Idrissov Promotes European Ties on Visit to Budapest, Brussels and London

HungaryASTANA – Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan Erlan Idrissov made a European tour visiting Hungary, attending EU-Central Asia meetings in Brussels and the United Kingdom, on Nov. 18-21.

On Nov. 18 and 19, while visiting Hungary, Idrissov discussed bilateral cooperation in politics, trade, economics and culture, as well as preparations for the 2014 visit of Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev to the country, with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. The two sides agreed that the visit will create a powerful impetus for the strengthening of bilateral relations.

Orbán noted that Hungarians have very warm feelings towards Kazakhstan and his country is “proud to follow the progress of brotherly Kazakhstan,” not only in economic, political and social spheres, but also in areas like sport, which are increasingly typified by victories like Kazakhstan’s outstanding performance at the Olympic Games in London.

Idrissov also promoted Kazakhstan’s business environment at a forum of Hungarian trade and business interests and signed a number of bilateral agreements.

Trade and economic cooperation was discussed at a meeting with the Minister of the National Economy, Mihály Varga. Varga said that he considers himself “half Kipchak” and that in his opinion, the common historical roots of the peoples of the two countries should promote the establishment of full and mutually beneficial economic cooperation between Kazakhstan and Hungary.

Idrissov and Varga then spoke at a forum attended by the heads of the Hungarian agencies responsible for trade and investment as well as leading Hungarian businessmen interested in cooperation with Kazakhstan. Idrissov told forum participants about the improvements in the business and investment climate in Kazakhstan. He also invited Hungarian companies to participate in the implementation of technological and infrastructure projects in preparation for EXPO 2017 in Astana.

Idrissov met Foreign Minister János Martonyi and President of the National Assembly of Hungary László Kövér on Nov. 19 and signed several bilateral agreements in various fields.

The next day, the Seventh European Union and Central Asian Ministerial Meeting took place in Brussels, where Idrissov represented Kazakhstan.

During the meeting, the foreign ministers discussed regional cooperation within the framework of the EU Strategy for Central Asia and identified prospects of further cooperation growth.

The ministers reviewed and discussed key EU initiatives for Central Asia aimed at reforming the judicial system, improving standards and quality of education and the environment and increasing turnover of mutual trade and investment flow.

Within the discussion on the rule of law, the participants discussed legal cooperation in the fight against terrorism, corruption and organised crime. In this context, Idrissov emphasised the progress achieved in Kazakhstan’s accession to six key European conventions on crime and anti-corruption. He called on the EU to support Kazakhstan’s initiative for further harmonisation of the national legislation in line with best international practices.

According to the Foreign Minister of Kazakhstan, one of the main areas of partnership with the EU is cooperation in innovation and technology and bringing these developments to Kazakhstan, as well as cooperation in education. He called on the EU to join the Green Bridge partnership programme by supporting the transfer of innovative green technologies to Central Asia. “We can find a drop-in solution for current regional issues if we apply innovative approaches to areas like energy and water resources,” Idrissov said.

Participants reviewed security issues in Central Asia, including the upcoming withdrawal of international forces from Afghanistan, the fight against new global threats and poverty and the promotion of development of the Central Asian states.

After the Ministerial Meeting, Idrissov held separate bilateral talks with the Chair of the General Discussion, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania Linus Linkevičius (Lithuania is the Chairman of the EU Council until Dec. 31) and EU Commissioner for Development Andris Piebalgs. They discussed EU assistance programmes to Central Asia, various aspects of political and economic cooperation, widening access to European airspace for Kazakhstan airlines, as well as the visa regime for citizens of Kazakhstan. Idrissov called on the European Commission to provide maximum assistance to negotiations between the Foreign Ministry of Kazakhstan and the EU institutions on visa issues.

“This is one of the most important topics. To receive Schengen visas in some European embassies, our citizens often undergo complex multi-level testing procedures. We would like to have a more active contribution from EU institutions on this matter,” Idrissov said.

On Nov. 21, Idrissov continued his tour and went to the United Kingdom where he started his visit by meeting Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Commons, Richard Ottaway.

During the meeting, Idrissov stressed Kazakhstan considers the U.K. an important political and economic partner. He also noted that inter-parliamentary cooperation is an important component of the political relations between the states and the regular contact between parliamentarians contributes to constructive dialogue on parliamentarism, legislative activity, the strengthening of the rule of law and civil society in Kazakhstan.

Ottaway, in turn, said Kazakhstan is a “state of growing importance,” and its ascent is known worldwide. According to him, thanks to timely reforms, Kazakhstan has managed to attract significant foreign investments and give a powerful impetus to the development of its economy.

At the meetings with British Foreign Secretary William Hague and Senior Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, they discussed a wide range of issues of bilateral cooperation in political, trade, economic, cultural and humanitarian spheres. The sides noted the positive dynamics of Kazakh-British relations that intensified after the recent visit of British Prime Minister David Cameron to Kazakhstan and have grown into a strategic partnership of unprecedented strength.

Investment cooperation has been an important topic. The parties agreed to continue to deepen cooperation in this field. Idrissov praised the fact that the U.K. is the third largest foreign investor in Kazakhstan. According to the National Bank of Kazakhstan, from 1993 to 2012, the total amount of direct British investments in the economy of Kazakhstan amounted to US$11.7 billion. The volume of trade turnover from January to June 2013 amounted to US$1.19 billion. At the same time, Idrissov drew attention to Kazakhstan’s interest in diversifying British investments and increasing their flow in the non-primary sector of the economy.

A separate topic on the agenda was the visa regime. The Kazakh foreign minister stressed that the people of Kazakhstan are interested in British visas and he called on his cpunterparts to ensure the issuance of visas in Kazakhstan, which today is carried out via a regional visa centre in Istanbul. The parties agreed to hold separate consultations on consular visa facilitation by the end of the year.

During the visit, Idrissov made a speech at the Chatham House Royal Institute of International Affairs on Kazakhstan’s foreign policy priorities, which was favourably commented on by British experts.

During his stay in London, the Foreign Minister opened a new building of the Embassy of Kazakhstan and also gave an interview to BBC TV and radio.