ASTANA – The 13th meeting of the Cooperation Council between the EU and Kazakhstan took place on July 24th and reaffirmed the commitment of both parties to strengthen relations in a number of areas and to conclude a new Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement between the parties as soon as possible.
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania Linas Linkevicius, head of the EU delegation, chaired the meeting. Deputy Prime Minister Yerbol Orynbayev led Kazakhstan’s delegation.
The council discussed a number of issues including political reform, the rule of law and human rights, trade and economic relations, regional cooperation in Central Asia and current international issues. Sustainable water management in Central Asia was discussed, as well as security and energy issues in the region, and the council called on Central Asian states to seek fair and sustainable settlements to outstanding concerns. The council stressed the importance of regional cooperation on these issues and other matters affecting regional development and conflict prevention.
The EU delegation said it looked forward to Kazakhstan’s accession to the World Trade Organisation and said that would help boost trade and remove remaining trade barriers.
At a press conference after the meeting, Linkevicius said, “We agreed that development of relations between Kazakhstan and the EU so far has shown promising potential for a more strategic partnership,” and that matters had been discussed in the usual open and constructive atmosphere.
“EU underlined the importance of Kazakhstan as a reliable energy partner to the EU, as a supplier of oil. And in this context, we look forward in developing our bilateral ties,” he continued. Linkevicius also said the EU looked forward to the opening of the Kashagan oil field, a massive off-shore oil field due to start full-scale production this year.
In his statement, Orynbayev said that the council had agreed on their intention to bring EU-Kazakh relations to a qualitatively new level by continuing to negotiate their new Enhanced Partnership And Cooperation Agreement. He noted the next round of talks on that agreement would be held in Astana in October. Speaking to Kazakh journalists afterwards, he said, “We discussed the draft agreement on enhanced partnership and cooperation between Kazakhstan and the EU. The European Union supported the approach proposed by Kazakhstan on the new format of the agreement. It will be more systematic and improve the position of the document. We will be able to use the agreement as a platform for further elaboration.” He added that the current meeting had laid a solid foundation for a productive next round of talks.
At the press conference, Orynbayev stressed the importance of Kazakhstan’s trade relationship with the EU, its main trading and investment partner. “We have agreed to strengthen our cooperation in energy, aviation, transport as well as the removal of barriers in bilateral trade,” he reported. “In many areas we have positive results. For all questions, we have the support and understanding of the EU, so we and our European partners are actively working to strengthen our trade and economic cooperation.” Orynbayev also said that issues surrounding the withdrawal of coalition troops from Afghanistan next year was a topic of great importance for both sides.
Other participants at the Cooperation Council included Chief Operating Officer of the European External Action Service David O’Sullivan and EU Special Representative for Central Asia Patricia Flor.