ASTANA – During the official visits of Kazakhstan’s Foreign Minister Erlan Idrissov to Spain on May 13 and Portugal on May 15-16, discussions about preparations for the upcoming EXPO 2017, in addition to other topics, were on the agenda.
During his visit to Spain, Foreign Minister Idrissov met with King Juan Carlos I, Senate President Pio Garcia-Escudero Marquez, Chairman of the Congress of Deputies Jesús Posada, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation José Manuel García-Margallo and the heads of leading Spanish companies.
Senate President Garcia-Escudero Marquez noted that Spain pays special attention to trade and business cooperation with Kazakhstan, stressing that the upcoming EXPO 2017 in Astana should give a new impetus to Kazakh-Spanish economic cooperation. Spain hosted the expos in Seville in 1992 and in Zaragoza in 2008. Local companies from the two cities are willing to share their experiences with Astana as it prepares for its duties as host.
In Spain, the foreign minister also discussed EXPO 2017 with Executive Director of the U.N. World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) Zoltan Somogyi.
During his visit to Portugal, Foreign Minister Idrissov held a meeting with President of Portugal Aníbal Cavaco Silva, Chairwoman of the Assembly (Parliament) Maria Estevesh, Minister of Foreign Affairs Paulo Portash and representatives of the leading business structures of Portugal. Portugal sees Kazakhstan as the largest player in its region and intends to develop economic cooperation, particularly in the spheres of oil and gas, the electronic industry and agriculture. Cultural partnerships were also discussed, namely the possibility of Kazakhstan’s artists holding exhibits and concerts. The simplification of the visa regime for citizens of Kazakhstan was also a subject. The foreign minister called on the Portuguese side for assistance in this matter on a bilateral basis and within the framework of multilateral negotiations with the countries of the Schengen zone.
Foreign Minister Idrissov visited the former expo village, Nations Park, in Lisbon, where the 1998 World Exhibition was held. Its motto was “The Ocean Heritage for the Future,” which resonates with the motto of EXPO 2017, “Future Energy.”
The World Exhibition in Lisbon was timed to the 500th anniversary of Vasco da Gama’s discovery of a sea route to India. Over 132 days, 11 million people attended the event. The Portuguese managed to retain the relevance of the expo village after the exhibition: the main pavilion devoted to the ocean became an oceanarium; a central entrance to the town turned into a supermarket.
To handle the inflow of tourists, one of the longest bridges in Europe, a new subway line and extra buses and taxies were added.
At present, the former expo zone is a modern district of the city with a population exceeding 20,000 people. The zone has a five kilometre territory and covers 50 hectares in the eastern part of Lisbon on the bank of the river Tagus.
Lisbon’s experience will be useful in constructing EXPO 2017 in Kazakhstan, as the future use of the EXPO 2017 pavilions of the exhibition should be considered today. The Portuguese side enthusiastically accepted Kazakhstan’s proposal to cooperate and exchange experiences in the preparation and holding of EXPO 2017 in Astana.
Astana and the theme of Future Energy were chosen for EXPO 2017 over its main competitor, the Belgian city of Liege last year. Kazakh authorities expect that the exhibition in Astana will be visited by five million people. President Nursultan Nazarbayev has declared 2017 the year of EXPO and a year of Chinese tourism in Kazakhstan.