Kazakhstan Foreign Minister Erlan Idrissov visited the Lithuanian Republic on Jan. 27 where he met with top country officials to discuss bilateral relations as well as ties with the European Union.
In Vilnius, Idrissov met with Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė, Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius, Head of Seimas Loreta Graužinienė, as well as Minister of Foreign Affairs Linas Linkevičius.
According to Kazakhstan’s foreign ministry, Lithuanian leaders support Astana’s desire to expand cooperation with Europe on both bilateral and multilateral levels. As an important outcome of the Vilnius talks, Lithuanian officials reassured of their commitment to facilitate Kazakhstan’s collaboration with the European Union, including in areas such as signing an enhanced partnership and cooperation agreement between Kazakhstan and the EU, the country’s accession to the World Trade Organisation (WTO), economic and investment cooperation, as well as easing of the Schengen visa regime for Kazakhstan citizens.
Idrissov drew special attention during his meetings to the latter question. He underscored that easing the pan-European visa regime and eventually eliminating visa requirements for Kazakhstan citizens would become a catalyst for cooperation in all spheres, including entrepreneurship, tourism, education and investments.
The introduction of a visa-free regime with Schengen area states is not an easy issue and requires extensive coordinative procedures, signing a range of bilateral and multilateral agreements, as well as reaching a consensus resolution of all member states of the single pan-European visa area. Kazakhstan is preparing the documents to make this change. According to Idrissov, it is hoped the European partners “will also do away with stereotypes and offer an unbiased evaluation of the progress Kazakhstan has made as an established state, which does not pose any risks, be it in the areas of migration or security.”
During the meetings, Lithuanian officials noted Kazakhstan’s progress in various areas, including the prospective hosting of EXPO 2017 in Astana, which, in their view, became “a major political victory” and an acknowledgement of Kazakhstan’s international reputation. Idrissov also briefed his Lithuanian partners on the Kazakhstan 2050 strategy, the main aspects of the recent state-of-the-nation address, as well as plans on industrial and innovative development and the greening of the country’s economy.
The growing trade turnover between Kazakhstan and Lithuania was also noted as an important factor. In January-November 2013, bilateral trade grew by almost 25 percent, reaching $700 million. Officials on both sides noted that trade and economic cooperation are not being utilized to their full extent and agreed to increase efforts to promote ties in transport, logistics, agriculture and tourism, education and healthcare.
Transit and transport cooperation is of special interest to both sides. In this respect, Lithuanian officials expressed a desire for Kazakhstan businesses to more actively exploit the potential of the Klaipeda port and their country’s railways, including increasing shipments from Kazakhstan in the frames of the Baltic Wind and Saule projects. Interestingly, the latter name has similar meaning – “sunlight” in Kazakh and “sun” in Lithuanian, – although the languages belong to different language groups.
In turn, Idrissov underscored Kazakhstan would welcome expanded cooperation in agriculture. Kazakhstan is specifically interested in Lithuania’s advanced experience in agriculture processing and modern agricultural management technologies.
Kazakhstan “is seriously determined to bring its agriculture to a new level,” and participation by Lithuanian entrepreneurs in these efforts would contribute to reaching the goal, Idrissov said.
The parties agreed to continue their dialogue across the spectrum of cooperation and as part of preparations for the upcoming visit of Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius to Astana in 2014. They also agreed to work on an effort to organise a trip by Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev to Vilnius.
During Idrissov’s visit, a plan of action on cooperation for 2014-2015 was also signed between the ministries of foreign affairs of the two countries.