News Digest: Foreign Media on French President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to Kazakhstan, Kazakh-EU Ties and More

ASTANA – The Astana Times has picked a selection of articles on Kazakhstan published in international media across the world. This week’s foreign media digest includes articles on French President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to Kazakhstan, Kazakh-European Union (EU) partnership, and more.

Photo credit: tutu.

Kazakhstan’s mining resources are increasingly coveted

Le Monde released an article on Oct. 31 about French President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.

“On Nov. 1-2, President Emmanuel Macron will visit Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. France hopes to strengthen its supply of critical metals in the region,” the article notes.

Essential to the energy transition, rare earths like scandium, lanthanum and cerium are the oil of tomorrow. Ever since the West began to realize its excessive dependence on China, it has been stepping up its diversification strategies.

“To secure its resources, the European Union (EU) is increasingly turning to countries such as Canada, Australia and Kazakhstan,” said Thomas Gomart, director of the French Institute of International Relations.

The new economic course of Kazakhstan

Director of the Kazakhstan Institute for Strategic Studies (KazISS) Yerkin Tukumov in an article to the Austrian edition Diplomacy and Commerce, published on Oct. 9, discussed the new economic course of Kazakhstan, which was announced by President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev in his annual address.

“President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev outlined a new economic course that the country will pursue in the next three years. The key principles of this economic strategy will be ‘fairness, inclusion and pragmatism.’ The plan focuses on effectively leveraging the country’s competitive advantages and unlocking the potential of key production factors, including labor, capital, resources and technology. The President emphasized the need for a gradual transition to a new economic model focused on concrete improvements in the lives of citizens,” the article reads.

Emmanuel Macron to sign several contracts in Kazakhstan

French President Emmanuel Macron is expected to sign a series of major contracts on Wednesday in Astana, reported the Economie Matin on Nov. 1.

“France is one of the first political and economic partners of the young republic in Central Asia. Kazakhstan supplies France with half of the uranium it needs for its nuclear power plants, and is its second largest supplier of crude oil,” the article reads.

France is in fact in the leading group of nations investing in Kazakhstan, ahead of China, with a total of 18 billion euros ($18.9 billion), and more than 170 French companies operating in Kazakhstan. In 2022, trade between France and Kazakhstan reached 4 billion euros ($4.2 billion), up 30% compared to the previous year.

Why France’s enhanced engagement with Central Asia is imperative for Europe

Emerging Europe released an opinion article on Oct. 31 about the growing significance of France’s ties with Central Asia. 

“A deeper commitment in this region is crucial for both France and Europe at large. Strengthening bonds with Central Asia could secure energy security for Europe, provide a supply of rare earth elements, and restore geopolitical balance in the Central Asian region. One of the clear benefits of a fortified alliance with Central Asia lies in potential energy sector collaborations. Notably, Kazakhstan possesses significant uranium reserves and is the world’s largest producer. Given that roughly 70% of France’s electricity comes from nuclear power, a deepened partnership could ensure a consistent uranium supply for French reactors,” the article notes.

For Astana, diplomacy, investment not a zero-sum game

 At an Oct. 23 press conference in Astana, Kazakh Deputy Foreign Minister Roman Vassilenko outlined the precedence his country gives to diplomacy even in gravely troubled times, reported the Asia Times on Oct. 30.

Vassilenko reiterated Kazakhstan’s view that international engagement is not a zero-sum game.  He does not consider diplomatic give-and-take to be a sign of weakness, nor does he equate negotiation with a loss of standing in the international order. In this connection, Vassilenko stated that “Kazakhstan maintains good relations with all our neighbors, including Russia and China, as well as with the European Union (EU) and the United States.” 

He added that “this balanced approach to international relations would bring a valuable, multifaceted perspective to the United Nations (UN) Security Council,” an allusion to Astana’s support for expanding the membership of the UN’s supreme decision-making body.

Kazakhstan looks for further and faster progress in EU relations

EU Reporter published an article on Oct. 30 about the meeting between foreign ministers of the five Central Asian countries and 27 European Union (EU) member states in Luxembourg.

“Viewed from Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, progress in relations between Central Asia and the EU is welcome but could do with a boost. Looking forward to the Central Asia Investors Forum, to be held in Brussels in January, Deputy Foreign Minister Roman Vassilenko said it will come only after a year-long EU study, followed by seven months to arrange the event. Of the five Central Asian countries, Kazakhstan has the closest relationship with the EU, through an Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement. The foreign ministers’ gathering was immediately followed by a meeting of the EU-Kazakhstan Cooperation Council but back in Astana, the deputy minister’s theme was the need for faster progress,” the article notes.

He described how Kazakhstan is seeking to maximize the benefits of an apparent disadvantage, the fact that it is landlocked. “We are the hub of Central Asia”, he said, pointing to the efforts his country was making to improve the Middle Corridor trade route, which links Asia and Europe and runs across Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Türkiye.

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