ASTANA – This year’s Europe Day celebrations in Astana started May 20 with PechaKucha Night, followed by an “EU Hour” in 16 schools in Astana on May 23. The third event on the agenda, “Ambassadors’ Café,” took place May 25. On that day, ambassadors of the member states of the European Union met with the capital’s youth in an informal atmosphere.
“The whole purpose of this Europe Day celebration is to mark May 9, the day of the Schuman Declaration. This year we celebrate 60 years since the creation of what we know as the European Union. We do that because we want to share and to inform the public about what we are doing in Kazakhstan, who we actually are and what the faces are of the people who are implementing these bilateral mandates of EU-Kazakhstan relations from the EU side in cooperation with Kazakh authorities here for the benefit of Kazakh citizens. We are working here to make the EU known, to share our values, to engage in our cooperation programmes,” head of the EU Delegation to Kazakhstan Ambassador Traian Hristea told The Astana Times.
The Ambassadors’ Café helps get that message across in a very informal way.
“This format today of Ambassadors’ Café is very, I would say, down to earth,” Hristea said. “People see in the faces of ambassadors some kind of high-level people. We wanted to show that we are normal people like anyone around the table. We also enjoy communicating with students and youth. We use this opportunity to communicate; to show what the EU is; what it is doing; what the projects are; what the areas of our cooperation are; how we engage with partners, national authorities, local authorities, [nongovernmental organisations], human rights groups and others; how we promote trade, investment.”
The EU is the top investor in Kazakhstan, he pointed out. “I think we have a lot of things to share with people and to spread information about this quarter-century of very stable and fruitful bilateral relations with Kazakhstan.”
More than 50 people, including students and teachers from Kazakh universities and representatives from businesses and NGOs, joined the Ambassadors’ Café. They were divided into groups headed by EU ambassadors, where they discussed the practical results of EU projects in Kazakhstan, the dynamics of EU-Central Asia security cooperation and aspects of EU-Kazakhstan cooperation in the development of a green economy, trade, investment, energy, the rule of law, public administration and educational programmes.
“The project is about meeting young people. Of course, we spread information about the European Union, but it is more important to hear their questions, what they think about the future of the EU. For me, it is very interesting to meet people, to discuss the perspectives on relations between Kazakhstan and the European Union. And, of course, it is always good to celebrate a little bit and get a good attitude from young Kazakh people towards the European Union,” said Ambassador of Austria to Kazakhstan Gerhard Sailler.
Ambassador of Hungary to Kazakhstan Andras Baranyi said he supports the informal format because “it is always nice to talk directly with the youth, students, with those who are interested.” He also said the ambassadors don’t impose any particular topics on participants – they merely start the discussions, which then flow to a number of areas.
“I really enjoy these talks,” Baranyi said. “And I hope I and my colleagues are providing useful and interesting information. For example, we started with educational and youth programmes, then we shifted to bilateral relations, results between Kazakhstan and Hungary, and that we are launching a new flight between Astana and Budapest. Another topic was EXPO 2017.”
Europe Day celebrations have not finished yet: a free European Classical Music Concert will be held May 31 in the Astana Ballet Theatre at 7 p.m. Compositions by Kazakh authors will also be presented. An exhibition by famous photographer Jean-Marc Caracci will be held June 3 and 4 and a European film festival will close the programme of celebrations on June 15-17.