In Brussels, FM Idrissov Promotes Ties with EU, Pledges Continued Support for Afghanistan

BRUSSELS – Kazakh Foreign Minister Erlan Idrissov attended multiple conferences in Brussels Oct. 4-5 with European Union and international officials, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan.

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Idrissov and Foreign Minister of Slovakia Miroslav Lajčák chaired the Oct. 4 15th meeting of the Cooperation Council between Kazakhstan and the EU. Slovakia holds the rotating presidency in the EU in the second half of 2016.

It was the first council meeting following the signing and beginning of the provisional application of the new Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (EPCA) between Kazakhstan and the European Union.

“The EPCA has very a big chapter dedicated to trade and economic cooperation. Europe is our main trade partner and the source of foreign investments. Therefore, this sphere has been outlined at the new Agreement. Overall, the EPCA covers 29 spheres of interaction,” Idrissov said.

The participants discussed trade, investments, development of energy and transport, as well as environmental protection. They also discussed political cooperation, including human rights protections, the rule of law and good governance, internal reforms and combating new threats.

Special attention was paid to simplifying the visa regime for Kazakh citizens traveling to the EU as well as providing Kazakhstan with a market economy status.

The cooperation council stressed the role of the newly established cooperation committee in trade configuration, which will address trade, economic and investment cooperation. The agreement also establishes a new subcommittee on customs cooperation.

“The potential of trade, economic and investment cooperation between Kazakhstan and the EU is far from being used in full. The main objective of the established structures should be further development of this potential and assistance in the implementation of the EPCA,” Idrissov said.

Representatives from the Ministry of National Economy of Kazakhstan, the Ministry for Investments and Development, the Ministry of Energy, the Ministry of Justice, the National Security Committee and the National Centre for Human Rights also attended the event.

Following the meeting, the sides agreed to continue the council’s work and maintain contact.

Earlier on the same day, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission Federica Mogherini and foreign ministers of Kazakhstan Erlan Idrissov, Kyrgyzstan – Erlan Abdyldaev, Tajikistan – Sirodjidin Aslov, Turkmenistan – Rashid Meredov and Uzbekistan – Abdulaziz Kamilov met at the EU – Central Asia Ministerial Meeting. The sides discussed relations in the framework of the EU Strategy for Central Asia initiated in 2007 and renewed in 2015 for the period until 2020.

“Our cooperation with our partners in Central Asia covers a lot of areas, with an eye also on the security challenges. We share a common neighbourhood, we share deep links and that is why we are engaged more than ever in expanding and enhancing our relations,” Mogherini said, according to eeas.europa.eu.

The meeting covered trade and economic cooperation, as well as regional cooperation in energy, environment, water resources, border security and combating drug trafficking. The parties also exchanged views on Afghanistan, Iran, and other topics of regional security.

On the same day, Idrissov took part in the 18th meeting of the Berlin Eurasian Club (BEC) held under the theme “EU – Central Asia Energy dialogue.”

The German side was represented by Executive Director of the Committee for Eastern European Economic Relations Michael Harms, official German representative to the EU Political and Security Committee Michael Flugger, former German Minister of Economy Michael Glos, former State Secretary of the Ministry of Interior of Germany August Hanning, as well as other officials and representatives of leading European companies working in the production and transportation of conventional and renewable energy sources.

Idrissov informed participants about the socio-economic development of Kazakhstan in the context of reforms held in the country and priorities of cooperation with the EU. Particular attention was paid to interaction in renewable energy sources in relation to the upcoming international exhibition EXPO 2017 in Astana.

Flugger praised the measures taken by Kazakhstan to ensure European energy security and diversification of transport routes for these purposes. The German diplomat welcomed the conclusion of the EPCA between the EU and Kazakhstan.

Glos emphasised the role of the Berlin Eurasian Club initiated by President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev in 2012 to facilitate dialogue between East and West and expand economic cooperation between the EU and Central Asia.

During the event, representatives of German and Kazakh think tanks and energy companies gave detailed reports.

Finally, the Kazakh delegation led by Idrissov participated Oct. 5 in the Brussels Conference on Afghanistan organised by the EU and the government of Afghanistan.

The conference gathered high-level representatives from more than 70 countries and 30 international organisations to hear Afghan leaders present their vision of the future and track record on reform. President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah represented Afghanistan.

The conference reviewed joint international and Afghan efforts to increase sustained international support and funding on the basis of a new Afghan national development framework.

“Kazakhstan, as well as the entire international community is committed to the safe and economically sustainable development of Afghanistan,” Idrissov said at the conference, adding that peace in Afghanistan will positively affect Central Asia.

“This international conference that is hold once in two years plays a very important role. Its main purpose is to once again prove and ensure international support and assistance to Afghanistan, including financial, political, technical and military areas.” Idrissov told the Kazakh media.

In his remarks at the conference, Idrissov noted that Kazakhstan continues to provide political and practical support to the efforts of Kabul and the international community. He said the national agency of official development assistance KazAID that is being created in Kazakhstan will be mostly focusing on Afghanistan and regional projects. In addition, Idrissov informed about the pilot project of Kazakh official development assistance to improve the economic independence and rights of Afghan women, which was launched in August jointly with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). He mentioned that Kazakhstan continues to provide university grants to young Afghans in the frame of the 50-million-dollar educational programme initiated by Nazarbayev in 2009. This programme has already provided training to 1,000 Afghans and will now be extended to 2022, Idrissov said.

Following the meeting, the minister announced that Kazakhstan will allocate $2 million to support the projects of Afghan security forces. He also stressed that Kazakhstan intends to focus on solving the problems of Central Asia, including the stabilisation of Afghanistan, during its 2017-2018 membership in the UN Security Council.

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