The small Baltic state of Estonia was chosen by re-elected Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev as the first foreign country for a state visit. He wound up his two-day state visit to Estonia on April 21. The visit has already prompted speculation over Kazakhstan’s attempts to expand its mutual collaboration with European countries. The Kazakh visit to Tallinn may be the last of the Kazakh-Baltic route so far, but definitely not the least - Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite’s visit to
Astana, the Kazakh capital, took place in December last year.
It seems that Astana and Tallinn are eager to strengthen bilateral cooperation, expand joint industrial and hi-tech projects, and support bilateral humanitarian links. This could be briefly described as the outcome of President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s two-day state visit to Estonia on April 20-21.
President Nazarbayev’s visit in Estonia included talks with Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, Prime Minister Andrus Ansip, Riigikogu (Parliament) Speaker Ene Ergma, Mayor of Tallinn Edgar Savisaar, former President of Estonia Arnold Ruutel, as well as other senior officials.
While in Tallinn, Nazarbayev also met with heads of Estonian companies interested in cooperation with Kazakhstan, including Chairman of the Board (CB) and CEO of the Tallinn Port Ain Kaljurand, Chairman of Estonian Railways Kaido Simmermann, Chairman of Eesti Energia Sandor Liive, CB of Estonian Air Andrus Aljas, Chairman of Tallinn Airport Rein Loik, and others.
During the meeting held at Kadriorg Palace, the two presidents noted overall significant progress in Kazakh-Estonian bilateral ties and signed a number of bilateral agreements on intergovernmental, interdepartmental and commercial levels. The sides agreed to intensify cooperation within the framework of international organisations, including the United Nations and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
“Kazakhstan plays an important role in Central Asia both politically and economically. We appreciate Kazakhstan’s efforts as the OSCE chair-in-office in 2010,” President Ilves said.
He also said Tallinn values Astana’s efforts to promote stability in the region and ensure the transport of goods to Afghanistan, as the Baltic nation has a military group within ISAF.
“I hope the revitalisation of the Estonian-Kazakh intergovernmental commission will give new impetus to deepening the economic cooperation in priority sectors such as transport and logistics, energy and innovative technologies,” Ilves added, according to the Kazakh President’s press service.
“Kazakhstan attaches great importance to developing cooperation with Estonia. Over the years of independence, your country has achieved much success by becoming a full member of the European Union, NATO, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and adopted the pan-European currency, the euro,” President Nazarbayev said in his turn.
“I am pleased to note the steady development of Kazakh-Estonian relations. We sustain a trustful dialogue at the highest level, the key priorities for cooperation have been identified, and the legal framework has been established. Today, with President Ilves, we signed a joint declaration which represents mutual desire to extend the comprehensive cooperation. We are pleased with Estonia’s decision to open its embassy in Astana,” Nazarbayev said at a press conference after the meeting.
President Ilves expressed Estonia’s full support to Kazakhstan in updating an agreement on cooperation with the European Union, as well as the country’s accession to the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
“Estonia will support Kazakhstan in negotiations on accession to the WTO,” the Estonian president stated.
Nazarbayev expressed his gratitude for the support and invited Estonian businessmen to invest in Kazakhstan, participating in infrastructure, industrial and medical projects under the State Program of Accelerated Industrial Innovative Development (PAIID).
“We are grateful for the Estonian support of our desire to increase trade with the EU. On this basis, we need to boost our bilateral trade and economic ties which presently amount to 74 million U.S. dollars versus 54.3 million U.S. dollars in 2009). This is a very low figure. Moreover, we do not have mutual investments,” Nazarbayev said following the meeting.
A step forward in this direction is an intergovernmental agreement on encouragement and reciprocal protection of investments, signed by Kazakh Foreign Minister Yerzhan Kazykhanov and Estonian Minister of Economic Affairs and Communications Juhan Parts.
Presidents Nazarbayev and Ilves also discussed and agreed on cooperation in IT and personnel training. The Kazakh-Estonian Intergovernmental Commission on Economic and Scientific-Technical Cooperation will work in this direction. It includes three working groups, including on transport and logistics, energy, and IT.
“We are interested in sharing experience in the sphere of high technologies, particularly development of Estonian e-government and IT in educational programmes on student exchange,” Nazarbayev commented.
During their meeting Estonian Premier Andrus Ansip briefed the Kazakh President about Estonia’s experience in IT and about his country’s system of electronic government which is considered the best in Europe and provides over 500 types of services. Nazarbayev said Kazakhstan is willing to invite Estonian specialists and learn from the partner’s experience in the provision of electronic public services.
An agreement was signed between the Ministry of Communications and Information of Kazakhstan and the Estonian National Archive to aid the parties study and use of archive recordings of the two countries.
Moreover, the signing of a memorandum on cooperation between the Atameken National Economic Chamber of Kazakhstan and the Estonian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and a memorandum of intentions between the Government of East Kazakhstan Oblast and Estonian energy company Eesti Energia took place.
The presidents also expressed their interest in the implementation of potential joint projects in transport, the establishment of a merchant fleet in Kazakhstan, and in cooperation in shipbuilding. Nazarbayev highlighted the prospects of Kazakh businesses using Estonian ports for handling cargoes.
Estonia is an important European political and economic partner for Kazakhstan. Last year the trade between the countries reached 74.5 million U.S. dollars against 54.3 million U.S. dollars in 2009.
Estonian transit expert Raivo Vare considers that the visit of Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev to Estonia is a significant step within the relations development between the two states and it will positively influence the economy of our country.
“We should take into account that Kazakhstan is a county of the Eastern type, where the so-called ‘hand cue’ is extremely important for changes; that is why the visit of the president will give a new serious impulse for the development of economic relations between our states,” said Vare to rus.ERR.ee.
The expert thinks that this visit can also be evaluated as a claim for pro-European development of Kazakhstan, moreover that the strategic development program of this middle-Asian state includes one of the goals – to get out of an enclosed area of Asia to Europe.
Nursultan Nazarbayev was re-elected as Kazakh president after having received 95.55 percent of the votes in the early presidential elections held on April 3. Kazakhstan is one of a very few ex-Soviet Republics to have avoided any social unrest and upheavals throughout its history as an independent country.