News Digest: Foreign Media on President’s Visit to Italy, European Commission Vice President’s Tour to Central Asia and More

ASTANA – The Astana Times has selected articles on Kazakhstan published in international media. This week’s foreign media digest covers Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev’s official visit to Italy and the Vatican, European Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas’ tour to Central Asia, United States – Kazakhstan ties and more.

The flag of Kazakhstan on top of mountain. Photo credit: Melnikov Dmitriy/Shutterstock.

Schinas tours Central Asia in preparation for Brussels transport forum

Euractiv released an article on Jan. 17 about European Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas’ tour of the five Central Asian countries before an Investors Forum for European Union (EU) – Central Asia Transport Infrastructure, in Brussels on Jan. 29-30.

“Schinas, who holds the portfolio of ‘Promoting our European way of life’, started his tour by visiting Kazakhstan, the largest territory among the five and the most ambitious in developing its relations with the EU,” reads the article.

The Brussels forum aims to contribute to the long-term objective of making the Trans-Caspian International Transport Route (TITR) a multimodal, modern, competitive, sustainable, predictable, smart and fast route linking Europe and Central Asia in 15 days or less.

In the current geopolitical situation, with Russia and Iran targeted by Western sanctions, the importance of the TITR, also called the Middle Corridor, is increasing, and the aim is to overcome bottlenecks, physical or bureaucratic.

In a post on X, formerly Twitter, Schinas described Kazakhstan as a “key actor in the region’s positive evolution” and “a beacon in modernization and reforms.”

Italy-Kazakhstan, Tokayev in Rome opens a new chapter of cooperation: 23 agreements signed

Agenzia Nova, an Italian news agency, published an article on Jan. 18 reporting on Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev’s visit to Italy. 

“The first day of the visit to Rome by the President of Kazakhstan ended with the signing of a joint declaration, seven intergovernmental agreements and 16 commercial memorandums of understanding,” the article reads.

A day marked, in particular, by the meeting at the Quirinale with his counterpart Sergio Mattarella, by the one at Palazzo Chigi with the Prime Minister, Giorgia Meloni, and finally by the participation with the Minister of Foreign Affairs Antonio Tajani in the roundtable on investments organized at the Farnesina. 

It is on this occasion that Tokayev spoke of the opening of a “new chapter” in relations. Italy, he recalled, is Kazakhstan’s third largest trading partner in the world, and since 1991, the year of independence, it has invested almost $10 billion in the Central Asian country. 

But now, the Kazakh President underlined, “it is time to bring the partnership to a higher level” and to “explore new fields of cooperation.” In addition to energy, there are “enormous opportunities” in the field of rare raw materials, energy and digital transition, transport infrastructure, industry and agriculture.

United States Ambassador to Kazakhstan outlines U.S. engagement in Central Asia

U.S. strategic interests in Central Asia boil down to stability and sovereignty, according to U.S. Ambassador to Kazakhstan Daniel Rosenblum, reported the Voice of America (VOA) on Jan. 15. 

Daniel Rosenblum told the Caspian Policy Center gathering on Jan. 4 that the main goal of U.S. policy for Central Asia is to ensure that Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan “stand on their own, be fully sovereign and independent countries that can make their own choices about who to associate with, who to trade with, who to have relations with — without undue external pressure.”

Rosenblum pointed to the so-called C5+1 group, including the United States and the five republics, underlining its “value in acting as a group, integrating with one another, cooperating — that makes each of them stronger individually.”

Kazakhstan is America’s top business partner in Central Asia, with $3 billion in bilateral trade in 2022 and an estimated 15% increase last year, plus $5 billion direct investment in 2023.

Kazakhstan and EU should seek new opportunities for a stronger partnership

Aidos Sarym, a member of the Kazakh Parliament, analyzed the recently adopted European Parliament resolution dubbed EU Strategy on Central Asia: New Opportunities for a Stronger Partnership in the Euractiv opinion column on Jan. 18.

On Jan. 17, the European Parliament (EP) voted to adopt the resolution.

The resolution, a planned document of the European Parliament, reflects the assessment of the members of the European Parliament of the implementation of the EU Strategy for Central Asia.

This document marks the first instance where Central Asia is recognized as a region that has formed its regional identity, with independent positions on certain issues of contemporary international and regional relations and unified regional opportunities in trade, investment, business and innovation.

The European Parliament recognizes the convergence of global and regional challenges and threats to the European Union and Central Asia, creating new opportunities for long-term, structured cooperation.

In this regard, the European legislative body calls on the European Union to intensify its engagement with Central Asia, given its “geostrategic importance”, and to promote strategic partnerships with the Central Asian states through enhanced political and economic cooperation.

Kazakhstan Ambassador, Pakistan Minister for Culture Jamal Shah forge cultural ties

The Nation, Pakistan’s leading daily newspaper, published an article on Jan. 17 about the intention of Kazakhstan and Pakistan to bolster cultural exchanges and foster people-to-peo­ple connections, par­ticularly in art, culture, heritage, and cin­ema.

“Ambassador Yer­zhan Kistafin of Kazakhstan met with Caretaker Federal Minister for National Heri­tage and Culture, Syed Jamal Shah, at the National Heri­tage and Culture Division in Islamabad on Tuesday. The meeting reflects the shared commitment of both nations to deepen un­derstanding and strength­en their already friendly and brotherly relationship,” the article reads.

The minister emphasized the paramount importance of cultural ties, acknowledg­ing the rich cultural heritage and picturesque landscapes of the region. Both parties ex­pressed a keen interest in en­hancing collaboration in film and cinema to fortify cultural relations.

Oil majors close to settling $5 billion Kashagan field dispute

The oil majors behind the giant Kashagan field are close to a deal with the Kazakh authorities that will settle a dispute over a potential $5 billion environmental fine, according to people familiar with the matter, Bloomberg reported on Jan. 16.

International partners including Eni, Shell, Exxon Mobil and TotalEnergies have prepared a draft settlement that would stop the government from pursuing the environmental penalty and include a pledge from the companies for additional investment in social projects, the people said, asking not to be named because the talks are private. This spending will amount to $110 million over the next two years, one of the people close to the matter said.

Kazakhstan produces almost 90 million tons of oil in 2023

Kazakh Energy Minister Almassadam Satkaliyev said Kazakhstan extracted almost 90 million tons of oil in 2023, almost six million tons more than the previous year, reported EFEComunica, a Spanish international news agency, on Jan. 16.

This year, Kazakhstan plans to produce up to 90.3 million tons. Satkaliyev said there are currently no problems with the transport of Kazakh oil.

Acceptance of applications for membership of the National Coordination Committee

The Global Environment Facility (GEF) Small Grants Program (SGP) in Kazakhstan and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) announced on Jan. 15 a call for applications for membership in the National Steering Committee (NSC) among representatives of civil society organizations in Kazakhstan with at least three years of experience.

They include local communities, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), academic institutions, research institutes and conservation and sustainable agriculture organizations.

Candidates must have at least three years of experience in the GEF focal area, which is climate change, particularly in the areas of renewable energy and energy efficiency.

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