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Thank you, President Tokayev, for your very warm welcome and for our excellent discussion. This is my first opportunity to meet you and to visit your vast and beautiful country.
I am very glad to pay a visit at a time when positive dynamics in your region have created new opportunities for cooperation. The European Union has just outlined its strategy for a deeper partnership with Central Asia and with all of its countries.
Kazakhstan is a crucial partner for the EU in this region and I would like to stress that by my visit. Your country is a bridge between Europe and the Far East and between Russia and South Asia. With our new Central Asia Strategy, we propose to forge a stronger and modern partnership, deepen our cooperation on energy, transport and digital connections.
President Tokayev and I had a good discussion of Kazakhstan's ambitious reforms programme, including improvement of the business climate, rule of law, fundamental rights, good governance and anti-corruption.
The EU is Kazakhstan's first trading partner and foreign investor. The EU-Kazakhstan Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement will soon be ratified by all EU Member States and we have already started implementing it. This is also a good basis to address regional challenges, like violent extremism or environmental issues.
We also discussed the ongoing political transition in Kazakhstan.Finally, let me say that I am moved to be visiting Kazakhstan on your National Day of Remembrance of Victims of Political Repressions. The memorial for victims in the former Soviet camp ALZHIR – that I will visit today - is a powerful and symbolic reminder of the resilience of human spirit in light of totalitarianism. Many of my compatriots, too, lost their lives in the Gulags. It made me recall the Polish and European experience of transition to democracy, including my own. It required a lot of sacrifices, but it was every bit worth the effort. Thank you.