BRUSSELS – Kazakhstan and the European Union completed talks over an expanded Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) in Brussels on Oct. 9 during the visit of the President of Kazakhstan to the seat of the European central bodies. Documents on the completion of bilateral negotiations between Kazakhstan and the EU regarding Kazakhstan’s accession to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) were also signed during the visit.
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan Erlan Idrissov and Chief Executive Officer of the European External Action Service David O’Sullivan signed the joint document on the completion of negotiations on the draft Agreement on Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation between Kazakhstan and the EU. The agreement will strengthen the current relationship in 29 areas of cooperation, including economics, trade and investment. It renews a similar agreement signed in 1995 and enacted in 1999. The agreement also covers such broad questions as legal compatibility, freedom and security, personal data protection and visa procedure facilitation.
President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev and President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso held numerous talks during the course of Nazarbayev’s official visit to Brussels.
“Today, Mr. Barroso and I officially confirmed the completion of negotiations on a new expanded partnership and cooperation agreement between Kazakhstan and the European Union. We also signed and initialled a document that says that Kazakhstan and the European Union resolved their issues on [Kazakhstan’s] WTO accession. These two documents are highly anticipated, very important for our country,” Nazarbayev said.
“We raised the issue of a new agreement in 2006. The last 3-4 years saw active negotiations in this direction, which were successfully completed. Kazakhstan is the only country in Central Asia to sign a second-generation agreement with the EU. This indicates that our relations have reached a qualitatively new level, and emphasises the strategic nature and maturity of our partnership,” he added.
“Kazakhstan is an important partner for the EU. I can confidently say this is a successful completion of three years of negotiations on a new partnership and cooperation agreement,” Barroso commented.
The new agreement is 280 pages long, 180 of which are dedicated to the chapter on trade, a particular interest for Kazakhstan today.
The new agreement will now be put to a legal consultation. The document is to be translated into all the languages of the EU countries and a process of initialisation will begin, in which the parties will sign each page of the agreement.
The new agreement consolidates the expansion of trade and investment flows, political issues, the prospects of Kazakhstan’s accession to the WTO and other questions. It also places greater emphasis on common security threats. Since 2013, Kazakhstan has cooperated with the EU on security issues in the high-level EU–Central Asia dialogue, which focuses especially on Afghanistan’s stability.
The head of the European Commission noted that recent years have strengthened partnerships between the two countries and contacts have become more frequent and significant.
“Kazakhstan is today an important partner for the EU, not only on trade and economic exchanges, but also for promoting peace and security in the wider region. And our cooperation is expanding. This agreement will greatly facilitate stronger political, economic and strategic relations as well as the flow of trade, services and investment between Kazakhstan and the EU, and contribute to Kazakhstan’s political, rule of law and economic reform, as well as modernisation and prosperity,” Barosso said.
According to Barroso, the new agreement, in addition to its political importance, will bring tangible benefits to people and companies in both EU and Kazakhstan in three ways: by further enhancing what is already a growing economic relationship, by further promoting energy cooperation and by contributing to the expansion of people-to-people contacts.
Over the past decades, the EU has become Kazakhstan’s first trade partner in the world, as well as its first foreign investor with half of total FDI in Kazakhstan, the President of the European Commission said.
Trade turnover between Kazakhstan and Europe reached $28 billion since the beginning of the year, almost 55 percent of Kazakhstan’s foreign trade.
“This will only increase in the future,” Barroso added.
He praised the completion of talks over Kazakhstan’s accession to WTO, and explained, that “the process is not over yet as Kazakhstan will have to continue negotiating with the other WTO partners but today the EU confirms that we have closed our bilateral issues with Kazakhstan and we are showing how supportive we remain of Kazakhstan’s WTO accession.”
According to Barroso, “the PCA and Kazakhstan’s WTO accession are part and parcel of the same logic of political and economic diversification and further integration of the Kazakhstan’s in global affairs.”
The second way the new PCA will be used is to enhance the energy cooperation. “Kazakhstan is a very important and reliable energy partner for the EU, now supplying around 5-6% of EU oil demand,” Barroso said. In an Oct. 8 opinion published in the Wall Street Journal Europe, President Nazarbayev argued the same thing, stressing that Kazakhstan already is the third largest non-OPEC energy supplier to Europe behind Russia and Norway.
“This new agreement includes a chapter on raw materials and energy with provisions that go beyond WTO and Energy Charter Treaty commitments,” Barroso commented.
The third specific way the new agreement will benefit the signatories is by improving people-to-people contacts. “The EU Visa Code, in force since April 2010, already simplifies the issuance of short stay visas for citizens of Kazakhstan travelling to the EU. And we are happy to advance our cooperation on migration issues within the framework of the new agreement,” Barroso added.
Perhaps, no less significant was another comment by Barroso on the new document, especially given the East-West tug-of-war over Ukraine.
“Finally and equally important, this agreement demonstrates that international relations are not a zero sum game, that Europe is open to build strong and solid relations with the members of Customs Union willing to do so,” Barroso said. “That is why I think today’s agreement is a very important symbolic gesture. Apart from its substance, it shows that it is possible for a country of the Customs Union to develop and deepen the relationship with the European Union. I think this is important especially when you consider the situation that we have been facing in that part of Europe and also in the wider region.”
In this connection, Barroso praised Kazakhstan’s and President Nazarbayev’s “balanced position regarding the situation in Ukraine.”
“We both support a peaceful solution for the conflict in full respect of Ukraine’s sovereignty,” the European leader said thanking President Nazarbayev “for sharing with me the vision you have about the situation in that part of the region.”
Finally, Barroso said he was glad that President Nazarbayev will participate in the ASEM Summit in Milan on Oct. 16-17.
“Kazakhstan will be the first Central Asian country to become partner of the ASEM! We believe that Kazakhstan has a great role to play in terms of cooperation, trade and transit between Europe and Asia,” he said. “And you can always count on the European Union as your partner in promoting a vision of cooperation, inclusiveness and win-win solutions, in the European continent and beyond.”
Talks on the enhanced partnership have been ongoing since their official start in June 2011 in Brussels. Eight rounds of negotiations have been held since then. Within the framework of Kazakhstan’s accession to WTO, Minister of Economic Integration of Kazakhstan Zhanar Aitzhanova and EU Commissioner Karel de Gucht signed an agreement on export duties, as Kazakhstan and the EU concluded their bilateral market access negotiations.
“We want Kazakhstan to become more modernised and diversified. For us, it is also important that local companies in Europe and European companies in Kazakhstan can simplify their operations. With the entry into force of the agreement, many new opportunities will arise for citizens, students, researchers and travellers,” Director for Russia, Eastern Partnership, Central Asia, Regional Cooperation and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) of the European External Action Service (EEAS) Gunnar Wiegand said.
Earlier, on Oct. 8, President Nazarbayev also met with King Philippe of Belgians. The sides discussed key aspects of bilateral relations in the political, cultural and humanitarian spheres. The two leaders also noted increasing levels of cooperation between the two countries in various fields and highlighted the presence of a number of promising directions for the development of further cooperation.