Brussels, May 10 (EFE).- The European Union and Kazakhstan on Monday underscored the progress made in their bilateral relations since the entry into force of the Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (EPCA) on 1 March 2020.
“In the framework of this agreement, bilateral cooperation between Kazakhstan and the European Union has progressed steadily,” said Portuguese Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the EU.
Santos Silva spoke at a press conference following the 18th meeting of the EU-Kazakhstan Cooperation Council in Brussels on Monday.
The EPCA allows for cooperation in areas such as trade and customs, the environment and the fight against climate change, energy, the rule of law and the judiciary.
Santos Silva said of bilateral trade relations that, “even in a year as difficult as last year, the EU has consolidated its position as Kazakhstan’s trade partner and first foreign investor,” while the latter “remains the main trade partner of the EU in Central Asia.”
Santos Silva, who said Monday’s discussions were very constructive and fruitful, also said the meeting “provided an opportunity for reinforced political dialogue” and allowed a chance for issues of “good governance, the promotion and protection of human rights and engagement with civil society” to be addressed.
Kazakhstan’s steps over the past year in the area of human rights include its accession in September to an international pact on the abolition of the death penalty, which has been suspended in the Central Asian country since the introduction of a moratorium in 2003. The ratification of the pact occurred in January.
“The European Union strongly supports Kazakhstan in its reform processes and modernization processes and hopes these reforms will be effectively implemented,” the Portuguese minister said, adding that the meeting confirmed the sides’ mutual commitment to further strengthening bilateral relations.
He said the EU also is looking forward to the first official visit of Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev to Brussels “when conditions permit.”
Kazakh Foreign Minister Mukhtar Tileuberdi said for his part that the two sides discussed “practical ways of strengthening of our dialogue in political, economic and trade areas, as well as new opportunities for investment interaction within the framework of the Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement.”
He recalled that the EU accounts for “nearly half of (Kazakhstan’s) foreign trade and investment” and that the Central Asian nation hopes that the EPCA, “which opens up opportunities in 29 prospective areas of cooperation, will significantly increase bilateral trade.”
Tileuberdi also indicated that the Kazakh government “is ready to create most favorable investment conditions for EU companies” and expressed his desire to begin negotiations with the EU on visas. EFE