Central Asia: changing politics : case of Kazakhstan
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Zentrum für internationale Entwicklungs- und Umweltforschung
Discussion papers / Zentrum für Internationale Entwicklungs- und Umweltforschung
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The main reason for blaming the EU for not watching the regional reforms more often is based on the idea that the EU has a chance to stimulate and positively influence developments in Central Asia and Kazakhstan and to provide a democratic social model. Many analysts think the EU could use economic relations and business ties in the region for the sake of social development and vice versa arguing that social instability affects the EU business relations forcing Kazakhstani government to finally solve problems and execute necessary democratic reforms.
For instance, Sebastien Peyrouse sees the following behavior: “In theory, Europe could make use of its business potential to help spread the social model it incarnates. The EU could thus choose to privilege business relations that commit the participants to ensuring certain legal standards in economic activity and to strengthening the rule of law. This could be done, for instance, by giving preference to Central Asian companies that are committed to respecting the rights of local workers, to fighting corruption, promoting fair competition and good corporate governance, and recognizing the importance of contracts. The long-term objective would be to increase the social responsibility of Central Asian companies – something that has indirect repercussions on the societies” (PEYROUSE 2009, P. 11). Nevertheless, he also doubts that it can be easily done because of possible accusations by using “its own doorstep to tax heavens – particularly in Luxembourg - where Central Asian heads of state, their families and the oligarchs close to them deposit money siphoned off from national wealth” (PEYROUSE 2009, P. 11).
However, the history of the EU as a welfare union of states is more powerful than the use of accusations. Therefore, European politicians may successfully use economic ties, contacts, and obligations in long-term trade relations to influence the government to provide better social reforms to secure stability, as well as strengthen the power of the EU as an external player in the region. In this case, the economic topic should serve as a basis for the European strategy in the region. “The EU therefore has every reason to implement forms of development assistance which, by helping European companies to establish themselves in the market, will play a key role in reducing Central Asia’s social vulnerability and will contribute to the fight against poverty, which is currently the main issue that needs to be addressed by the international community and by regional governments” (PEYROUSE 2009, P. 11).
Continuation of this strategy that will enforce Kazakhstani government to provide the society with necessary reforms will gain a positive image for the union both within the region and globally. This also may help the EU, as an external player, to further obtain influence on governmental decision-making processes. It is obvious that social stability is the key to decrease economical risk factors and to improve the investment climate to benefit the whole development of a country or union. In this case, the EU strategy will profit the EU itself. Chances for a successful realization of such a plan are relatively high.
Kazakhstan has been conduction fruitful business with EU Member States. According to the statistics, provided by the German Auswaertiges Amt, Germany takes place number eight in the list of Kazakhstan trading partners with a commodity turnover of EUR 5.7 billion in 2008, and it continues to grow (AUSWAERTIGES AMT 2009). “In this area, Kazakhstan does not hide its ambitions; its “Path to Europe” program clearly states its intention to become one of the main communications hubs between Asia and Europe” (PEYROUSE 2009, P. 9), according to Sebastien Peyrouse, who specialized on Central Asian trade and economic relations.
The program called “Path to Europe” was signed by the President in August 2008 and supposed to be implemented during 2009-2011. According to evaluations made by the EU and Kazakhstani political analysts, the program will help to intensify and deepen the political collaboration between Kazakhstan and the EU. The introduction of the program has 3 stages and the basis for implementation of the program was prepared carefully. First of all, the president addressed his hopes for future profitable relations with the EU beforehand, in his annual message to the people of Kazakhstan. This message was used by Kazakhstani officials during political meetings to announce the future document. Finally, the document was signed and came into force in August 2008.
The program seemed to be very promising. For instance, in March 2008, during the conference in the Netherlands, organized with the help of the Kazakhstan embassy, the ambassador of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Mainura Murzamadiyeva, familiarized more than 70 representatives of political, informational, and business layers of the Netherlands with the President´s message to the people of Kazakhstan, where he had announced the future program. Many of Dutch political scientists stated that the proposals the president made in his message will definitely intensify political cooperation between Kazakhstan and the EU, attract foreign investments, bring new technologies, and help to bring people of different regions close to each other.
Analyzing the program “Path to Europe” that is celebrating its first anniversary this August, since it was signed in 2008, the following objectives are performed by the government of the Republic of Kazakhstan:
- Cooperation with the EU countries;
- Creation of required conditions for technological cooperation;
- Energy cooperation development;
- Transport cooperation development;
- Technical regulation and metrology cooperation;
- Trade-economic relation strengthening and broadening;
- Small and medium-sized enterprises development;
- Living conditions improvement cooperation;
- Humanitarian cooperation;
- Kazakhstani legal base improvement and European experience application.
Kazakhstan clearly stated that it expects the level of a strategic partnership with leading European countries in political, economic, and humanitarian spheres and a trade commodity turnover increase by 10% per year as well as a high level of exchange visits. The country also expects the EU to help to promote Kazakhstan internationally which will improve the investment climate and, therefore, the economic situation.
However, priorities of the country remain unclear showing the country’s reluctance to answer the questions on how to establish democracy and solve the following problems “continuation of efforts on creation of conditions for democracy institutions development on the OSCE territory; transport and transit potential development; Eurasian transcontinental transport corridors development; ecological problems solutions; trust measures and regional security strengthening; non-military aspects of safety development under the OSCE activities including terror, extremism, drug trafficking, organized crime, weapons’ and people’s sale fighting and Afghanistan reconstruction”. To reach the declared goals and priorities, Kazakhstan needs the support of the EU and cooperation. Many political and business analysts provide recommendations suggesting to establish trade chambers and delegation sections related to trade and business that will monitor the activities, provide more legal support and consultations for small and medium-sized business in the region. Further, they suggest establishing more exchange programs for Kazakhstani businessmen to bring more business culture and experience. To monitor and evaluate the progress, the EU can establish clear and visible rating systems with distinct conditions and deadlines. In this case, evaluation committees and reports with full transparency are crucial.
However, the first step, the EU should fulfill, is to admit that the time of ‘soft power’ has ended and finally declare a clear political dimension. Without a distinctive view and goal, the EU will not succeed in representing a strong power and will not improve the policy that has been executing in Kazakhstan since signing the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement in 1992.
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