On Dec. 16, Kazakhstan once again celebrates its independence. Twenty-eight years ago, First President Nursultan Nazarbayev brought our nation into a new era. Thanks to the considerable efforts of many, Kazakhstan has developed into the leading economy of the region with a high profile on the global stage. Our nation must never lose sight of our foundations, both in what our people have achieved, but also in those international partners who have been so important to our story.
Rather than looking inwards, Kazakhstan’s independence demonstrated a distinct approach to global politics, which saw Nursultan Nazarbayev forge lasting relationships with numerous international partners. Looking around the world, multilateralism is under more pressure than ever; conflict, tension and mistrust can be found on almost every continent. The world is currently facing some of the most uncertain times in its recent history. Now, more than ever, there is a demand for stability and diplomacy.
As we mark another Independence Day, we must take stock and recognise that Kazakhstan is strategically placed to suggests solutions to the world. Our nation sits at a global crossroads in the heart of Eurasia. We are a dynamic hub between Russia, China, the Middle East and Europe, at the centre of historic, current and future trade routes. From this key position, Kazakhstan has the potential to be the anchor of stability in a global storm.
Now, in the face of global divisions, we look to the future with the objective of global harmony. President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev is building on the First President’s legacy. During his inauguration speech in June this year, the new President renewed Kazakhstan’s commitment to a multi-vector foreign policy, with a view to unify not only the Eurasian region, but also global powers.
Nowhere else in the world is surrounded by such talked about neighbours. Over the last two decades, international media has been consumed by conflicts in near-by countries, such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. Yet Kazakhstan has provided meaningful contributions to stability of an often-divided region.
Through the efforts of the First President, we have the advantage of being Central Asia’s most economically developed and prosperous nation. Yet with this privilege comes responsibility. As a member of the Commonwealth of Independent States, Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe and as a founding member of the Eurasian Economic Union, Kazakhstan has a key role across global forums for dialogue and conflict resolution. For example, in 2017, Kazakhstan was given the honour of being the first Central Asian nation to be elected as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council. We used this to great effect, such as by hosting a ministerial debate focussing on the region’s security and sustainable development.
Kazakhstan’s expanding diplomatic engagement can be seen by looking at our neighbours. We maintain continuously positive relations with China and the other major economies of Southeast Asia. Kazakhstan is often referred to as the “buckle on the belt” of the Belt and Road initiative, and our nation now accounts for 70 percent of land-based transit passing from China to Europe. This economic partnership continues to bolster our economy, creating thousands of jobs and a predicted addition of a percentage point to annual GDP by 2021. There is no clearer indication of the strength of our bilateral relations than President Xi Jinping’s announcement of the Belt and Road initiative in Nur-Sultan in 2013.
Independence Day also offers an opportunity to remember the important relationship with our northern neighbour: Russia. As well as the longest continuous land border in the world, we also share many cultural similarities. Our intertwined histories enable close diplomatic and economic relations. This legacy lives on through our bilateral collaboration within the sphere of the fight against global terrorism.
This cooperation is emblematic of our close partnerships around the world. In January 2018, U.S. President Donald Trump welcomed Nursultan Nazarbayev to the White House. In their joint press conference, Trump underscored the importance of the relationship between our countries. Like him, we are proud to note that the United States was one of the first countries to recognise Kazakhstan’s independence in 1991.
As we transition to a new decade, it is vital to underscore the importance of our close friendship with the European Union. On June 17, the European Union adopted a new strategy for Central Asia with the priority of strengthening ongoing dialogue and multilateral cooperation. We now look forward to 2020 to realise this vision. This will particularly support closer ties within the sphere of economic cooperation, with the European Union being our largest trade partner.
Every year we mark our independence with a day of celebration, a milestone to remember how far our nation has come and to acknowledge our future direction. In 2019, friendship and trust between countries both near and far are as important as they have ever been. On Dec. 16, we give thanks for 28 years of an independent Kazakhstan with our friends near and far.