EXPO-2017 Commissioner and First Deputy Foreign Minister of Kazakhstan Rapil Zhoshybayev spoke to The Astana Times about the ongoing and wide-ranging process of preparations for biggest international events the country’s capital has ever seen.
A Kazakh delegation led by you recently defended the registration dossier of EXPO 2017 in Paris. Please tell us about that process and why that was necessary.
Yes, indeed, on April 24, we defended the registration dossier at the meeting of the Executive Committee of the International Bureau of Exhibitions.
Probably many are wondering why, having won the right to host the expo in Astana, we are still going through procedures, such as defending the registration dossier and getting the [International Exhibitions Bureau] BIE flag.
Any host country must strictly follow the procedures and regulations of the BIE. After all, responsibility for the timely and qualitative preparation for EXPO 2017 lies not only on Kazakhstan, but also on the BIE. Therefore, the host country must provide the registration dossier and defend it.
The registration dossier is the final plan on carrying out the exhibition, including the technical documents of exhibition facilities, blueprints, construction and engineering works schedule, etc.
Was the defense of the registration dossier difficult and what questions were asked?
It should be noted that the registration dossier was qualitatively prepared by the EXPO 2017 National Company and related government bodies.
As a result, we can say that we have successfully passed the exam. Members of executive committee unanimously supported our registration dossier and decided to submit it for approval by the 155th BIE General Assembly.
Symbolically, at the moment of defending the registration dossier, in Astana, [Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev] launched the construction of EXPO 2017 by laying a capsule at the opening ceremony. Then, April 24, 2014 was marked as the start of a special stage in preparation for EXPO 2017.
You mentioned the 155th BIE General Assembly. What is expected at this event?
On June 11, 2014 the official recognition of EXPO 2017 will take place in Paris. We will have the BIE flag and the right to formally launch full-scale efforts to attract participants to the exhibition and promotion of EXPO 2017 in the international arena. This is precisely one of the main objectives of my work as commissioner.
The letters of invitation on behalf of the President and the Prime Minister will be sent through diplomatic channels. We have already developed a work plan and travel schedule to attract participants.
The exhibition will be attended by more than 100 countries, more than 10 international organisations and various leading companies. The individual Participation Agreement will be signed in each country.
It is evident that you have established close working relations with the BIE. In March, BIE Secretary-General Vicente Loscertales visited Astana. Please tell us about the results of his visit?
Visits by the secretary general are a tradition and are held twice a year before the executive committee meeting and the general assembly.
During his visit, Mr. Loscertales had meetings with the heads of state bodies and departments, made a presentation at the Astana EXPO 2017 National Company and held a press conference at the Office of Central Communications, where he answered questions from the media.
He noted the importance of the project for innovative energy development, not only in the region but also in the world. Kazakhstan is building a city that is an example of sustainable development, and we need to consider projects as long-term investments. Therefore, everything which will be done at the expo will have a positive impact on the quality of life for all citizens.
Also, Mr. Loscertales shared his vision on the content of Kazakhstan’s pavilion, focusing not only on “Future Energy” topics, but also to show the culture, art, past and future of Kazakhstan. All recommendations of the secretary were taken into account.
We are truly grateful for all guidance the secretary general has given so far. Such visits contribute greatly to the preparation for EXPO 2017. We will continue to be in constant communication with the BIE to ensure we are moving in the right direction to successfully host EXPO.
The commissioner of EXPO 2017 is also tasked with attracting foreign visitors and tourists to Kazakhstan. With the exhibition, the importance of the tourism industry in the country is increased. What is being done to attract tourists and tourism industry development to Kazakhstan?
Undoubtedly, on the eve of EXPO 2017, the development of the tourism sector is of particular importance. The exhibition should become a locomotive for the development of tourism. In this direction, we work closely with the Committee of the Tourism Industry and the Astana EXPO 2017 National Company.
We all know that today we are facing problems of infrastructure development, the level of service, high prices for transport and accommodation. All these issues must be addressed in advance.
Currently, a draft of the Concept of Tourist Industry Development in the Republic of Kazakhstan until 2020 is being developed. Also, a working group on foreign participation in EXPO 2017 is acting under my chairmanship. We consider the preparations for the exhibition in Astana, an image accompaniment, attracting domestic and foreign visitors as well as organising their stay in Kazakhstan.
Our President has a strong focus on tourism development and adequate infrastructure.
Recently, at a meeting on the further development of the capital, the head of state announced that the infrastructure of the city would be significantly strengthened, including the construction of 4,000 apartments, new hotels, a Congress Hall, an “indoor city” as well as a complex of entertainment outlets.
Recently, our national air company Air Astana [was removed from a list of airlines that were restructured in flights to European Union countries]. This event will increase the number of international flights and expand their geography.
As for the high prices, we have plans to develop special packages for participation in EXPO 2017 with preferential prices for transportation and hotels.
Many foreign tourists complain about the difficulty of obtaining Kazakhstan visas. What steps are you taking to address this issue?
We are actively working on it. This year, we plan to gradually introduce a visa-free regime for the summer period for the citizens of some countries in Europe and Asia.
On an expected significant increase in flows of foreigners during EXPO 2017, [we are examining] the issues related to the introduction of a single electronic system. This system will integrate services for issuing permits, registration of electronic visas, consular fees, etc.
Today, we are also considering issues related to changing procedures for issuing visas to Kazakhstan electronically, which will significantly simplify the procedure of entry and exit of foreigners in our country and bring government services to a new level.
Recently, at the meeting on the further development of Astana, the President reiterated the importance of post-exhibition use. As known, after large international projects like EXPO, the Olympics, some facilities built specifically for these events sit idle and even fall apart because of the high cost to maintain them. What do you think? Won’t we face these problems in the future?
Yes, the question of post-exhibition use is under special control of the President. The President tasked the Astana EXPO 2017 National Company to provide workload objects after the great event.
Given international experience, all the EXPO 2017 pavilions, cultural and residential development and related buildings must take into account the most efficient use after the expo. This is noted in the registration dossier, which we defended in Paris.
We hope that after 2017, the exhibition area will be the new centre of Astana with unique, innovative buildings. The majority of objects will use green energy, including wind power, solar and other sources. Part of the complex will be the basis for Nazarbayev University, its students and scholars who will develop new technologies.
It is planned that the post-exhibition complex will have a positive impact on the economy of Astana and the whole country by attracting tourists, domestic and foreign investment.