Kazakhstan, EU Close to Completing Talks on New Partnership and Cooperation Agreement

ASTANA – Senior officials and diplomats from Kazakhstan and the European Union held what is expected to be the final round of negotiations on a new enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) between Kazakhstan and the EU in Astana from Sept. 9-12.

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Kazakhstan Deputy Foreign Minister Alexey Volkov (l) and Gunnar Wiegand, the European External Action Service (EEAS) director for Eastern Partnership, Russia, Central Asia Regional Cooperation and OSCE following their talks in Astana on Sept. 12

The PCA is meant to provide a framework for political dialogue between the parties, supporting the development of political relations, trade and investment ties in order to foster sustainable economic development. It also provides the basis for legislative, economic, social, financial, civil, scientific, technological and cultural cooperation.

“We have 29 areas of cooperation, including such important chapters as economy, trade and investments. The agreement does not mean a free trade area, but nevertheless, it is a substantial update for the economic relations of Kazakhstan and the European Union,” Gunnar Wiegand, the European External Action Service (EEAS) director for Eastern Partnership, Russia, Central Asia Regional Cooperation and Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) countries, told the media following the talks in Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “In addition, European Union companies are the largest trade investors in Kazakhstan,” he said.

Participants in this eighth round of negotiations noted that major work in the negotiating process had brought good results.

A key element of the new agreement, according to Kazakh Foreign Minister Erlan Idrissov, is a modernised trade and investment section that takes into account the development of the Customs Union and the Eurasian Economic Union, as well as Kazakhstan’s eventual accession to the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

“The new agreement will be comprehensive. It will reflect the existing mature and equal partnership between Kazakhstan and the EU, based not only on common interests, but also on shared values, on mutual understanding, mutual respect and mutual benefit. It should provide a solid basis for taking Kazakhstan’s cooperation with the EU countries to a higher level,” Idrissov said on Sept. 10 at a meeting with Wiegand at the Foreign Ministry.

During the talks, Kazakhstan and the EU also agreed that in addition to the new agreement, which will form the legal basis for cooperation, “road maps” and sectoral agreements to deepen cooperation in specific areas might also be developed. Idrissov noted that Astana attaches particular importance to the development of cooperation in innovations, science, education and competitiveness.

At a Sept. 12 press briefing following their talks with Wiegand, Kazakh Deputy Foreign Minister Alexey Volkov said, “Today we completed the talks which have lasted for more than three years – since 2011. Negotiations were not simple. Since Kazakhstan is not a member of the European Union, our legal frameworks are considerably different, but this agreement will bring our legislations closer to a common denominator.”

According to Volkov, the political and general parts of the negotiation process are completed, though a number of details remain to be solved in the working process, including the political, legal, technical and linguistic expertise of the PCA.

“Before the end of the year, we plan to come up with the final version of the agreement, which will be available for consideration by governments and parliaments in Kazakhstan and the European Union countries,” Volkov said.

“This agreement is a modern and dynamic document that corresponds to the modern realities of the partners. Kazakhstan and EU countries have excellent relations. I want to thank the Kazakh team and Mr. Volkov for the excellent work that we have done together since 2011,” Wiegand said. “We have completed the negotiations and believe there is no need to hold additional rounds as only a handful of issues remain unresolved. In the nearest future, we will finalise the text of the agreement.”

The new agreement is a mutual acknowledgement of the growing interest in establishing closer, privileged and mutually beneficial cooperation in all spheres, which will create a favourable climate for the active participation of European businesses and investments in the development of Kazakhstan’s economy, as well as open up new opportunities in various spheres.

At the press briefing, Wiegand commented on EU sanctions directed at Russia.

“We appreciate the efforts of Kazakhstan and a number of other countries for their contribution to de-escalating the crisis in Ukraine. The sanctions we directed at Russia are directed only at Russia… We do not have any direct and indirect sanctions on Kazakhstan, and we want to develop the full potential of our relations,” he stressed.

Over the past few years, the EU has been the leading trade and investment partner for Kazakhstan. In 2013, trade turnover between the partners amounted to $53.4 billion, and the volume of trade between Kazakhstan and the EU in the first half of 2014 was $28.4 billion, 54.7 percent of the total foreign trade turnover of the country.

Meanwhile, 49 percent of the foreign capital in the economy of Kazakhstan has European origins. From 1993 through the first quarter of 2014, the inflow of direct investment from the EU to Kazakhstan amounted $92.7 billion.

During the talks between Idrissov and Wiegand earlier in the week, Idrissov noted that the intensification of travel between Kazakhstan and EU countries and the growth of political, economic, commercial, cultural and business contacts between Astana and European capitals calls for the simplification of visa requirements. Idrissov stressed that Astana consistently works to facilitate visa regimes for citizens of Kazakhstan at the global level, especially in the Schengen Zone and Europe as a whole. He noted that the free movement of people is the key to further developing friendly relations.