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Brussels, 18 October 2006

Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner to visit Kazakhstan 19/20 October

The Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy, Benita Ferrero-Waldner will travel to Kazakhstan on a bilateral visit on 19th/20th October. In Astana she looks forward to meeting President Nursultan Nazarbaev, Foreign Minister Kasymzhomart Tokaev, and other leading members of the government, and in Almaty she will meet leaders of opposition parties, as well as representatives of NGOs. The visit comes at a moment when EU Enlargement and the development of the European Neighbourhood Policy are bringing Central Asia closer to the EU. Important security and economic interests argue for a higher profile of this region in European external policy. The European Union is seeking to strengthen its partnership with the countries concerned, and a new strategy for Central Asia is likely to be adopted in 2007

On the eve of her visit Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner said: “The EU seeks to promote stability in Central Asia, and needs strong partners for the fight against the challenges of drugs trafficking, international crime and terrorism. We are keen to strengthen energy and transport links with the region, promote trade and investment, and extend our co-operation in areas such as innovation, education, science and space. For all these reasons we want to step up our engagement in Central Asia”.

She added: “Kazakhstan is a very important partner for the EU in Central Asia. I look forward to discussing how we can support democratic and economic reforms, enhance energy co-operation, build on our already strong trade relationship, and seek new ways to work together to promote regional stability in Central Asia”.

The European Commission acknowledges progress in Kazakhstan’s democratisation process, and is keen to support further reforms through a more intensive political dialogue and the sharing of expertise.

The EU welcomes the positive developments that have already taken place in the EU-Kazakhstan relationship: The EU has become Kazakhstan’s first trading partner (overtaking Russia) and is ready to continue supporting the diversification of the economy, the development of small and medium sized enterprises, and Kazakhstan’s WTO accession.

Given the EU’s increasing reliance on energy imports and the necessity to develop multiple sources of supply and transit routes, Kazakhstan’s growing export potential in hydrocarbons will make it a key partner in the EU Energy market. During her visit, Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner will seek Kazakhstan’s support for the development of the Transcaspian energy transit corridor across the Black Sea and for the Odessa-Brody-Plock pipeline.

The EU’s Partnership and Co-operation Agreement with Kazakhstan (in force since 1999) provides the framework for this relationship. In 2002, dialogue between the two sides was expanded to include energy and transport issues and by establishing a Subcommittee on Justice and Home Affairs. The EU also has agreements with Kazakhstan on Steel, Nuclear Safety, and Nuclear Fusion.

Trade with the EU accounts for one third of Kazakhstan’s external trade, with fuel representing 78% of its exports to Europe. In addition, Kazakhstan is the EU’s biggest trading partner in Central Asia, with bilateral trade worth over €15 billion.
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