The 8th Raw Materials Week concluded in Brussels, marking the annual gathering orchestrated by the European Union. This forum served as a platform to delve into EU policies and initiatives addressing the supply of raw materials among participating nations.
One notable facet of the Raw Materials Week was the EU-Kazakhstan business forum, highlighting the active broadening of political and economic ties between this Central Asian nation and Europe. Kazakhstan is steadily bolstering its standing and influence on the global stage.
Presently, Kazakhstan holds a significant position among the European Union’s trading partners. Specifically, Italy (18.5%) and the Netherlands (5%) stand out as significant export partners for Kazakhstan. In 2022, the trade turnover surged, reaching around $40 billion. Foreign investment in Kazakhstan’s economy now surpasses $78 billion, with France alone contributing approximately $19 billion.
Europe displays a serious interest in Kazakhstan’s raw material prospects, solidifying a partnership that encompasses environmentally sustainable resources—a strategically pivotal move for both entities. Kazakhstan boasts a repertoire of over 20 raw materials, encompassing lithium, tungsten, and rare earth metals. It’s worth recalling the signing of the Memorandum of Strategic Partnership between Kazakhstan and the EU in November 2022, a significant milestone.
At the recent business forum, Kanat Sharlapaev, the Minister of Industry and Construction of Kazakhstan, highlighted his country’s raw material potential.
Another testament to the deepening cooperation between the European Union and Kazakhstan is the initiation of a new phase for the joint Kazakh-French venture KATCO, established in 1996 through a partnership between Orano Mining (France) and Kazatomprom, Kazakhstan’s nuclear company. This company is poised to commence uranium extraction from Kazakhstan’s South Tortkuduk deposit by late 2023. Kazakhstan’s prowess in uranium mining remains a significant advantage, positioning the country as the world’s foremost producer of this metal.
The inception of the new uranium mining endeavor stemmed from French President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to Kazakhstan and his meeting with Kazakh President Kasym-Jomart Tokayev. During Macron’s visit, several business agreements were inked between France and Kazakhstan, among them a declaration of intent concerning a partnership in the realm of rare earths and metals.
Europe is presently showcasing a shifting perspective toward Kazakhstan, once viewed as Russia’s sphere of influence, now garnering considerable interest from the EU.
Throughout the year, the country welcomed visits from various dignitaries including the U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Hungarian President Viktor Orban, EU Foreign Minister Josep Borrel, President of the European Council Charles Michel, and in August, a delegation from the European Parliament led by David McAllister, a member of the European Parliament and head of the Committee on Foreign Relations.
This diplomatic effort commenced during President Tokayev’s tenure at the UN and has since significantly intensified, gaining momentum.
The significant attention from Europe towards Kazakhstan is indicative of the effective results achieved by President Kasym-Jomart Tokayev in his efforts to democratize the country. Under his leadership, Kazakhstan has made strides in becoming a major center for business and technology development, transforming its image from a distant Asian country to a strong political and economic partner in Central Asia. European leaders have taken notice of these changes and have positively assessed the country’s democratic development. President Tokayev has implemented significant reforms, including changes to the election system, simplification of the process for creating new political parties, and the establishment of a multiparty parliament. Additionally, rules for holding rallies have been updated to move from a permissive to a notification-based system. President Tokayev himself, along with future presidents, is now unable to run for a second term and them prohibited from being members of political parties, demonstrating a commitment to neutrality and fairness towards all political forces in the country. These changes and decisions reflect a clear commitment to liberalizing social and political life in Kazakhstan.
Europe finds this approach more comprehensible and acceptable. Astana’s increasingly European mindset and its futuristic appearance are no longer surprising; instead, this megacity is evolving into the focal point of Central Asia’s new world. Kazakhstan has secured a distinct position in the geopolitical power balance, marking successful strides forward.
Reliability and predictability are crucial, not just in terms of Kazakhstan’s supply capabilities but also in Europe’s procurement and investment decisions. Through strategic agreements, Kazakhstan aims to channel more investments into developing transportation, logistics infrastructure, and the Middle Corridor trade route. This endeavor positions Kazakhstan not only as a pivotal trading partner of the EU but also as a gateway to Central Asia.
Source: Modern Diplomacy