Kazakhstan has been implementing multi vector foreign policy since 1991. The ruling power of the country considers this policy a vital part of Kazakhstani strategic development . Time has proved high effectiveness of the chosen course for the Republic of Kazakhstan which has become the leading and independent Central Asian actor. The country successfully pursues its national interests utilizing a balanced approach to its international policy. Among results of the multi vector foreign policy are Kazakhstani Chairmanship in the OSCE and Shanghai Cooperation Organization in 2010, and the Organization of Islamic Conference in 2011.
Leadership in international organizations, representing all existing global centres of power, including Russia, China, the USA, EU and Islamic world, shows an ability of Kazakhstan to carry on an efficient dialogue and achieve mutual understanding with various and often variously directed entities of international policy. International community has acknowledged Kazakhstan as an interlink in cultural and political dialogue between East and West, Asia and Europe, Islam, Buddhism and Christianity.
Consistency and transparency of the foreign policy, active economic growth, internal stability, and democratic political development make Kazakhstan the second “pole” within the CIS frame.
European partners often consider Kazakhstan the most reliable and stable partner in Central Asia. The republic serves as an example of successful development on the background of the complicated regional geopolitical situation and escalation of challenges to stability and security in global dimension.
Retrospective analysis of working out the basic principles of the country’s foreign policy allows to affirm that this process took place in the conditions when gaining independence turned out to be completely unexpected.
The first task in the foreign policy of Kazakhstan was to introduce the new state to international community through entry into the UN and other universal and international organizations. The second was to determine Kazakhstan’s role and place in the system of international relations taking into account geopolitical and economic realities of Central Asia.
Political leaders of Kazakhstan, in the beginning of 1990s, suggested the conception of “Eurasian bridge” . According to this concept, geographically, culturally, and historically Kazakhstan belongs to both Europe and Asia. Based on this idea, President Nazarbayev N.A. has initiated a number of integration projects, including Eurasian Union, Customs Union, and SCO.
Approximately from the second half of 1990s, the conception of “Eurasian bridge” was transformed into the so called doctrine of “multi vector diplomacy”.
Officially this doctrine is aimed at leading the foreign policy in all important for Kazakhstan directions, including Russia and CIS, the USA and China, Central Asia, Europe, Asian and Pacific Ocean region, Muslim world and developed industrial countries. This policy assumes equal and mutually beneficial cooperation.
Today the foreign policy doctrine of the Republic of Kazakhstanis is based on the following principles:
Close interconnection of foreign and internal policy
Mutual respect of sovereignty and independence
Adherence to principles and flexibility at lagging of national interests, ability to positional maneuvering
Equilibrium and multi vector foreign policy pragmatism in the choice of allies and partners
Achievement of balance between global, regional, subregional and national approaches in resolution of problems related to peace and security
Being UN member, Kazakhstan implements its foreign policy based on principles of international law
As a result, the foreign policy doctrine of Kazakhstan may be viewed as a healthy geopolitical pragmatism aimed at development relations with a wide number of states [3, p.92-93].
It becomes obvious that Kazakhstan has completed initial transition period. Currently, the republic enters qualitatively new stage of its development which requires certain transformations in the foreign policy priorities. Still following the principles of multi vector policy foreign policy, in the next years, we expect Kazakhstan to concentrate on:
Continuing integration of Kazakhstan into the world economy (Customs Union, WTO etc.)
Strengthening geopolitical security
Increasing competitiveness of the national economy
Development of human capital and social modernization
Political and administrative development
In foreign policy of Kazakhstan, special meaning is drawn to cooperation with European countries. Kazakhstan and European Union have long history of partnership. Established 15 years ago, diplomatic relations between Kazakhstan and European Union have achieved the level of strategic partnership. In 1996 Kazakhstan and European Union concluded first agreements in such fields as textile goods trade and nuclear cooperation. In 1999 the Agreement on Partnership and Cooperation between Kazakhstan and European Union came into force. This agreement serves as the basis for deepening our cooperation and creates a legal base for bilateral relations.
For the last decade, Kazakhstan and European Union have signed a number of other agreements in various fields, including energy and transport.
In practice interaction between Kazakhstan and European Union is carried out in various formats: sittings of Cooperation Council, Cooperation Committee, subcommittees on special issues such as trade, investments, energy and transport, justice, law and order.
In 2007 the EU adopted the “Strategy of new partnership “EU – Central Asia.” The strategy is directed at improvement relations of EU with the region as a whole and each country separately. The strategy determines the priorities of cooperation in six basic spheres: democracy and human rights, education, trade and investment, energy and transport, protection of environment, struggle with common threats and challenges. Political dialogue on given priority issues are activated thanks to regular meetings between EU and Ministry for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan, conduction of an official dialogue on human rights on regular basis, cooperation in the field of law and order, protection of environment, water management and also interaction in the field of border control, fight with illegal drugs turnover and other spheres which constitute a menace for people of Kazakhstan and the EU.
In 2008 Kazakhstan adopted the state programme “A way to Europe” for the period of 2009-2011. This programme is aimed at Kazakhstan’s going out into the level of strategic partnership with leading European countries.
To achieve this goal a range of tasks was provided to tackle, in particular, development and intensification of cooperation of the Republic of Kazakhstan and European states in the following spheres: technology, energy, transport, technical regulation and metrology, trade and economic collaboration, development of small and medium enterprises, quality of life and humanitarian dimension. Moreover, in accordance with this program Kazakhstani institutional and legal base was supposed to be perfected by applying positive European experience and to create conditions for Kazakhstan’s chairmanship in the OSCE. In whole, it helped to harmonize Kazakhstani and European standards in many spheres.
Both Kazakhstan and the EU counteract to modern challenges like other players of the world community. Among them: globalization management to gain benefits, recovery after world economic crisis, fight with climate change consequences, terrorism, organized crime and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, safeguarding of international world order on the basis of supremacy of law and efficient international organizations. At the same time, relations of Kazakhstan and the EU are closely connected with energy collaboration and fight against illegal narcotics trafficking. The abovementioned challenges are landmarks for the EU in developing relations with Kazakhstan.
At present, the EU is the largest trade partner of Kazakhstan: its share in aggregate external trade of the republic totals to 40 %. Moreover, the EU is a major and direct foreign investor of Kazakhstan. Cooperation in energy sector is important for the EU. Kazakhstan with its hydrocarbons reserves is quite an attractive partner for the EU, which strives to diversify oil routes from the Middle East region and make them stable.
At once Kazakhstan is also interested in the stable European market that is characterized by significant demand in Kazakhstani raw materials. Memorandum on cooperation in energy sector between Kazakhstan and the EU was signed in December, 2006 and is being successfully executed. This document stipulates not only energy resources supply but also cooperation in raising energy efficiency, development of renewable energy sources, clean coal technology and CO2 trapping and energy infrastructure. President of the Republic of Kazakhstan in his address to the people of Kazakhstan dated January 21, 2011 proposed to develop and adopt “Kazakhstan -EU” Energy Charter which may in future guarantee stable supply of energy resources to the European markets.
Economic relations between Kazakhstan and the EU are not limited by energy sphere. The EU backs Kazakhstani efforts in the issues of economic diversification, know—how and the best practices introduction and also in Kazakhstan’s joining the WTO. The EU also promotes the development of cooperation in transport sphere. In 2009 corresponding memorandum between two countries was signed on this issue. The EU cooperates with Kazakhstan on expanding trans-European transport networks and in development of regional transport cooperation EU-Black Sea. This work is carried out in the framework of TRACEKA program and other projects.
Kazakhstan and EU also cooperate in cultural-humanitarian and ecological sphere. Under the aegis of the EU a number of projects are being realized aimed at consolidation of ecological security, water resources management and mitigation of climatic conditions to public health. The number of Kazakhstani young people who study in the European countries increases every year. The educational system of Kazakhstan successively approximates to the European standards. Partnership between two countries is of long-term character and will benefit as far as it deepens.
Cooperation with the countries of Eastern Europe takes important place in European vector of Kazakhstan’s foreign policy. In international relations there are disputes concerning the place of the Baltic States in Europe. Some people claim that the Baltic States are part of East Europe which includes Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria. Some people believe that they should be attached to North Europe together with the Scandinavian countries, Denmark and Finland. From our point of view, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania may be considered as an integral part of East Europe.
The importance of Kazakhstani-EU cooperation is conditioned by geopolitics and the level of political, economic and social development. Although relations with East Europe were established in the early 1990s, they began to develop actively only last decade. Currently, Kazakhstan has supported regular political dialogue with partners from East Europe, reached mutual understanding at high level, constantly held business forums, meetings of honored scientists, art workers and sportsmen in the territory of partner states.
Relations with Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Bulgaria are being actively developed. It is necessary to underline that relations with the Baltic States and Romania have become more active. Contract-legal base of cooperation including intergovernmental treaties and agreements on economic, humanitarian, scientific and cultural issues is step by step developed. In this context Kazakhstan proceeds from assumption that cooperation with states of this region must be formed on legal base to promote effective interaction of market economies [3, p.100-101].
It provides for concluding of treaties on encouraging and mutual protection of investments, avoiding double taxation and also adopting other documents to maximize free movement of goods and services.
There are some other factors that promote further strengthening of relations between Kazakhstan and countries of East Europe. Mutual interest is among them. As shown in Table 1, Kazakhstan is considered to be a promising market for countries of East Europe. On the other hand, Kazakhstan is seeking technologies and investments from East Europe especially in food, processing, pharmaceutics and light industries. East–European partners are attractive to Kazakhstan from the point of view of transport potential which can be used in supply of energy resources to the West Europe markets.
In its turn, countries of East Europe are interested in acting as a transit zone for supplying Kazakhstani raw materials in Europe and even processing and consuming these resources that pass through their territory. Kazakhstan is also interested in experience of reforming of East Europe countries which in short period of time modernized their national economies, public administration, set up democratic political systems and developed civil society. Republic of Kazakhstan may act as a central point of dissemination of goods and technologies in populous Central Asian market. At the same time, partnership with Eastern European countries may help Kazakhstan in opening Western European markets and promoting its interests in European Union.
Table 1. Interests
Interests of Eastern Europe
Interests of Kazakhstan
New technologies, investments
Transportation and refinement of energy resources
Transportation of energy resources to markets in Western Europe
The experience of reform and integration
Partnership in Central Asia
Partnership in the European Union
Kazakhstan's relations with the Baltic countries are in line with European foreign policy, and fit into the logic of cooperation with Eastern Europe. Kazakhstan established diplomatic relations with the Baltic States in the early 1990s. Mutual visits at high level were the beginning of cooperation with Estonia and Latvia. In 1994 mutual visits of L. Meri, the President of Estonia, to Kazakhstan and N.Nazarbayev, the President of Kazakhstan, to Estonia took place. In the same year, Kazakhstani President made a return visit to the Republic of Lithuania, since A. Brazauskas, the Lithuanian President, had visited Kazakhstan a year before .
Agreements at the highest level were followed by meetings at the level of prime ministers, ministers and parliamentary delegations of the countries involved. In general, despite certain results, the 1990s cannot be called a period of intensive cooperation between Kazakhstan and the Baltic countries. The relationship of that time is characterized to be rather passive, differently directed and ‘lying-in-wait’ positions being taken. As a result, despite the presence of certain mutual interests, it is noted that the 1990s is seemed as a period of unrealized potentials and missed opportunities in the Kazakh-Baltic relationships. It has its own explanation: Firstly, during the period under review, Kazakhstan’s socio-economic state was in deep crisis. In this regard, the foreign policy of the country was mainly aimed at solving domestic problems, at attracting investments, and in searching for partners that could provide concrete help and support to the country in ongoing transformations. Neighboring and developed countries were the main partners in Kazakhstan's foreign policy at that time.
At the same time the Baltic States were experiencing a difficult period of their history. As well as the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Baltic countries experienced serious problems, and were engaged in the reform and transition to new economic and political systems. In addition, the foreign policy of the Baltic States at that time strived to move away from all that had concerned with the Soviet past, and focused on the quick reunification with the states of European community.
Secondly, it should be noted that there was a sharp deterioration in relations between Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania with Russia, which historically has had, and continues to have, its influence on processes occurring in the Baltic countries.
Kazakhstan’s relations with the Baltic countries intensified in the beginning of 2000s. By that time it had become clear that the sides had a number of mutual interests. So, in June 2004, an official visit of A. Ruitel, the President of Estonia, to Kazakhstan took place. Within that visit there were meetings with Nursultan Nazarbaev, the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, and with N. Abykayev, the Senate Chairman. As a result, the Agreement between the Government of Kazakhstan and the Government of the Republic of Estonia on cooperation in combating organized crime and other forms of crime, and on cooperation in the cultural sphere were signed.
There was an official visit of U. Paet, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Estonia, to Kazakhstan on October 17-18, 2008. On May 28-29, 2009 consultations at high level between the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan and the Republic of Estonia were held in Tallinn. During these meetings issues of bilateral and multilateral cooperation were discussed. On September 7-9, 2009 A.Ansip, the Prime Minister of Estonia, made an official visit to Kazakhstan. In the course of this meeting bilateral agreements on the release of the holders of diplomatic passports of the Republic of Kazakhstan and the Republic of Estonia from the visa requirements, and on economic, scientific and technological cooperation were signed. According to reached agreements, Kazakh-Estonian intergovernmental commission on trade and economic cooperation was established.
In May, 2000 V.Adamkus, Lithuanian President, made on official visit to Kazakhstan, and on May 13-14, 2008 G. Kirkilas, the Prime Minister of Lithuania, also visited Kazakhstan.
An official visit made by N. Nazarbayev, the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, to Lithuania on April 4-7, 2001 gave a new impetus to the development of Kazakh-Lithuanian relations. During this visit the second meeting of the Kazakh-Lithuanian commission on trade and economic cooperation was held. In September 2007 President Nazarbayev and President Adamkus met within the framework of the 62 session of the UN General Assembly. They exchanged their views on top issues of Kazakh-Lithuanian cooperation including those of energy security, new EU Central Asia strategy and the two countries’ chairmanship over OSCE.
An agreement between the two countries’ Ministries of Defense on military cooperation was signed during the Lithuania Prime-Minister Kirkilas’s visit to Kazakhstan. Prospects of cooperation in such spheres as political interaction, international security partnership, trade-economic cooperation, Lithuania’s assistance to Kazakhstan’s economy diversification and cultural-and-humanitarian cooperation were the key subjects of Kazakhstani-Lithuanian negotiations at the top level.
As for Latvia, President Nazarbayev visited this country on 17-18 July 2006, while President Zatlers visited Astana on 3-5 October 2008 . These visits have intensified relations between two countries.
Stimulation of the relations between Kazakhstan and Baltic countries is objective and required. First, as mentioned above, their relations are based on mutual interest. Second, in the 2000s both Kazakhstan and Baltic countries obtained good conditions for the development and consolidation of mutually advantageous cooperation. The Republic of Kazakhstan and Baltic countries overcame economic hardships of the transition period and started demonstrating impressive results in both economic and social sphere and foreign policy. Thus, in 1994 Kazakhstani GDP per capita made up a little more than $700, in 2004 – $2700, and by January 1, 2011 it exceeded $9000 . Besides, at that time energy resources, which Kazakhstan excessively possesses, became noticeably more demanded. Baltic countries successfully implemented a number of economic and political reforms and became equal members of the European Union.
At present, the international treaty framework of cooperation between Kazakhstan and Baltic countries has more than 50 treaties and agreements in various spheres. In particular, the international treaty framework of Kazakhstani-Lithuanian cooperation has 36 treaties and agreements in various spheres. The basic ones are: The Treaty between the Republic of Kazakhstan and Baltic countries on mutual understanding and cooperation and intergovernmental agreements on trade-and-economic cooperation.
In 2010 the total volume of trade between Kazakhstan and Baltic countries made up more than $456, 5 million, which is 9% higher than in 2009 .
Kazakhstan exports oil products, ferrous chromium and ferrous metal to Baltic countries. Cotton, rape seeds, salts of oxy-metal acids and mineral fertilizers also rank important places in Kazakhstani export. From Baltic countries Kazakhstan primarily imports frozen and canned fish, automobiles, pharmaceutical products, electrical machines, television and radio devices, and products of stock-breeding and various industrial products including furniture. Kazakhstan’s trade with separate Baltic countries looks in the following way: Latvia – $201,5million, Lithuania – $176,4million, Estonia – $74,5million . Big differences in the volumes of the external trade, for instance with Estonia and Lithuania, are accounted by the fact that Lithuania’s area is often used as a transit zone for the delivery of Kazakhstani raw materials to the West European markets. Both parties’ potential has not been fully used yet. Lithuania has an interest in attraction of Kazakhstani oil to be exported by Lithuanian transit corridor and processed it in its refineries. However, it is Russia’s transport tariff policy that plays crucial role in the matter of Kazakhstani raw materials transit via Baltic ports. In this context, great attention is paid to the solution of problems of transit between Lithuania and Russia, which are working on the Kaliningrad-Klaipeda project (2K) aimed at the third countries, including Kazakhstan and China.
Cooperation between Kazakhstan and the Baltic countries has been developing in cultural and humanitarian sphere. It is important to note that recently interaction in this respect has been sped up. The number of Kazakhstani students, who choose Baltic universities, is increasing. The Baltic countries’ artistic groups take part in Kazakhstani festivals and exhibitions. Kazakhstan’s artistic people’s thematic exhibitions, music concerts and artistic expositions are regularly held in the Baltic cities. There are Kazakh communities in some countries of the region, for example in Lithuania and Estonia.
On the whole, the Baltic share of Kazakhstan’s European policy ranks an important place. In spite of the lost time for building up cooperation in the 1990s, in the 2000s parties managed to find the way of strengthening their relations. Relations between Kazakhstan and Baltic countries are based on mutual economic and political interests. Besides, the states have in common their former mutual history inside the USSR. The transit-and-transport potential and Baltic countries’ membership in the EU on the one hand and Kazakhstan’s great stock of hydro carbonic raw materials and other mineral resources on the other hand are the key factor in the states’ economic rapprochement.
Apart from issues connected with energy resources and their transportation, parties have got a wide unused space for trade-and-economic cooperation. Baltic capital together with Kazakhstani business could create a number of companies aimed at the EU markets, for example in agricultural sphere. With regard to the Customs Union, formed by Kazakhstan, Russia and Belarus, such cooperation could become profitable. We foresee the increase in the trade-and-economic cooperation between Kazakhstan and Baltic countries in the nearest future.
Kazakhstan is using the Baltic countries’ potential in political dialogue with the EU countries. The Baltic countries’ supported Kazakhstan’s chairmanship in OSCE. Efficient cooperation in the issues of the Summit organization in Astana proves that. In the future, Baltic countries could “lobby” Kazakhstan in the European Union and in response could get an access to Central Asia and the Customs Union’s markets.
We think that prospects of mutually advantageous cooperation between Kazakhstan and Baltic countries are obvious. We are positive, that countries have big unused potential which is enough for bilateral political trade-and-economic and cultural-and-humanitarian expansion for cooperation. In the visible future the countries will take the way of strategic partnership.
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Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan, http://portal.mfa.kz/portal/page/portal/mfa/ru/content/policy/cooperation/europe_america (February, 2011)
Nazarbayev N.A., National Address of the President of Kazakhstan, February 2005, http://www.akorda.kz/ru/speeches/addresses_of_the_president_of_Kazakhstan/February_2005 (February, 2011)
Agency of Statistic of Kazakhstan, http://www.stat.kz/digital/vnesh_torg/Pages/default.aspx (February, 2011)