To develop cooperation between our countries it is vital that Kazakhstan’s economy is diversified, Peter van Leeuwen, Ambassador of the Netherlands to Kazakhstan
January 17. KAZINFORM. ASTANA
Over 20 years of sovereign development Kazakhstan has become a responsible member of the international community, with priorities such as integration and openness to the world. This was repeatedly mentioned by President Nursultan Nazarbayev in his speeches. Some of the main vectors of Kazakhstan in the international collaboration include further strengthening of partnership relations with the countries of the European Union.
In an interview with Kazinform Peter van Leeuwen, Charge d’Affaires, Ambassador of the Netherlands to Kazakhstan, tells about prospects of cooperation between Kazakhstan and the Netherlands.
– What is the current level of cooperation between Kazakhstan and the Netherlands in various fields?
– If we talk about the quality of relations I would call the level of cooperation with Kazakhstan exceeding our expectations, what means very good. As for the quantitative aspect, this level could be higher. Our cooperation should be expanded, especially in the economic sphere. Moreover, in the political sphere and in the field of civil society our partnership could be closer.
– What areas of cooperation with Kazakhstan are the most priority for the Netherlands?
– The most important for us is the economic and trade cooperation, as well as for Kazakhstan.
– In what spheres, do you think, Kazakhstan should seek to develop economic cooperation with your country?
– I think that our countries should actively cooperate in agriculture, in which we have accumulated a great experience. Also it is needed to develop cooperation in the field of environmental protection. In this regard I am going to discuss a recently issued report on emissions in your region with Kazakh officials, because it is necessary to reduce carbon emissions to fight global warming. Anyway the issue of protection of the environment is important for Kazakhstan itself. Even today, going out in Astana, we can see that the emissions increase from year to year, though this region has rather clean air. If compared to Almaty the air pollution has always been a big problem for this city. And now I notice that in Astana it becomes a problem too, perhaps due to the fact that in winter a lot of fuel is used. Last week I was in Almaty, visited Shymbulak, where I saw so many trees felled last year by a hurricane. It may also be an important area of cooperation between our countries, because the Netherlands has a very good experience in the restoration of forests. Our Wageningen Agricultural University develops special methods of forest restoration. The Institute is developing reforestation programs in different countries.
There are also such areas as service sector, tourism, finance, transport, including construction of airports. In these areas the Netherlands can offer expert services.
– How will deepening of economic integration of Kazakhstan with Russia and Belarus influence cooperation prospects between our countries?
– Of course, I did not think that it will impact our cooperation. In the process of integration with Russia and Belarus Kazakhstan can become larger economic player in the international arena and for the Netherlands it means opening of new markets through your country. We will follow development of the integration process, and I think that owing to the Customs Unions a more interesting market is appearing for the Netherlands. The population of Kazakhstan is not big, but the market will greatly increase with the elimination of customs barriers. I have recently talked to a Dutch businessman who wants to produce pipes in Kazakhstan. He also notes that now the marker expands for them. I am confident that many Dutch businessmen share this opinion.
– Are there any difficulties or problems for the Dutch side in relations with Kazakhstan, for example, in the sphere of business, tourism?
– In general, I do not see any significant problems. Sometimes our citizens have problems on Kazakh visa receiving at the Embassy of Kazakhstan in the Netherlands. It is not connected with the work of the Embassy, only with statutory requirements. Our system of issuing of visas is more flexible than the Kazakh Embassy’s one – 98-99 percent of Kazakhstani people receive visas. We never refuse visa permission. Travelling between countries should be simple, it is important in the context of globalization. Difficulties in a visa receiving do not promote development of business and tourism. Firstly, entrepreneurs lose their motivation to work in a country. I always explain that people in various countries, especially embassies’ staff, should understand that a visa should not be an obstacle for tips to these countries. The visa regime should help the countries to organize and systematize this process, but must not make it complicated. I can outline that Air Astana aircrafts fly to Holland.
– How does your country estimate the business climate of Kazakhstan?
– As I noted our countries established very good relations. Opportunities for Dutch business increased owing to the treaties signed between Holland and Kazakhstan – the Agreement on Mutual Protection of Investments, the Taxation Agreement. Talking about the business climate in Kazakhstan, it is necessary to outline: it is very important to businessmen from other countries to feel that the laws and regulations do not complicate work, but simplify it. I knew that the Kazakh side tries to do everything possible to include progressive provisions in the law, which ease work of the business. But it happens so, that some regulating norms, in general, are progressive and after the implementation of the national legislation they complicate the work.
For example, Kazakhstan laid down a rule requiring that at least 70 percent of staff of foreign companies should be the citizens of Kazakhstan. But this can create problems, because, for example, in western Kazakhstan many companies need a large number of skilled experts who are not always found in Kazakhstan. Thus, the companies can not meet a legal requirement on 70 percent of local staff. In the future it may worsen the business climate for foreign companies in the western regions of Kazakhstan. Hence it is very important that transition to the new rules was planned correctly, or it is possible to worsen the situation of foreign enterprises in your country. It is needed that Kazakhstan formed the corresponding market and had qualified experts. While Kazakhstan has no employees of such qualification level, the legislation should be more flexible. For example, the Kashagan field will employ thousands of workers. We understand that Kazakhstan wants to provide the local residents with job, but it is necessary to demonstrate flexibility.
– Does Holland consider Kazakhstan a stable country with good prospects for the development, i.e. a good partner for cooperation? How do you assess the country’s current political situation?
– Holland is known as the third largest investor in Kazakhstan and is the first investor among the European countries present in Kazakhstan. I believe it speaks for the Netherlands’ evaluation of the prospects for cooperation with Kazakhstan. I have already mentioned how we could strengthen our cooperation. I would like to note, it is crucial for Kazakhstan to further economic diversification so Holland could propose your country too much in the area of economic cooperation. Therefore, Kazakhstan and Holland should advance and strengthen partnership.
As for the political situation, currently your country is found at the most important stage of the social and economic development. Your country has recently celebrated the 20th anniversary of its independence. I would like to congratulate the people of Kazakhstan on this milestone. But I always say, Kazakhstan is at 20, it has not reached lawful age of 21 yet. When a man comes of age, he faces real problems. I am sure Kazakhstan has taken a right way and will easily overcome all those problems. Your country has all opportunities for further dynamic development. Kazakhstan and the world, at large, are experiencing today challenging times. Different problems arise around the world. The Arab world underwent dramatic changes; China and Europe are passing through their own problems. There are also problems in Russia as well as in Afghanistan. It is vital today that Kazakhstan authorities can truly sum up the situation and adhere to the chosen path of development, and solve all the problems, including the Zhanaozen issues.
The parliamentary elections held in Kazakhstan led to forming the multi-party Parliament which means the country has made a real step towards further democratization of the society. I wish Kazakhstan success and further expansion of our cooperation.