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The Warsaw Voice » Other » October 24, 2007
Special National Section: KAZAKHSTAN IN POLAND
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EU in Vector of Kazakh Foreign Policy
October 24, 2007   
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by H.E. Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Aleksey Volkov

First of all, I would like to say that it is a great honor and privilege for me to be addressing the distinguished readers of The Warsaw Voice, Poland's foremost English-language weekly magazine and one that has a large readership in Poland and the European Union. That is why I am so keen to share my reading of the key foreign policy issues that concern a united Europe and Kazakhstan with you and to touch upon some aspects of international life.

Spinoza once said that understanding is the start of coming to an agreement. I hope that my vision will be received with understanding and that it will help bring Kazakhstan's and Europe's views on the common problems facing contemporary international relations even closer together.

I would like to start with energy security, an issue which, as we can see, is currently attracting a great deal of international attention. The importance of maintaining a global energy balance has increased considerably in the new century as has the need to respond effectively to traditional and modern challenges and threats to international stability and security. Energy resources are vital to all nations as they improve quality of life and expand opportunities.

Our interpretation of "energy security" has recently begun to change. Every link in the energy chain, from supplier states to transit states to consumers and transnational energy corporations, must shoulder its share of the responsibility for maintaining this security. Global oil production is set to peak by around 2010, according to the experts. After that, the era of cheap oil may well be gone forever. This will obviously result in some very serious changes to the entire global political and economic configuration. You will no doubt recall how the world reeled in shock during the 1970s when the price of oil increased from $3-4 per barrel to $11-12. Well, we should be preparing ourselves now for a price of $100 per barrel in five to seven years.

Isolating the energy factor allows us to formulate some strict empirical laws that can explain the world much more clearly. Oil, as a key resource for the global economy, is becoming the energy basis of our civilization. Gaps in the "oil grid" covering the planet are perceived as causing imbalances in the modern economy. When people talk about the global energy balance, they are usually referring to the energy needs of North America and united Europe. For some reason, it is assumed that the energy requirements of these two regions completely and unequivocally determine the way in which the global economy operates. That might have been the case in the 20th century, but in this century it is simply not possible to ignore the needs of China and India, two geo-economic super giants, or Japan and Korea, two postindustrial giants. And then there is the "Brazilian phenomenon" to consider. The energy needs of these players are already shaping the new reality.

I have provided these examples so as to highlight existing complexities and the problems of using a traditional approach to analyze the new reality. I should like to point out that I was not trying to reveal every possible area of political ambiguity of this kind.

In today's climate of globalization and increased global competition, Kazakhstan is responding to traditional and modern challenges to international security by actively pursuing a multilateral strategic dialogue with all its partners. We consistently stand for a system of international relations based on collective decision-making, the rule of law and democratization, under the leading role of the United Nations.

As you know, an international reputation is built from a consistent and constructive foreign policy and successful domestic development. Since attaining independence, Kazakhstan has formed a "belt of good-neighborliness" along its borders and has established relationships based on partnership and trust with leading world and regional states such as Poland.

Kazakhstan's decision, taken very early after independence, to renounce its nuclear legacy and to accede to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, is perhaps the main outcome of its firm commitment to nuclear disarmament. Kazakhstan voluntarily renounced its nuclear arsenal-the fourth largest in the world-and is now a signatory to the Nuclear Weapons Free Zone Treaty in Central Asia. An international symposium entitled "Kazakhstan's Journey to the Nuclear-Free World" was held in Astana on Aug. 29 this year to mark the 16th anniversary of the shutting down of the former Semipalatinsk nuclear test site. We are also aware that the EU High Commissioner for Common Foreign Policy and Security Policy, Xavier Solana, is planning to host an international conference in Brussels in November aimed at resolving nuclear non-proliferation issues. Kazakhstan fully supports this important and timely initiative, and intends to participate. We have also always supported Poland's Cracow Proliferation Security Initiative.

We have successfully overcome an economic crisis and demonstrated the effectiveness of our public administration. We have carried out market reforms and set up an institutional framework that befits an open and democratic society. Today, based on the principal indicators of economic and social development and standards of living, Kazakhstan is leading the other Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries and continues to post high rates of economic growth. Per capita GDP increased from $700 to $5,040 in only ten years from 1996 and is expected to reach $7,000 in 2007. In other words, Kazakhstan is confidently taking its place among middle-income states. We are currently facing tremendous challenges in implementing our strategy to make Kazakhstan one of the world's 50 most competitive economies. Achieving that goal will require that we maintain high rates of growth while diversifying our economy and that we effectively implement administrative reform.

Preserving Kazakhstan's tradition of inter-ethnic tolerance has been one of the most important elements of safeguarding stability since independence. The totalitarian regime has left a legacy in the form of an extremely complex ethnic makeup. In the absence of any regulatory mechanisms, events could have followed an unpredictable scenario. Under these circumstances, effective and vigorous state control was the only way to keep the situation in a constructive mode and to create the necessary public institutions to support inter-ethnic interaction. An inter-ethnic accord was an absolute imperative for us. I would even go so far as to say that it was a precondition for our survival.

Kazakhstan's practices of inter-faith interaction won the approval of the leaders of world religions attending the two congresses of world and traditional religions held in our country.

With more than 130 ethnic groups-including more than 50,000 Poles-and more than 40 religious denominations, each having its own cultural codes and traditions, we have opted for a controlled pace of social change and have thus managed to avoid serious inter-ethnic conflicts. We strongly believe that the liberalization of social systems can only be successfully achieved on a solid foundation of economic development. Poverty is a bad partner for democracy and all too often heralds social fragmentation and instability. The intrinsic connection between a liberal economy and an open society is quite clear to us.

The European Union firmly has ranked as our no. 1 partner over the last few years. In its turn, Kazakhstan has become one of the EU's most important economic partners among the CIS countries. Many issues of political and economic relations between Kazakhstan and the European Union are being projected to the inter-regional level and are becoming subjects for discussion among neighboring states.

It is no secret that the attractiveness of Central Asia, including for the EU, mostly lies in its significant reserves of mineral resources, especially hydrocarbons. As for Kazakhstan and other Central Asian countries possessing energy resources, they want to diversify export routes as much as possible. In this connection, I would like to draw your attention yet again to our readiness to consider real projects, including those involving the construction of TransCaspian pipelines, that satisfy our mutual interests and prove cost-effective. We are striving to cooperate with the EU in the energy sector on the basis of equality, and in the future, we will be giving preferential treatment to those companies and countries that give us equal access to European markets.

We are also interested in improving our interaction with the EU in developing the transit and transport capacity of Kazakhstan and the entire region, including the joint implementation of such inter-regional projects as TRACECA and INOGATE and, possibly, in joining the Trans-European transport network system. However, the potential for development is not limited to the transport and energy sector. In this regard, it is encouraging to note that the new EU strategy is aimed to a large extent at promoting the comprehensive social and economic development of Kazakhstan and Central Asia, in strengthening regional cooperation and in integrating Central Asia into the world economy.

Favorable consideration of Kazakhstan's bid for the OSCE chairmanship in 2009 may become an important factor in promoting universal values in Central Asia and in strengthening the region's role within the OSCE's area of responsibility. You will recall that Kazakhstan has consistently moved toward reaching that priority goal within the framework of its cooperation with the OSCE over the past four years. A lot has been achieved during that time to increase Kazakhstan's role and significance within the OSCE community and to improve the political system of our state and to further adapt our national legislation to the high standards demanded by the OSCE.

We are aware that there are certain outstanding disagreements regarding our application and that much will depend on the position of the European Union, whose members make up almost half the OSCE participants. In this regard, I would like to point out that quite a few of our priorities as a prospective OSCE chair are in line with the key provisions of the EU's strategy for Central Asia, especially those concerning regional security and stability which make up its primary focus.

Relations with NATO are another foreign policy priority. Kazakhstan is one of the alliance's most active partners in Central Asia and is the only country in the region which cooperates with NATO under the Individual Partnership Action Plan.

Reconstruction of Afghanistan is one of the important issues of mutual interest to the EU, NATO and the Central Asian countries. Aware of its responsibility for the region's future security and wishing to help Afghanistan become a fully-fledged member of the international community, Kazakhstan is making considerable efforts to step up its cooperation by investing in Afghanistan and by providing highly specialized and technical training to the country's youth. Within the framework of humanitarian aid, we are presently considering issues related to supplying grain and staple crop seeds, and constructing roads and other civil facilities.

Our government also encourages Kazakhstan's development agencies and private companies operating in Afghanistan to take part in projects involving the construction of railways, power lines, pipelines, and the development of mineral deposits. We are firmly committed to continuing our work in providing assistance in Afghanistan's reconstruction in partnership with the country's authorities and other members of the world community over the coming years.

It should be noted that in this day and age neither European nor Asian security exist in a vacuum. Consequently, the mutually complementary efforts of various regional organizations and international institutions can and should become the cross-cutting item in the agenda to ensure long-term security. Europe has had security structures in place for many decades and is united by common cultural roots and centuries-old shared historical experiences. These continental bonds are so strong that important elements of state sovereignty are being delegated to the European Union. Asia, which has a lower level of mutual trust than Europe, lacks strong multilateral political institutions capable of responding to urgent security problems.

However, there is a well-known saying that "a journey of thousand miles starts with a first step." In recent decades, active processes have started to take root in the Asian part of our continent, facilitating decision-making and action-taking with regard to security problems. I refer to the activities of such institutions as the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-building Measures in Asia (CICA) and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). Kazakhstan is an active participant in these structures.

Initially established to address border issues within the framework of agreements on building trust in the military arena, the SCO has evolved into quite a dynamic and influential organization. The Shanghai process, which brings countries having Islamic, Christian, and Buddhist civilizations together, is a vivid example of mutual understanding and trust.

The Conference on Interaction and Confidence-building Measures in Asia, another regional arrangement, works to ensure regional security. This forum provides a unique arena for exchanging views, analyzing the regional situation and seeking out compromises. The composition of the conference is unique in that it brings together 18 states, all of which are world and regional players from various parts of Greater Asia. It should be borne in mind that the CICA is the only structure that envisions the creation of a Pan-Asian security mechanism.

In this article to one of Poland's most esteemed magazines I have tried to share our views on the most important international issues and to highlight the main aspects of my country's domestic and foreign policies in so far as these are relevant for today's growing interest in Central Asia.
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