Kazakhstan’s bilateral partnership with EU and Russia: between political dilemmas and economic interests


In 2007, the European Union launched a visionary strategy for the development of cooperation with Central Asian states. The document, called ‘The EU and Central Asia: Strategy for a New Partnership’ was aiming to enhance EU influence in the region through establishing a broader dialogue with the Central Asian states in areas such as institution-building, rule of law, trade, energy and security.

Ten years after its launching, EU’s bilateral relations with Central Asia republics have evolved on a different track, based on the government willingness to engage in a continuous reforming process under EU assistance. The most reliable EU partner in the region remains Kazakhstan, the only country which has signed an Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with the EU in December 2015 as recognition of an increased economic and energy interdependence between both parts.

Kazakhstan – EU bilateral relations have been developed in the context of a ‘multi-vectored’ Kazakh foreign policy. This concept defines Astana’s balanced approach towards its international partners, seeking to obtain large economic benefits and a stronger regional position in Central Asia. Its political and economic links with major powers were established by requesting a member status in the regional projects. Kazakhstan became in the last two decades a member of the Eurasian Economic Union and Shanghai Cooperation Organization, two institutional bodies led by Russia, respectively China. President Nazarbayev’s regime policy orientation often pendulates between the initiatives proposed by Russia, China and the EU, especially in the energy field, where Kazakhstan holds a leading position in the Caspian Sea zone. Therefore, the relations with the EU and Russia have been often the subject of a ‘supply and demand’ model, with Kazakhstan’s willingness to enhance links with these two partners in trade and energy sector and reluctance to implement reforms in the field of democracy, human rights and power decentralization.

Policy Paper PDF (2017)

Authors: Mihai Mogîldea, Angela Grămadă

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