To develop cooperation between our countries it is vital that Kazakhstan's economy is diversified, Ambassador Peter van Leeuwen, Charge d'Affaires of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to Kazakhstan
ASTANA. January 17. KAZINFORM /Muratbek Makulbekov/ 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 Ambassador Peter van Leeuwen, Charge d'Affaires of the Kingdom 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. Diplomatic and political relations are complemented by strong economic relations. Economic relations form the bridge and the basis between two countries.
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 that 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. The water sector in the broadest sense. Food processing and of course the oil & gas sector. 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 do not think that this could adversely affect 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 tubes in Kazakhstan. It becomes more interesting now, because the market expands by this new development. 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. Important is that travel should not be impeded. Visa regulations and stay in the country should as much as possible be conducive to the business environment. We facilitate as much as possible the issuance of visa for that reason.
Travelling between our countries should be simple, it is important in the context of entrepreneurs lose their motivation to work in a country if travel is made difficult.
How does your country estimate 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 Tax 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 know 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 that regulatiions are progressive and might be necessary, but they complicate the work to be done.
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 cannot always be found in Kazakhstan. Thus, the companies can not meet a legal requirement on 70 percent of local staff. I know however that the Kazakhstani authorities make efforts to solve this issue. Hence it is very important that transition to new rules is well embedded and flexibly been done to prevent problems for already operating foreign enterprises in your country. I understand the necessity of course to create employment for local workers, but as long as they are not yet available sufficiently, transitional rules should apply preferably. For that reason education and training are important in order to create the needed workforce.
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 many areas of further cooperation in economic sphere. Therefore, Kazakhstan and Holland should advance and strengthen partnership.
As for the political situation, currently your country is found at a very important stage of 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. Kazakhstan is at 20, it has not reached the major age of 21 yet. When a man comes of age, he has to deal with problems of a different nature. Kazakhstan has taken a right way and will however certainly overcome all those problems. Your country has all opportunities for further dynamic development. Not only Kazakhstan but the world, at large, is experiencing today challenging times. Different evolutionary developments arise around the world. The Arab world goes through dramatic changes; the US and Europe are passing through their own mainly economic and monetary problems. Russia faces its own challenges and the war in Afghanistan is still not over. It is vital that Kazakhstan authorities can truly sum up the situation and adhere to the chosen path of development.
The parliamentary elections held in Kazakhstan led to forming the multi-party Parliament which lays the basis towards further democratization. I wish Kazakhstan much success and look forward to further expansion of our cooperation.
Thank you for the interview.