Delegation of the European Union to Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan and the EU

26/10/2020 - 10:31
EU relations with Country

These pages provide information about relations between the EU and Kazakhstan in areas such as political cooperation, the economy and trade, development cooperation and civil society.

The European Union and Kazakhstan have been partners since the country's independence in 1991. In December 2015, the European Union and Kazakhstan signed an Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (EPCA). This new Agreement, the first of its kind with a Central Asian partner, brought relations between the EU and Kazakhstan to a new level and represented an important milestone in more than 25 years of EU-Kazakhstan relations.

The EPCA, ratified by all EU Member States and the European Parliament, entered into force on 1 March 2020. The EPCA enables the EU and its Member States to advance and strengthen cooperation with Kazakhstan in key policy areas such as promoting mutual trade and investment, cooperation in justice and home affairs, economic and financial cooperation, energy, transport, environment and climate change, employment and social affairs, culture, education and research.

At the regional level, the EU Strategy on Central Asia adopted in 2019, provides an excellent framework to strengthen regional cooperation by taking advantage of new opportunities in the region and addressing common challenges together.

The EU and its Member States have mobilized €123 million for Central Asia. In July 2020, the EU launched a comprehensive €3 million Central Asia COVID-19 Crisis Response Solidarity Programme, with a primary focus on Kazakhstan The programme, implemented by the World Health Organisation, will provide support over a period of two years to mitigate the current outbreak of the pandemic and contribute towards longer-term resilience of the national health systems.

The European Union (EU) and Kazakhstan have established close economic and trade relations.

  • The EU is by far Kazakhstan’s first trade partner representing 40% of its external trade.
  • The EU is also the first foreign investor in Kazakhstan, representing 48% of total (gross) foreign direct investment (FDI) flows and approximately 60% of total net FDI stocks in 2018.

The EPCA establishes an enhanced legal basis for EU-Kazakhstan relations. The EPCA Trade and Business provisions facilitate trade and investment relations through strengthening cooperation and ensuring a better regulatory environment for EU and Kazakhstan's companies in areas such as:

  • trade in services;
  • establishment and operation of companies;
  • capital movements;
  • raw materials and energy;
  • government procurement;
  • intellectual property rights.

Kazakhstan acceded to the World Trade Organisation  on 30 November 2015.

The EU has consistently supported Kazakhstan's accession, which can help the country to integrate into the world economy, by applying international trade rules and norms.

High-level discussions

Economic and trade relations have regularly been on the agenda of the annual Cooperation Council of the EU and Kazakhstan, underlining their key importance in the partnership.

Technical discussions on trade, investment and customs matters take place regularly in the Cooperation Committee, Cooperation Council in Trade Configuration and the Customs Sub-Committees, in Brussels and Nur-Sultan.

In June 2019, a high level EU-Kazakhstan Business Platform, was launched to enable regular and direct dialogue between the Kazakh Government and EU companies and Heads of Mission. Issues of common interest to EU and Kazakh businesses, such as cooperation on reducing technical barriers to trade, notably in the agro-food sector, and tax legislation in particular prospects for decriminalization of tax offences.

The bilateral dialogues on environment and climate change take place under the Subcommittee on Energy, Transport, Environment and Climate Change in the framework of the EPCA.

In December 2019, the European Commission introduced the European Green Deal, a roadmap for making the EU's economy sustainable by turning climate and environmental challenges into opportunities across all policy areas and making the transition just and inclusive for all.  

In 2013, Kazakhstan began its shift to a green economy. This decision was motivated by the need to manage its large amount of natural resources. In the framework of its National Strategy towards Green Economy, Kazakhstan has made positive developments, for example in terms of waste management, the IGTIC-Green Technologies Center in Nur-Sultan was launched in May 2018.

The EU is actively looking into opportunities to support Kazakhstan’s national programme for transition to green economy.

Kazakhstan benefits from 12 regional projects that promote transboundary cooperation in areas of water, environment and sustainable energy in Central Asia. The projects are aligned to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals that catalyse actions to combat climate change, while gaining additional prominence through the Green Deal.

The EU supports Kazakhstan’s efforts of strengthening water security and climate. It supports investments and interventions that will enhance water use efficiency and climate resilience in Kazakhstan part of the Aral Sea basin and restore a critical ecosystem around North Aral Sea. This should have positive environmental impacts beyond the project area.

One of the last bilateral projects between the EU and Kazakhstan supported Kazakhstan’s transition to a green economy and successfully closed in 2018. Kazakhstan is also eligible to benefit from the Technical Assistance and Information Exchange (TAIEX) funded under the partnership instrument.

Kazakhstan is an active member of the EU-Central Asia Working Group on Environment and Climate Change organised under the EU-Central Asia Platform for Environment and Water Co-operation.

Kazakhstan ratified the Paris Agreement on 6 December 2016. Kazakhstan’s nationally determined contribution (NDC) to the Paris Agreement sets an unconditional target of 15% reduction of greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions by 2030 in comparison to 1990 levels.

Kazakhstan's economy is largely based on its oil sector, as well as on extraction of coal and uranium, and other important raw materials. Kazakhstan is a major energy supplier to the EU and contributes towards the diversification of supply sources for the EU markets.

With over 70% of its oil exports going to the EU (6% of EU oil demand), Kazakhstan is already the EU’s third largest non-OPEC supplier, after Russia and Norway. Kazakhstan exports its gas to Russia, Ukraine and China.

Kazakhstan is also a member of the Energy Charter and pursues an active role in the currently on-going Energy Charter modernisation debate.

Since bilateral relations began, the European Union and Republic of Kazakhstan have developed a strong and mutually beneficial relation in the field of energy. Major EU-based energy companies have significant investments in the Kazakh oil and gas industry. On the other hand, Kazakh national oil and gas company KMG controls important EU-based assets for refining, trading and retail in South-Eastern Europe and countries of the Eastern Partnership.

Kazakhstan has very large reserves of uranium and ranks first in the world in terms of production and export of raw uranium. It is the single largest supplier to EU nuclear energy industry and meets more than 21% of the EU uranium demand. Kazakhstan’s oil and uranium exports are important to the European Union and make a positive contribution to the continent’s energy diversification.

EU – Kazakhstan energy cooperation framework

Kazakhstan’s increasing role in the EU energy landscape is supported by a well-developed legal and institutional framework of bilateral cooperation in the field of energy. The EPCA between the European Union and Kazakhstan, recognizes the need for enhanced, sustainable and effective cooperation in the field of energy, to ensure energy security, based on principles of mutual interest, reciprocity, transparency and predictability.

More practical aspects of the EU – Kazakhstan energy relations are  addressed in the framework of the Memorandum of Understanding on Energy Cooperation, concluded in 2006, which covers topics such as:

  • energy security and investment;
  • increasing security of supply;
  • predictability of demand;
  • construction / upgrading transportation infrastructure of mutual interest;
  • promotion of industrial cooperation (upstream and downstream).

There are also several co-operation agreements in the field of nuclear energy, on general aspects related to the peaceful use of this type of energy, but also addressing specific areas, such as nuclear safety and nuclear fusion.

Periodic meetings are organized between the EU and Kazakh officials, to discuss implementation of the respective agreements.

Participation of Kazakhstan in EU-sponsored energy-related programs and initiatives

EU has provided high-level political and significant financial support to the creation in Kazakhstan of the Low-Enriched Uranium Bank (LEUB), owned and controlled by the International Atomic Energy Agency, but operated by the Government of Kazakhstan, under its own legislation, in accordance with IAEA safety standards and security guidance. The bank is intended to assure countries with peaceful nuclear programs of a ready supply of LEU in case they cannot access it on the commercial market or otherwise.

The EU and Kazakhstan are partners in the Energy Charter. Treaty Kazakhstan also benefits from the EU4Energy programme  of technical support for the creation of competitive energy markets, promotion of renewables and efficient use of energy.

The EU and Kazakhstan closely cooperates on development issues through many instruments.

Kazakhstan is eligible to receive financial and technical assistance from the EU through  the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace (IcSP), the Nuclear Safety Instrument, the Partnership Instrument and education support and exchange through the ERASMUS + Programme.

In addition, Kazakhstan is eligible to receive regional allocations from the Development and Cooperation Instrument. In November 2019, the EU Delegation Nur-Sultan launched three EU-funded new regional programmes for a total amount of EUR 28 million to support trade, rule of law as well as investments and growth in Central Asia.

Since 2014, due to its status as an Upper-Middle Income country, Kazakhstan is no longer receiving bilateral allocations from the Development and Cooperation Instrument (DCI). However, the EU continues to support the development of Kazakhstan and provides support via regional and thematic programmes.

The EPCA has a strong emphasis on democracy, rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms and supports Kazakhstan in its reform and modernisation processes. Every year the EU and Kazakhstan hold a Human Rights Dialogue and Justice and Home Affairs Subcommittee.

At the Human Rights Dialogue, a broad range of human rights related issues are discussed:

  • the penitentiary system, prevention of torture and ill-treatment;
  • civil society;
  • freedom of association and peaceful assembly;
  • women's rights;
  • children's right and non-discrimination;
  • freedom of expression;
  • freedom of religion or belief.

The Justice and Home Affairs Subcommittee is an opportunity to discuss rule of law, good governance and reform of the judiciary, judicial cooperation, the fight against money laundering and corruption, migration, asylum and border management, counterterrorism and prevention of violent extremism.

The EU provides support through the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) and the Non-State Actors – Local Authorities (NSA-LA) Programme of the Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI).

EIDHR is a financial and policy instrument designed to contribute to the development and consolidation of democracy and the rule of law, as well as respect of all human rights and fundamental freedoms worldwide. In pursuing this aim, EIDHR puts a strong emphasis on the role of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and offers independence of action, which is a critical feature of cooperation with CSOs at national level. Through this, EIDHR seeks to focus on sensitive political issues and innovative approaches. The NSA-LA Programme has been ongoing since 2007. It is an actor-oriented programme aimed at capacity building through support to initiatives proposed by non-state actors and local authorities.

The EU Delegation in Nur Sultan is currently managing five human rights related ongoing projects under the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) for a total amount of € 2 million.

The projects cover the following areas:

  • promotion of human rights and democratic reforms in Kazakhstan, in particular in relation to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association;
  • promotion of institutionalization of the cooperation between civil society organizations and the state authorities in the area of human dimension and legislative process through the activity in the working group and sub-groups of the Consultative and Advisory Body “The Dialogue Platform on Human Dimension”;
  • support to women human rights defenders for a more sustainable human rights defenders ' community in Central Asia;
  • protection and enforcement the rights of persons with disabilities to free movement and equal access to facilities and services in accordance with international standards;
  • enhance migrants’ access to justice to ensure their rights are protected, respected and fulfilled in line with international human rights standards.

The dialogue with Civil Society Organisations (CSO) in Kazakhstan takes place on a broad range of topics and in various formats along the priorities for EU intervention as envisaged in the EU Country Roadmap for Engagement with Civil Society.

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