Astana – Budapest: 20 years of fruitful cooperation

Apr 18. Kazpravda

By Magzum Sultangaliyev

Astana - Budapest: 20 years of fruitful cooperationLast month, Kazakhstan and Hungary marked 20 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations. Due to the shared historical and cultural heritage of the two nations and constructive political dialogue of the two state leaders a high cooperation plane has been reached. Hungary was among the first to recognize our sovereignty and Kazakhstan opened in Budapest the first diplomatic mission in Central and Eastern Europe. The Ambassador of RK in Hungary Rashid IBRAEV shared on the record and outlook of bilateral cooperation in his interview to KP.

– First and foremost I would like to note that during the elapsed time Astana and Budapest have developed a constructive dialogue. The absence of contradictions in the positions on major international issues is creating favorable conditions for building mutually beneficial partnerships, in particular within the European Union, of which Hungary is a member since 2004.

As the Prime Minister of Hungary Mihaly Varga said at the function on the occasion of 20th anniversary of relations between the two countries, the Hungarian political and business circles have formed a positive opinion of Kazakhstan as a stable and dynamically developing nation, which, under the leadership of President Nursultan Nazarbayev shows to the world a good example in tolerance, security and stability, impressive progress achieved over two decades in political and socio-economic transformation, peace and harmony maintained in cultural and confessional diversity.

The bilateral relations have gained a completely new configuration, continually complemented by government efforts. Viewing our republic as a strategic partner in the CIS and Central Asia, the official Budapest is willing to serve to Astana a “gateway to Europe” and promote multifaceted cooperation.

Kazakhstan pursues a multi-vector foreign policy, which is conductive to an equal partnership with both the West and the East, with close and distant neighbors. One of them is Hungary, with which we share a historical background. It is a leading country in Central and Eastern Europe that successfully overcame the transition to become a full EU member. Kazakhstan sees it as an important political and trading partner.

Significant role in strengthening bilateral relations is played by the intergovernmental commission in Central cooperation, the third meeting of which is scheduled for the days of the expected visit to Astana of the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.  Since the establishment of diplomatic relations between Kazakhstan and Hungary a solid legal framework has been built: 26 bilateral agreements and protocols by date.

– Our President’s state visit to Budapest in November 2007 surely stimulated contacts of all levels.

– It did. The first state visit of the Kazakh President to Hungary was rated as an important event on the relations record. It ascertained positions on most topical issues of international politics and new areas of economic cooperation. Hungarian leadership showed interest in building a multi-faceted dialogue with Astana.

A number of momentous agreements have been reached and most of the tasks identified during the visit are under fulfillment. In November 2008 and in March 2010 two meetings of the intergovernmental commission in Central. Kazakh-Hungarian Business Council is providing a significant assistance to the business; contacts were established between both countries’ Chambers of Commerce.

During the elapsed time Kazakh Ministers of Transport and Communications, Economy and Budget Planning, Education, and the leaders of several government agencies have visited Hungary. In turn M. Varga, Agriculture Minister Sandor Fazekas, State Secretary of the Ministry of National Resources Geza Szocs and the Deputy State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Janos Hovari visited Astana. The Hungarian side was also represented at the OSCE CFM in Astana.

Interparliamentary ties enjoy dynamic development. In 2006 the Hungarian National Assembly formed a group for co-operation with Kazakhstan, and in 2009 -a Kazakh-Hungarian Inter-Parliamentary group for cooperation was formed of seven Majilis deputies. The President’s visit was preceded by an official visit to Astana in May 2007 of the speaker of the National Assembly of Hungary Katalin Szili. In December 2008 the then Majilis chairman Ural Mukhamedzhanov returned a visit to Hungary.

Much importance is attached to the expansion of the Group of Friends of Kazakhstan, formed in 2006, and comprised of prominent politicians and public figures, representatives of the public sector, NGO, MPs, businessmen, academia and influential media in Hungary, 100 of them in all. The most active members of the group were awarded jubilee medals “20 Years of Independence of the Republic of Kazakhstan” for an outstanding contribution to the development of interstate partnership, on President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s Decree.

– Could you name most promising sectors and areas of cooperation and trade volume figures?

– Kazakhstan is mostly interested in Hungarian companies’ share in the creation of high-tech and innovative industries in our country, in the breakthrough projects, development of the industry of nano-and biotechnology, production of goods and services, transfer of information technologies under the program of accelerated industrial-innovative development.

Cooperation in transit- transport cluster has a promising outlook too. In this context, of particular interest is an international logistics center at the rail terminal in Zahony, a major transport hub.

At the VIII International Conference “TransEurasia-2011” in Astana, the deputy Secretary of State for Transport of Hungary Zoltan Schwab proponed to launch a new route “Khorgos-Zahony” in the direction of the Western and Southern Europe, international transport corridor “Western Europe – Western China”. Kazakhstan’s participation in this project is being mooted.

Hungary is called “a gateway to Europe”, and Kazakhstan – a “gateway to Asia.” Hungary is a major consumer of natural gas and oil, and our Republic is committed to diversifying its energy exports, and therefore is looking to possible routes for hydrocarbons to this country, and construction of oil and gas infrastructure on its territory.

Global energy exports key challenge of our time. Therefore, we are keeping a close track of construction progress of the gas pipeline “South Stream” and “Nabucco”.

Partnership in agriculture and healthcare are promising areas too. In the latter Hungarian imports of medicines and medical diagnostic equipment and devices could be developed.

The historical kinship and desire for the revival of national cultures and traditions is conductive to cooperation in tourism. Telecommunications, light industry and food industry, energy exports hold a vast potential for business co-operation.

Despite the geographical remoteness, our country today is the CIS third-biggest partner to Hungary in trade after Russia and Ukraine that in 2011 amounted to 271.8 million dollars.

– Your opinion about the prospects of cultural and human contacts?

– It is an important area of international relations, and at present artists, scientists and athletes of both countries participate in cultural and sporting events held in Kazakhstan and Hungary: conferences, workshops, symposia, concerts and festivals, competitions in wrestling, boxing, swimming and football.

The scientists of the two countries are interested in the study of common historical roots, joint research into the history of settlements of Kipchaks and Magyars in Hungary and Kazakhstan.

RK artists take part in the annual international contests “Rainbow” and “Budapest stars”, as well as in Veszprem Festival of Children Art. In the spring of 2008 the Youth Symphony Orchestra of Kazakh National Music Academy, headed by People’s Artist Ayman Musakhodzhayeva was on tour in the Hungarian capital, in November last year, to mark the 20th anniversary of Kazakhstan Independence the M. Gorky Russian Drama Theatre of Astana staged “Sultan Baybars” play in Hungary.

We are interacting in education. Our country’s joining the Bologna process is conductive to it. Our students and grads receive training at the leading schools there – the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, University of Godel, Szeged and Szekesfehervar, Grad School of Police and the International Academy of Law and others.

Kazakh language is studied at the Budapest University of Eotvos Lorand, the Szeged University of Science.

– Could you exemplify successful JVs?

– At present there are about 60 Hungarian and Hungarian-Kazakh ventures, producing industrial and consumer goods, also in construction, agro-processing, as well as in mediation and marketing services. The largest among them are the companies Hemimontazh , Kaspiytrade , MMG AM NOVA, ATKS, Harkon , Globe, Gedeon Richter, Aegis and Venprod.

Hungarian breweries were built in Kazakhstan, bakeries, factories making locks and door handles, stores selling medicines. Joint projects are implemented in cardiac surgery, repair of aircraft together with JSC “Aircraft Repair Plant” in Aktobe and LLP “Forgosarn.”

Recently we have moved to a higher plane of cooperation in oil and gas industry. JSC NC “KazMunayGas” provides in Hungary services in operation and maintenance of thermal wells. In Kazakhstan the Hungarian «MOL» oil and gas company is developing Fedorovsky field (West Kazakhstan region).

The Hungarian company Hungland Trade supplies breeding livestock to Kazakhstan, Holstein- frieze breeds.

The good news is that, despite the ongoing global crisis, bilateral trade relations are growing. This is evidenced by an increase in the number of mutual contacts and visits of Hungarian businessmen – last year over 2.5 thousand Kazakhstan visas were issued to them.

– As you mentioned, the two countries have close historical ties. In Hungary descendants of Kipchaks, and in Kazakhstan – of Magyars are living. What about this part of relations?

– I am delighted that thousands of kilometers away from our country, in the heart of Europe, live the people of the same descent- Hungarian Coons (Cumans) – descendants of the Kipchaks, Hungarian Magyars call themselves of the Torgay steppe Kazakhs. According to Hungarian researchers, in the IX century AD, Magyars split into two groups. One of them migrated to the present territory of Hungary, the other remained in their homeland, somewhere in the foothills of the Urals.

About 100 thousand descendants of Kipchaks are currently residing in Hungary. Despite the loss of their native language at the end of the XVI century, many of them still feel kinship to the ancient Kazakh clan.

For contribution to the strengthening of cultural cooperation President Nursultan Nazarbayev was elected honorary leader of the Union of Hungarian Kipchaks during his visit to Budapest.

The development of historical and cultural ties is a priority of our diplomatic mission. The Embassy maintains close contacts with Kipchaks. In 2010 at the invitation of the World Federation of Hungarians, 60 delegates from the RK participated in the International kurultai of Turan descendants.

Last year a Hungarian delegation participated in the meeting of the World Association of Kazakhs in Astana. Annually the Embassy takes part in the Kipchak conventions and contests in cooking of the national dish similar to the Kazakh “kuyrdak”. The historical links create good preconditions for strengthening mutual understanding and friendship between the kindred peoples of the two countries.