Kazakhstan reaffirms strategic partnership with EU, accelerates political reforms

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Kazakhstan’s Deputy International Minister Roman Vassilenko talked to New Europe in an unique interview a few state-wide referendum on June 5 on the adoption of amendments to the Structure that may decide the way forward for the Central Asian nation, areas of strategic cooperation between the European Union and Kazakhstan, power safety, transport corridors as nicely strengthening cooperation inside Central Asia and increasing the area’s cooperation with exterior companions.

“I’d say that the referendum comes as a logical step for President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev who has put ahead 4 packages of political reforms from 2019 since he turned president and who put ahead very wide-ranging reform proposals in his state-of-the-nation tackle in mid-March. When it was all put collectively, it turned clear the proposed amendments must do with the 30% plus of the articles of the Structure, that means that one third of the Structure must be modified,” Vassilenko instructed New Europe in a video interview throughout his go to to Brussels on Might 16.

“So, the president then determined probably the most democratic method to get his proposals permitted can be to place them for a vote to the folks. Beneath our regulation, it will be potential to go these amendments in parliament, however the president determined that they’re so vast ranging, deep and significant that they require the consent of all the voters. The earlier referendum in Kazakhstan came about in 1995 when the Structure below which we lived for 27 years had been permitted. Additional amendments to this Structure had been launched via parliament however once more this time the president’s determination was that these amendments had been so vast ranging and deep that they require the consent of all the voters,” Vassilenko mentioned.

“The expectations are that the folks would, after all, debate this provide from the president. The entire package deal is put ahead for the folks to vote on,” he mentioned, explaining that it’s a sure or no vote. “Beneath our regulation, a minimal of fifty% of the voter turnout is required for the referendum to change into legitimate. Additionally, a minimal of fifty% and above is required for the choice of the referendum to be reputable. Proper now, the problem is to persuade the folks that that is the possibility for the folks to vote on the way forward for their nation,” the deputy international minister mentioned.

Based on him, there’s a sense that these amendments are favored by the folks, that individuals would wish to help that. He famous that there’s a problem that there is perhaps some complacency and a few folks might determine that there isn’t any level in going and voting as a result of there may be such a large help for the amendments, and they’re going to supposedly go anyway. “So, the complacency is mainly the opponent of the referendum, and we have to, as a authorities, as a state to elucidate the that means of those amendments, the significance of those amendments for the folks and the significance of the vote for the referendum,” Vassilenko mentioned.

Kazakhstan has invited worldwide observers from quite a few organizations together with Commonwealth of Impartial States (CIS), Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, Group of Turkic States, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, in addition to the Workplace of democratic establishments and human rights (ODIHR) of the Group of Safety and Co-operation of Europe (OSCE). “We hope all these organizations observe the referendum, assist us enhance the electoral course of thought their observations, via their suggestions so once we come as much as the subsequent spherical of the elections, we will take them under consideration,” Vassilenko mentioned.

Strengthening native self-government

“As a part of these reforms we’re speaking concerning the strengthening of the Mazhilis (decrease home) of Parliament and its powers and starting with the way in which the Mazhilis is created. Based on the proposed reform, 70% of the Mazhilis might be elected via the get together lists and 30% of the seats might be stuffed via single vote constituencies. As much as understand it’s a 100% get together listing proportional system,” Vassilenko mentioned. “However on the regional meeting stage the breakdown goes even additional in the direction of strengthening the reference to the voters, that means that fifty% of these seats might be stuffed via the get together lists and 50% might be stuffed via direct vote and even on the decrease stage the election might be totally made via the person constituencies, with out get together lists,” he added.

Based on Vassilenko, the native assemblies in areas will now have a alternative between the 2 choices provided by Kazakhstan’s President as head of the area. “Up till now they mainly vote on only one particular person that’s proposed by the president, however this may change and they’re going to have a real alternative between the 2 choices thus once more having a much bigger say in how the areas through which these assemblies are created are run. There may be additionally a higher effort to devolve extra accountability for accumulating and utilizing the taxes. Proper now, there are six classes of taxes which are collected by native authorities and spent domestically. This can improve to 13 classes of taxes that the native authorities will accumulate and use the cash collected domestically with out sending to central authorities,” he mentioned.

Requested if Kazakhstan is trying on the EU mannequin, Vassilenko reminded that Tokayev, in his state of the nation tackle on March 16, put ahead a proposal for Kazakhstan to think about becoming a member of the European Constitution of Native Self-Authorities. “Sadly, this Constitution just isn’t open for becoming a member of by international locations that aren’t members of the Council of Europe however there’s a risk to use the provisions, the rules outlined on this constitution in our nationwide laws, and the work is being achieved to do exactly that,” Vassilenko mentioned.

EU-Kazakhstan strategic cooperation

Turning to EU-Kazakhstan cooperation, Vassilenko mentioned the muse for relations between Brussels and Nur-Sultan is the Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Settlement which entered into full drive on March 2, 2020. “It covers 29 areas of cooperation however in current months particularly the highest precedence, prime consideration by all officers is given to connectivity, to transportation, to discovering many different routes to move items between Central Asia, between China after which Central Asia and Europe,” he mentioned.

One other essential space of rising cooperation is essential uncooked supplies. Vassilenko famous Kazakhstan has fairly a very good variety of deposits and it may be companions for the European Battery Alliance and European Uncooked Supplies Alliance, and there may be potential for nice cooperation on this space.

One other space is the inexperienced power and there are a number of tasks supported by the European Union however applied by European corporations to develop renewable power sources in Kazakhstan in addition to to provide inexperienced hydrogen, he mentioned.

Furthermore, schooling is at all times a precedence. “We, after all, are desirous about additional increasing this cooperation via the Horizon 2020 program,” he mentioned.

Additionally, on Kazakhstan’s precedence listing is to extend and enhance the circumstances for folks’s mobility. That is an space which is offered for in Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Settlement (EPCA) which states that the EU and Kazakhstan will help higher folks’s mobility. “As of the start of this 12 months, we restored the visa free journey for residents of all EU member states which was suspended through the two years of the pandemic. Now we want to see some progress on the visa facilitation for Kazakh residents to the European Union. We don’t ask for visa free journey, however we ask for some facilitating preparations for issuing the visas, and it is a precedence for Kazakhstan,” Vassilenko mentioned.

Turning to the Trans-Caspian Worldwide Transport Route, Kazakhstan’s Deputy International Minister mentioned, “That’s one of many points that’s being mentioned proper now on the right way to strengthen and develop this cooperation between logistics corporations, nationwide transportation corporations of Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey”.

On March 31, 4 international locations – Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkey and Kazakhstan – signed a quadrilateral assertion on the event of the Trans-Caspian Worldwide Transport Hall, aimed toward strengthening cooperation and growing the transit potential of the international locations alongside the hall. “Nationwide railway corporations pledged to work collectively to strengthen this cooperation. There may be a whole lot of work that must be achieved to synchronize the efforts. It has to do with tariffs, it has to do with provision of rolling inventory, of locomotives, of scheduling, et cetera.

There’s a very profitable instance that we have already got of getting related preparations with the Russian and Belarussian railway corporations below the United Transport and Logistics Firm with Kazakhstan. Three railway corporations established a joint firm and for the previous 9 years it labored very nicely to move cargo from China, from Central Asia throughout Kazakhstan, throughout Russia and Belarus into Poland, after which additional to Germany and different locations. We want to replicate that with the Center Hall,” Vassilenko mentioned.

“Happiness is having a number of choices for transporting your items. There may be additionally the choice to move cargo throughout the Caspian Sea. Now we have two ports, Aktau and Kuryk, on the Caspian Sea; their throughput capability is 27 million tons, however it has not been utilized in full. It has been used solely perhaps as much as 20%-25% of its capability. So, there may be potential to make use of and develop these alternatives and have extra choices to export items,” he mentioned.

Requested how Kazakhstan can contribute to EU power safety, Vassilenko instructed New Europe there’s a German-Swedish firm Svevind which is planning to construct photo voltaic and wind energy stations to provide about 35 Gigawatt of photo voltaic and wind power to energy a 20 Gigawatt electrolysis plant to provide at the very least 2 Million tons of inexperienced hydrogen per 12 months. “Moreover, they’re taking a look at a way more formidable undertaking, and their objective is to provide from this electrical energy inexperienced hydrogen after which export it to Europe. So, we have now a whole lot of potential not simply in batteries and demanding uncooked supplies however in producing inexperienced hydrogen. It requires a whole lot of effort, a whole lot of funding however that is one thing that’s already being labored on,” he mentioned.

Central Asia cooperation

Requested about safety points in Central Asia, Kazakhstan’s Deputy International Minister mentioned his nation has at all times been of the place that multilateral diplomacy particularly is the way in which to forestall issues from taking place after which resolve them in the event that they exist. He reminded that Kazakhstan is a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Group and the Convention on Interplay and Confidence-Constructing Measures in Asia (CICA) which now brings collectively 27 international locations. “In Central Asia correct, we have now at all times advocated for stronger regional dialogue between the 5 international locations. Since 2018, such a dialogue has been launched at a really excessive stage. Three such conferences of the leaders of 5 international locations came about starting with the one in Astana in 2018. We’re now taking a look at a way more formidable plan of cooperation between the 5 international locations. It contains cooperation in numerous areas, however the safety cooperation is dealt via different establishments which I discussed already resembling Shanghai Cooperation Group, and CICA.

I also needs to point out the OSCE, however I also needs to point out the Collective Safety Treaty Group. A number of the international locations in Central Asia are CSTO members resembling Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. Others usually are not. For us, the principle concept, the principle objective is to strengthen throughout the board cooperation amongst 5 international locations – financial, commerce, political – in order that we resolve these issues that exist between the international locations. They at all times exist, we have now a giant problem with managing water assets which have gotten more and more scarce in our area, for instance. So, once more, our concept is to proceed with this dialogue among the many 5 international locations of Central Asia,” Vassilenko mentioned.

“We additionally help numerous dialogue codecs between the 5 international locations of Central Asia and different worldwide actors. For instance, EU-Central Asia dialogue or Central Asia Plus One, that means america, or Central Asia Plus South Korea or Central Asia Plus India or Central Asia Plus China or Central Asia Plus Russia. In different phrases, these are the codecs the place exterior companions of the 5 international locations wish to have interaction with the area as a area, and we welcome these platforms as a result of they’ve totally different angles, totally different focuses relying on the worldwide associate, and totally different scopes, totally different historical past, some are fairly new resembling those with China and Russia, others resembling with america, is now six years previous, with the European Union it’s a lot older, far more established. With Japan or South Korea, they’re much extra established and has been in existence for much longer. To sum up, first we wish to strengthen cooperation in Central Asia, inside Central Asia after which we wish to strengthen cooperation of Central Asia with exterior companions,” Vassilenko mentioned.

He famous that curiously the EU is the biggest buying and selling associate as a bloc not only for Kazakhstan but additionally for different international locations in Central Asia. “Our neighbors in Central Asia stand for very restricted commerce quantity between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan and different international locations in Central Asia. So, we wish to develop commerce inside Central Asia as a result of there may be nice potential, and this commerce has not lived as much as its full potential within the 30 years of our unbiased life the place we sought industrial companions, funding companions past the area. Secondly, we wish to develop commerce between our area and Central Asia and that is the place the EU International Gateway program is useful or the EU Technique on Central Asia is beneficial,” Vassilenko mentioned.

He added, “So, there may be framework, there’s a political focus within the EU about the right way to develop its cooperation with Central Asia. We’re working collectively to make it a actuality”.

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