has a very big chapter dedicated to trade and economic cooperation. Europe is our main trade partner and the source of foreign investments. Therefore, this sphere has been outlined in the new agreement. Overall, the EPCA covers 29 spheres of interaction,” said Idrissov.
As its name implies, the Сooperation Сouncil provided an opportunity to discuss financial collaborations and the role of the newly-formed cooperation committee trade configuration, which will address import/export and economic/investment issues. The talks specifically noted simplifying the visa regime for Kazakh citizens traveling to the EU, identifying Kazakhstan as a market economy and the future subcommittee on customs cooperation.
“The potential of trade, economic and investment cooperation between Kazakhstan and the EU is far from being disclosed. The main objective of the established structures should be further development of this potential and assistance for the implementation of the EPCA,” said Idrissov.
The meetings included representatives of the Kazakh ministries of National Economy, Investments and Development, Energy and Justice, the National Security Committee and National Centre for Human Rights and the discussions touched on each of their areas of concern – environmental and human rights protection, political cooperation, the rule of law and good governance, internal reforms and combating new threats.
Similar topics plus Afghanistan, Iran, Ukraine and regional cooperation in energy, environment, water resources, border security and combating drug trafficking were on the agenda when Idrissov and his counterparts Erlan Abdyldaev (Kyrgyzstan), Sirodjidin Aslov (Tajikistan), Rashid Meredov (Turkmenistan) and Abdulaziz Kamilov (Uzbekistan) met with EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and European Commission Vice President Federica Mogherini. The sides discussed relations within the EU Strategy for Central Asia, initiated in 2007 and renewed in 2015 through 2020.
“Our cooperation with our partners in Central Asia covers a lot of areas, with an eye also on the security challenges. We share a common neighbourhood, we share deep links and that is why we are engaged more than ever in expanding and enhancing our relations,” said Mogherini, according to eeas.europa.eu.
Idrissov later participated in the 18th Berlin Eurasian Club with the theme “EU – Central Asia Energy Dialogue.” The talks, involving German officials and representatives of leading European companies in conventional and renewable energy, provided a segue for the Foreign Minister to speak about EXPO 2017, the future energy-themed international exposition to be held in Astana. He also spoke about his nation’s socio-economic reforms and priorities with the EU.
The Kazakh delegation participated the following day in the Brussels Conference on Afghanistan. Arranged by the EU and Afghan government and attended by representatives of more than 70 countries and 30 international organisations, the conference reviewed joint international and Afghan efforts to increase sustained global support and funding based on a new national development framework. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah presented their vision of the future and track record on reform.
Idrissov noted that Kazakhstan continues to provide political and practical support to Kabul. KazAID, the nation’s official development assistance agency, focuses on Afghanistan, including a pilot project to improve the economic independence and rights of women launched in August with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). Kazakhstan also provides university grants to young Afghans within the educational programme initiated by President Nursultan Nazarbayev in 2009.
Following the meeting, Idrissov announced Kazakhstan will allocate $2 million to support the projects of Afghan security forces, adding the country intends to focus on solving the problems of Central Asia, including the stabilisation of Afghanistan, during its 2017-2018 membership on the UN Security Council.