Interview mit Außenminister Ksachstans ENGLISCH
Kazakhstan is a country that shares 7,500 km long border with Russia and 1.700 km long border with China. Kazakhstan is said to be a country that is situated between the Russian bear and Chinese dragon.
How does this influence the principles of your foreign policy, known as a multi-vector one?
You know, your question is very interesting, urgent and pressing, that is why I am going to answer it gladly. All the more so because Kazakhstan can state proudly that, according to the total length of our borders the longest border we have is that with the Russian Federation and with China but at the same time with other Central Asian partners as well.
So, along the whole border we have managed to create mutually beneficial cooperation, partnership that is based on friendship, good neighbourliness and mutual respect. The Russian Federation is our strategic ally. We are in the same economic space that has already been shaped as part of Eurasian Economic Union. This long border that you mention is a border of active exchange between average people, this is a border of trade, a border of investments. Furthermore, we have age-long history of peaceful existence with Russia.
For the last 25 years, i.e. since the establishment of diplomatic relations, the PRC has also turned out to be a reliable strategic partner for Kazakhstan. I would like to remind you that not long ago, in the times of the Cold War, the Kazakh-Chinese, or better to say, the Soviet-Chinese border separated two opposing states. But today this border has become a zone of peace, stability, good neighbourliness, or if we put it in more practical terms, today this is a border of free trade, and we want to make it a transit border, for example, for the supply of Chinese goods to European or Middle Eastern markets.
In that way we are going to use that huge transit transportation potential that Kazakhstan possesses by being situated between Russia and China, as you have said correctly. Besides, on June 9, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization had its summit in Astana. I would also like to remind you that this organization began to shape itself almost 20 years ago with certain measures of trust that we put along the Chinese border with Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Today, in the first line due to the goodwill and pragmatic policy of its member states this organization has also become a border of trade, investments and cooperation. In general, this is a border of friendship. And it is not accidentally that now the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, in which Russia and China have been playing the leading roles as the major economies, has acquired new members, India and Pakistan. This happened a here, in Astana. And today you can calculate the statistics yourself and see, how large the share of global population belonging to this organization is and what GDP is produced in the SCO countries. But nothing of the kind could have been possible without those friendly and neighbouring relations that Kazakhstan has with Russia and China.
The SCO members have different geopolitical or political orientation. On the other hand, if we see the situation in the European Union, 60 to 70% of its trade is still with Russia and Belarus, which are really integrated. It means that the EU shows the development potential which the Eurasian Union has. If you compare these two organizations, where can you see, first of all, a strategy of development — in economy or in policy, like a guarantor of stability and peace?
Your question contains a part of its answer. Both the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the Eurasian Economic Union should mutually complement each other, and we are moving in that direction. The point is that, as I have just said, the SCO includes India and Pakistan now, and the Eurasian Economic Union is growing today due to the attention we all pay to common trade. According to our statistical data, in the first months of 2017 the volume of trade within the Eurasian Economic Union has increased by 138%. This figure is impressive enough. We can also study the history of the Eurasian Economic Union and understand that the ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) is really close to us, I mean not from the point of view of geography but that of the integration degree. 20 years ago they also had really low level of internal trade. But today ASEAN has declared itself a reliable and influential regional organization. That is why the Shanghai Cooperation Organization concentrates the potential of the above-mentioned large countries and, furthermore, includes also Central Asia that is a huge market with more the 50 million of population and growing production. Trade, investments, use of transportation and logistics potential — these priorities are typical for both organizations, i.e. the SCO and EAEU. And because of that I can say that in the nearest decades if not years we should supplement each other. For instance, the question has arisen as to how to combine the Chinese “One Belt, One Road” initiative with the ambitious infrastructural project “Nurly Zhol” that is being realized by Kazakhstan. Nowadays, according to the volume of container transportation, we are a quickly growing region, and at the same time we all are members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, Eurasian Economic Union. There are also principles of free trade, free economic zones. More and more countries begin to look at the potential of the Eurasian Economic Union. About 10 countries are interested in concluding bilateral treaties on free trade with the Eurasian Economic Union. And the above-mentioned potential of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization itself proves that the organization will always remain in the centre of positive geoeconomical tendencies that we are witnessing now in our part of the world. Neither of the member states brings any bilateral problems to the SCO that it may have with any of its neighbours or other countries and regions. It means that we are at an important stage of the development of both organizations, and the goodwill of our leaders, governments of our peoples is the basis for our confidence that we will be able to keep peace, stability, security and stable development along to entire long border, which Kazakhstan has, as you have said.
I think 4 years ago nobody could believe that a war between Russia and Ukraine or a war in Eastern Ukraine could be possible. I know this for sure because in 2014 I was in Donetsk and Lugansk, I am an Austrian TV reporter in Ukraine. What does this war in the post-Soviet space mean for Kazakhstan?
We share the pain that you have as a journalist, who has worked in that part of the world. The conflicting parties in Ukraine, or, as you mean by your question, Ukraine and Russia… The most important for us in this situation is that this argument, that is a debate concerning territory, is resolved by means of bilateral negotiations based on the fundamental principles of international law. We would like to see Ukraine as an independent, stable and integral state.
Does it mean only eastern Ukraine or the Crimea too?
Certainly. When I say about the territorial debate, I mean the Crimea as well. One of the principles of our foreign policy is rigorous observance of the fundamental principles of international law. And it was the Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbaev, who during the 70th session of the UNO has called on the international community to convene a conference with view of re-stating the basic principles of international law.
Approximately 50% of your trade is done with the European Union. It means that the EU is an important partner for you. And you must know it better than the EU citizens. How do you estimate the EU development now, taking into consideration that since 2008 the EU has been struggling with a serious crisis, which began with the financial crisis, then Brexit followed. What does it mean for you and how do you see the future of the EU? It was a really attractive model of social and economic development but now there are plenty of unsolved questions concerning the internal status of the European Union.
You are right for sure when you say that Kazakhstan sees the European Union as the biggest commercial and investment partner. That is the reason why we would like to see the EU as our decade-long reliable partner, which has been supporting us since the first years of our independence. For example, we were one of the first countries to conclude an Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with the EU. This is a very profound document with far-reaching goals. It has not been ratified by all EU members yet, we are still waiting. But once it is ratified this document is certain to open new horizons for our partnership with the European Union.
I do not think that those tendencies you mention can produce any negative effect on realization of our quite ambitious plans we make for us and the European Union. We are optimistic. For our part we guarantee that Kazakhstan will remain a trustworthy partner that will create the most preferable work conditions for the EU and, first of all, its business circles. On the other hand, we would also like to expect a constructive approach from the EU, for instance, concerning liberalization of the visa regime for our citizens. In other words, the work is underway, our bilateral cooperation is increasing in full swing, we are going to make this partnership deeper based on the above-mentioned agreement as well.
Have you already started any negotiations with the European Union concerning the visa-free regime?
I must say that with the exception of very few EU member states most of the countries have already provided us with visa-free travel with diplomatic passports. Only a couple of countries are left that should conduct certain procedures within their governments and take a decision. We would like our Kazakhstan citizens that are not a source of any danger to have an opportunity of free travel in Europe. We are not a country of high migration risks. We have provided the Europeans with similar conditions. Citizens of all OECD and EU member states may now visit Kazakhstan and stay here for up to 30 days visa-free. It means that citizens of countries with a serious investment potential, there are almost 50 of them, can come to Kazakhstan without a visa and remain here for 30 days as tourists or business people.
But the negotiations have not been started yet?
All negotiations are mostly bilateral now but Brussels refers to the position of certain EU members. In other words, we have to convince several EU members of the potential of cooperation with Kazakhstan, in the sphere of visa-free travel among other things. But I am sure that we are going to make another breakthrough for liberalization of visa regime.
Christian Wehrschütz :
What does Expo mean for Kazakhstan? If I speak for my generation, when I was young I have associated Kazakhstan with Baikanur, but it was the Soviet Union then. How does Kazakhstan want to position itself? What does Expo mean?
Expo is an international event that is actually organized with view of providing all countries, the whole developing world, with access to pure renewable and accessible energy as well as technologies in the energy field. As you know, unfortunately, not all poor countries on different continents and oceans have access to energy. The statistics is depressing. It is awful to see how many people have no access to energy. That is why, when aspiring to organize EXPO in Astana, we also proposed this theme — future energy — to provide equal access to energy for all countries without any exception by means of this specialized exhibition. For this reason after EXPO we are not going to forget about this issue. Based on Expo, literally on the base of these premises that will remain after the exhibition, an Astana International Financial Centre will be created, an international centre for green economy and new technologies, first of all, in the field of energy. An international startup will also be situated here, an IT startup. Certain research projects will be put into execution based on EXPO in the sphere of new energy technologies. We see a huge potential hidden in the theme of this “Future Energy” global exhibition and in the enthusiasm of our international partners that take part in it: 115 countries and 22 international organizations, from America to Pacific islands, from the Caribbean to Africa. We are happy to have this opportunity of providing all these countries with such an active and interactive platform in Astana.