Kazakhstan FM calls on European Union to expand presence in Central Asia

ASTANA (TCA) — The goals outlined in the Address of Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev to the people of Kazakhstan, entitled “New Opportunities Under the Fourth Industrial Revolution”, and the ongoing three-pronged modernization of the country’s political, economic and social life open up new frontiers of cooperation with the European Union in spheres such as economic digitalization, energy efficiency, and improved education, Kazakh Foreign Minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov said on February 22 at the opening of the international conference “25 Years of European Union – Central Asia Relations: From the Past to the Future” in Astana, the Kazakh Foreign Ministry reported.

Mr. Peter Burian, the European Union Special Representative for Central Asia, together with a delegation from the European External Action Service, public sector representatives, non-governmental organizations, the diplomatic corps, and experts from research centers and universities from Kazakhstan, Central Asia and Europe were among the conference attendees, which was organized as part of the process to update the EU Strategy for Central Asia first adopted in 2007.

In his address to the conference the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan, Kairat Abdrakhmanov, noted that “Kazakhstan supports the decision of the European Union to update the EU Strategy for Central Asia and is ready to make concrete proposals on its actualization”.

It is expected that this program document will be published by the middle of 2019. It will define the main priorities for further cooperation.

Kazakhstan proposes to focus on increasing the practical impact of the new EU Strategy for Central Asia by hinging the program document’s development on prioritizing the needs of the regional countries. In this regard, the development of private entrepreneurship, small and medium business, and transport and logistics infrastructure were identified as priority areas for cooperation.

“We suggest for the EU to develop new mechanisms that will help attract private European capital to various projects in Central Asia. This will open up new opportunities for European companies to enter the regional market and strengthen the position of the EU in the region,” the Foreign Minister said.

Other promising fields of cooperation are energy efficiency, educational cooperation, environmental protection, rational use of water resources and climate change. Taking into account the latest global developments, digitalization was also named as a special priority for cooperation.

Speaking about the development of the region’s transit and transport potential, the Kazakh Foreign Minister noted that Central Asia should not remain simply a transit hub. He called for using the experience and assistance of the European Union to achieve effective economic diversification in Central Asian countries and the creation of highly-demanded high-tech industries.

Kazakhstan believes that strengthening security and stability should remain an important priority for cooperation between Central Asia and the European Union.

The Foreign Minister appealed to the European Union to be more ambitious and expand its presence in Central Asia in order to increase the practical impact of interregional cooperation.

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Times of Central Asia