Kazakhstan proposes a road map for implementing the Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement between the Republic of Kazakhstan and the European Union (EPCA). This was the announcement made in Brussels today by Kazakhstan's Foreign Minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov during the 16th meeting of the Kazakhstan-EU Cooperation Council.
The Agreement, signed in 2015, has so far been ratified by majority of the EU Member States and received consent from the European Parliament. The EPCA is a next-generation document that covers 29 fields of cooperation. Already, new collaborative structures have been created – the cooperation committee in the “trade configuration", a subcommittee on customs issues, and a subcommittee on energy, transport, environment and climate change.
“The implementation of the EPCA's full potential corresponds to Kazakhstan's interests as the document will facilitate the effective implementation of the comprehensive modernization strategy pursued by President Nursultan Nazarbayev", the Minister said. The Kazakh diplomat briefed his European colleagues on the policy priorities of the Head of State, as outlined in the yearly State-of-the-Nation “New Opportunities for Development Under the Fourth Industrial Revolution". Kazakhstan offers EU Member States the chance to actively participate in the digitalization of its industry, development of transportation and logistics, and modernization of its agricultural sector.
The European delegation, which included high-ranking representatives of the European Commission and the European External Action Service, was headed by the Deputy Prime Minister – Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Bulgaria Ekaterina Zaharieva, whose country now holds the rotating presidency of the EU Council. During the meeting, the delegations reviewed the full spectrum of bilateral cooperation issues between Kazakhstan and the EU, which celebrated the 25th anniversary of their diplomatic relations on February 2.
The European Union is Kazakhstan's largest trade and investment partner, accounting for about half of the country's foreign trade and direct investments. The volume of trade between Kazakhstan and the EU increased by 25% in 2017 over the previous year, amounting to about $30 billion.
As stated by the Kazakh side, the implementation of the new Agreement will let increase trade volume significantly firstly by high-tech products, and generate new opportunities for economic growth and job creation.
“In turn, the strengthening of trade and economic ties is inextricably linked with the free movement of citizens. In this regard, starting negotiations on facilitating the visa regime as soon as possible has become an objective necessity," Minister Abdrakhmanov said. He expressed the hope that negotiations on visa facilitation will start this year.
The Kazakhstan-EU Cooperation Council is the highest body for interaction established under the EPCA. The Council meets once a year at the level of foreign ministers of Kazakhstan and the Member State holding the EU presidency in order to carry out a regular review of the Agreement's implementation, and also to discuss bilateral and international issues.
Also today in Brussels, the European media platform “Euractiv" organized a forum on the topic “What's next for EU-Kazakhstan relations", with the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan Roman Vassilenko, EU Special Representative for Central Asia Peter Burian, members of European Parliament, high-ranking officials from the European External Action Service, European experts and the media in attendance. The forum participants noted the high level of comprehensive interaction between Kazakhstan and the EU and the existence of considerable prospects for the continued growth of this cooperation. The forum also highly evaluated Kazakhstan's presidency of the UN Security Council in January 2018.