EU-Kazakhstan relations - Factsheet

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EU-Kazakhstan relations date back to the early 1990s, shortly after Kazakhstan declared its independence following the break-up of the Soviet Union. Bilateral relations are currently governed by the 1994 Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA), and in the early years were focused on trade and investment and on development cooperation. Since 2002 this cooperation has expanded to a number of other important areas such as energy, transport, justice and home affairs issues and political dialogue.

Kazakhstan is among the key partners for the EU in Central Asia. The EU Strategy for Central Asia (2007) and its latest review, adopted by the Foreign Affairs Council on 22 June 2015, highlights the strategic importance of Central Asia for the EU, calling for establishing and developing a strong, durable and stable relationship with Kazakhstan and other Central Asian countries, based on the principles of responsibility and ownership, and aimed at fostering the stable, secure and sustainable development of the region.

Relations taken to a new level

Since the conclusion of the 1994 Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, both Kazakhstan and the EU have experienced significant political, economic and social changes, triggering a joint decision at political level for an upgrading of bilateral relations. Negotiations on the new Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (EPCA) were launched in June 2011 and concluded on 12 September 2014. The signature of the Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, planned to take place in Astana on 21 December 2015, will elevate relations between the EU and Kazakhstan to a new level. The new agreement, which constitutes the first of its kind signed by the EU with one of its Central Asian partners, will create an enhanced legal basis for EU-Kazakhstan relations, providing a broad framework for reinforced political dialogue, cooperation in justice and home affairs among other sectors, and promoting mutual trade and investment.

EU - the main trade partner for Kazakhstan

The EU is Kazakhstan's primary trade partner, and its largest export market. In 2014, trade to the EU was worth EUR 31 billion (36%), ahead of China (22%), Russia (21%), the US, Uzbekistan and Turkey (2% each). At the same time, the EU is the third most important source of imports for Kazakhstan (19%), after China (29%) and Russia (32%) respectively.  Kazakhstan's exports to the EU are almost entirely in the oil and gas sectors (93%), alongside other minerals, chemicals and food products. From the EU, Kazakhstan imports machinery and transport equipment (over 50%) and pharmaceuticals (10%), alongside chemical products, plastics, medical devices and furniture. The EU is also the largest foreign investor in Kazakhstan, representing over 50% of FDI in Kazakhstan (2014).

From assistance to a new partnership

Support from the European Union has been important to Kazakhstan’s development since the country’s independence in 1991. Over 300 projects amounting to €140 million have been funded by the EU, notably focusing on: (a) strengthening the capacity of regionalandlocal government; (b) supporting reform of the justice sector; and (c) improving the capacity of the public sector to introduce social and economic reforms.

Assessed by the World Bank as an upper middle income country in 2012, Kazakhstan has not benefitted from preferential trade conditions under the EU Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP) since January 2014. Current cooperation with Kazakhstan is based on a multi-annual regional cooperation strategy which takes the situation and needs of each country into account. The Regional Strategy Paper for Assistance to Central Asia (2007-2013) foresees an investment of €719 million for regional programmes and country-based projects. The strategy is supported by a multi-annual Central Asia DCI Indicative Programme 2011-2013, which has allocated €321 million for regional and national programmes over three years (2011-2013). The regional programmes aim to promote regional cooperation and good neighbourly relations in Central Asia with a sum of €105 million earmarked for this purpose.

Other forms of EU assistance to Kazakhstan

The EU supports Kazakhstan's ongoing legal reforms, offering experience and know-how in particular through financial and technical cooperation and specific projects funded under the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR). With a budget of EUR 1 million per year, the EU finances a variety of projects in Kazakhstan that focus on encouraging a pluralistic political system while strengthening the role of civil society.

Kazakhstan has also benefitted from a number of instruments and programmes:

  • The Nuclear Safety Instrument and Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace;
  • In energy cooperation, including the Renewable Energy Sources/Energy Efficiency programme, which aims at promoting renewable energy, energy saving and energy efficiency in the countries of Central Asia;
  • Central Asia Invest programme, which aims to promote the sustainable economic development of the Central Asian Countries by encouraging the development of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs);
  • Border Management Programme in Central Asia and the Central Asia Drug Action Program;
  • The Central Asia Trans-European Mobility Scheme for University Studies (TEMPUS) programme, which between 2007-2013 funded 42 projects;
  • Erasmus Mundus, which between 2007-2013 provided mobility partnerships for 581 students and 140 staff, whilst 30 students were selected for joint Master's degrees;
  • Erasmus+: provisional results indicate that in 2015, 13 capacity-building projects have been selected in Kazakhstan, 451 students and staff will come from Kazakhstan to Europe and 158 from Europe to Kazakhstan; an additional 42 students have won scholarships for Joint Master's degrees and one doctoral fellowship was awarded.

Like all the Central Asian Republics, Kazakhstan is a recipient of EU humanitarian and civil protection funding, which between 1994 and 2015 has totalled over €222 million for the region. In 2013 and 2014, the EU provided small-scale support to Kazakhstan in response to the harsh winter and floods in the country. In total, almost 100 projects amounting to over €33 million have been funded by the Commission's Disaster Preparedness Programme.  The programme's current action plan focusses on disaster risk reduction measures at local, state and national levels as well as improving school safety and hospital preparedness.


Maja Kocijancic: +32 (0)498 984 425 - +32 (0)2 298 65 70 - -  @MajaEUspox

Adam Kaznowski: +32 (0)460 753 293 - +32 (0) 2 29 89359 -