Honorary Consul: Belgium and Kazakhstan Well Positioned to Explore Business and Tourism Opportunities

ASTANA – Kazakhstan is well positioned to expand its business and travel opportunities to serve the markets of Belgium, said Anna Sussarova, a lawyer and an Honorary Consul of Kazakhstan in the Walloon Brabant province in Belgium, in an exclusive interview with The Astana Times.

Anna Sussarova. Photo courtesy of the author.

Sussarova started her legal work in Belgium in 2008, specializing in international private law and business. She was born in the Almaty Region in Kazakhstan. Shortly after turning 13, her family moved to Belgium.  

“I remember that those were difficult years for our country. Nevertheless, I have positive memories of my childhood in Kazakhstan,” she said.

In 2021, Sussarova was appointed as an Honorary Consul of Kazakhstan in Belgium. Her  duties mainly include safeguard the rights and interests of Kazakhstan and its citizens and promoting bilateral cooperation and relations between Kazakhstan and Belgium. Honorary consuls act on a voluntary basis and, granting assistance to nationals requiring that assistance, show their philanthropy. Honorary consuls also act as economic ambassadors of each state, establishing direct ties between business circles.

Sussarova was always keen to promote bilateral engagement between the two countries. Her profound experience as a lawyer and in-depth knowledge of Belgian government structures, the state development history and legislation enhance her official role.

Anna Sussarova was appointed the Honorary Consul of Kazakhstan in Belgium in 2021 in the Kazakh Embassy in Brussels. Photo credit: gov.kz

As an honorary consul, she assists Kazakh people and legal companies encountering issues in Belgium by providing legal information, finding and connecting them with suitable partners and assisting with projects.

“I try to promote business relations between Kazakh and Belgian enterprises. This has its difficulties, as the two countries are geographically distant. But there is an interest in Kazakhstan in Belgian business circles, which needs to be developed and supported to open Kazakhstan, which in many ways is a new country for the Belgians,” said Sussarova.

Given its robust economic outlook, Kazakhstan is interesting for investors from various markets, including oil and gas, communications and transport, construction, agriculture, import and export of goods, manufacturing, energy and tourism.

“For businesses, Kazakhstan is attractive due to its clear, online-accessible and simple enterprise management and taxation system,” said Sussarova.

“Strong Kazakh-Belgian political relations and a diverse legal and contractual framework have created favorable conditions for realizing the potential in trade, economic and investment spheres,” she added.

Sussarova during one of her recent visits to Kazakhstan. Photo courtesy of the author.

Along with the Netherlands and France, Belgium is a key European investor in Kazakhstan. In 2021, the gross inflow of direct investments from Belgium to Kazakhstan exceeded $1 billion. In 2022, the figure reached $1.56 billion, according to the Kazakh government.

Belgium is also an important trade partner, with a $419.7 million mutual trade volume in 2021 and $514.5 million in 2022. Around 70 Belgian businesses operate in Kazakhstan.

“For a more intensive development, it is necessary to give potential business partners an opportunity to meet and get acquainted with each other, including within the framework of business clubs, economic missions, trips and specialized fairs,” she said.

Kazakhstan, she said, has positioned itself very well globally with its rich cultural heritage, unique nature and strong business and economic fundamentals that provide good infrastructure for investment. 

Most notably, Sussarova highlighted Kazakhstan’s tourism growth prospects.

“Belgians have a keen interest in Kazakhs and Kazakhstan. The Kazakh Embassy in Belgium regularly organizes presentations on the history and culture of Kazakhstan and promotes touristic regions,” said Sussarova.

Kazakhstan’s reputation as a stable country, the ninth largest in the world, coupled with its diverse nature of green meadows, dense forests and great lakes, will attract more visitors in the years to come, Sussarova believes. It might become a potential destination for visitors from Belgium as well.

“Belgians love vacations,” said Sussarova. “One out of four Belgians travels at least three times a year. As soon as they have free time, they always go to a resort.”

“As tourists, the Belgians find Kazakhstan an attractive, unique, and, in a sense, exotic country. I often hear from Belgians that they are drawn to Kazakhstan’s vastness, its nature and history,” said Sussarova.

“Many are aware of the great role Kazakhstan has played in promoting the disarmament of nuclear weapons. There is interest in visiting memorials on this subject,” she added.

Last year Kazakhstan reintroduced a visa-free regime for Belgians, who can stay in the country for a period of not more than 30 days.

Along with ties in business and tourism, cultural and humanitarian cooperation is also expanding.

“Belgian readers were introduced to many works by Kazakh writers in French and Dutch, including the works of a great Kazakh poet, writer and founder of Kazakh written literature, Abai Kunanbaiuly,” said Sussarova.

“Theaters in Kazakhstan are successfully producing plays based on the works of renowned Belgian author and playwright Maurice Maeterlinck,” she added.

In 2022, Kazakhstan and Belgium marked 30 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations. Moving forward, Sussarova said she has “a very positive view” of the future of relations between the two countries.

“At this stage, we can say that bilateral relations between Kazakhstan and Belgium have not yet reached their full potential, but the development of bilateral contacts contributes to the expansion of mutual interest, ties and projects,” she said.

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