Dear ladies and gentlemen!
First of all, I would like to thank the Estonian Presidency of the EU Council and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Germany for hosting this important event at such a high level. Allow me to welcome the participants of this important Conference dedicated to the 10th anniversary of the EU Strategy for Central Asia.
Today, we celebrate the anniversary of the creation, upon Germany's initiative, of the document which has become an important conduit of European Union interests in Central Asia. It has created the necessary foundation and given a positive impetus to the EU's cooperation with the countries of our region.
Over the ten years of its existence, the Strategy has established itself as a most effective and integrated tool for interregional interaction. The projects implemented within it have contributed to the development of our region and the realization of the existing potential of the Central Asian states.
Moreover, the implementation of the Strategy has allowed our European partners to gain a better understanding of what the Central Asian region and its constituent countries are, what needs they have, and how they intend to develop relations with the EU in the future.
In this context, I would like to note with satisfaction the ongoing commitment of the European side to improve the Strategy and adapt it to modern realities. This involves taking into account new trends and emerging challenges as well as the changing needs and opportunities of the region.
In this connection, I should note with appreciation the role played by the European Union Special Representative for Central Asia, and the contribution made towards the deepening of our relations. This was made by Mr Pierre Morel and Ms Patricia Flor, and now continues by Mr Peter Burian.
The decision of the European side to carry out a major revision of the Strategy and to prepare an entirely new document by the end of 2019 confirms once again that the EU gives priority to building new relations with our region.
We believe that now the moment has come for the preparation of the updated Strategy, taking into account the fact that the countries of Central Asia attach greater importance to cooperation with each other and are making significant strides in this direction. This opens up new opportunities for the implementation of joint mutually beneficial projects with the EU.
The key component of the new strategy, in our opinion, should be the development of the region's economic potential, which implies the implementation of programs aimed at improving the investment climate, ensuring sustainable economic growth included ensuring energy efficiency, developing human capital and ensuring employment.
Particular attention should be paid to the development of small and medium-sized businesses, designed to contribute to the development of the middle class – the basis of socio-economic stability of any modern state. It is gratifying that the European side supported the proposal to establish a new track for the Strategy aimed at developing the private sector and employment, and is already working to find ways to implement it.
In the modern world, the question of so-called “connectivity" plays a key role, and our region, located in the heart of Eurasia along the crossroads of all land routes East-West and North-South, is a vivid confirmation.
We are now witnessing a gradual convergence of alternative projects of the Silk Road within the framework of China's Belt and Road Initiative, which, if successfully implemented, can make Central Asia an important link in global economic relations.
In this regard, we believe the role of the EU in developing the transit and transport potential of the Central Asian region should become a defining factor. We suggest the European Union include this in the updated Strategy and consider the possibility of combining efforts in this direction with the international actors interested in a stable and prosperous Central Asia.
We are sure that harmonization of interests of global partners in the region and synergy of their activities in areas of mutual interest will be beneficial for all participants, first of all, for the countries of the region.
Dear participants of the conference!
Following the results of the fourth meeting of the High-Level Security and Political Dialogue held in Bishkek in June, it is gratifying to note that the views of the EU and the countries of the region on the issues of sustainable development of Central Asia coincide completely. Our countries are more interested than ever in developing this format of cooperation.
We expect our interaction on security issues will continue to expand and progressively transform into an important instrument of practical interregional interaction.
During the meeting of the High-Level Dialogue, participants agreed that one of the key components necessary for effective economic development of the region, including Afghanistan, as well as the preventive counteraction to radicalization, is education.
Kazakhstan fully supports the intention of the European side to strengthen the role of this component in the implementation of the Strategy. We hope that the results of the Second EU-CA Ministerial Meeting on Education, held in Astana last June, will give a fresh impetus to cooperation between the EU and the countries of the region in this area.
Separately, I would like to briefly focus on the issues of assistance to Afghanistan. The maintenance of security and stability of this state is one of the most important priorities for both the EU and Central Asian countries. Kazakhstan is convinced that the revival of Afghanistan as a prosperous country and a good neighbour will have a hugely positive impact on the well-being of the entire region.
Attaching great importance to the development of human capital, our country has been implementing an educational programme for representatives of Afghan youth since 2010, in which currently 564 people have completed training in Kazakhstan's higher education institutions and technical and vocational education organizations, and more than 400 people continue their training. The programme is being carried out at the expense of the Republic of Kazakhstan up until 2021.
Afghan graduates of Kazakh universities return to their homeland and apply their knowledge in various structures of the country for the benefit of their fellow Afghan citizens.
At the same time, the process of restoring a peaceful life in the country requires an integrated approach. We are deeply convinced that the future development of Afghanistan largely depends on the degree of involvement of interested parties, including the European Union, in the country's reconstruction processes.
Kazakhstan is ready to take the initiative to continue the education programme for Afghan citizens, provided the European Union is ready to get involved in financing its implementation. We have accumulated a lot of experience in training students from Afghanistan. Kazakhstan can take 1,000 more Afghan citizens to study in our universities under the scheme.
Dear ladies and gentlemen!
As we have seen, the implementation of the European Union Strategy for Central Asia is one of the most important tools aimed at developing sustainability and building the capacity of the entire region.
The agenda for regional cooperation within the near future is very rich. The European Union will have to conduct a sufficiently large and qualitative work to determine the priority areas for further cooperation with the countries of the region.
Kazakhstan, for its part, is ready to actively participate in this process and calls on our European partners and the Central Asian states to actively support this work.
We look forward to the upcoming meeting of the EU-Central Asian Foreign Ministers in Samarkand, in November this year, which, in our opinion, could be the beginning of a new stage of relations between the European Union and the countries of Central Asia.
In conclusion, I would like to thank the representatives of the European Union, as well as the EU member states for their active participation in the International Specialized Exhibition EXPO 2017, which attracted almost four million visitors and ended successfully on September 10 this year.
Thank you very much for attention!