Last updated in April 2017
Germany and Kazakhstan enjoy wider-ranging ties. Germany is a major partner of Kazakhstan among the EU member states, a fact evidenced by the numerous high-level visits in both directions.
A special bridge between the two countries is forged by the approximately 800,000 Germans who have emigrated to Germany from Kazakhstan (“ethnic Germans”) and the approximately 180,000 members of the German minority still living in Kazakhstan.
Kazakhstan is by far Germany’s most important trading partner in Central Asia, though in 2015 the country was affected by the economic crisis. According to Federal Statistical Office figures, bilateral trade was worth EUR 4 billion in 2016, a decline of approximately 2 per cent compared with the previous year. This was due mainly to the Kazakh tenge’s losing 70 per cent of its value against the euro and the U.S. dollar as well as to budget cuts on the Kazakh side and the problem with Hermes export credit guarantees, which continue to be restricted.
Both Germany and Kazakhstan are keen to cooperate in the area of raw materials. As early as February 2012, an intergovernmental agreement was signed to establish a Partnership in the fields of Raw Materials, Industry and Technology with the aim of securing the supply of raw materials to German industry and using the transfer of technology to promote Kazakhstan’s industrialisation.
Kazakhstan’s main exports to Germany are oil, iron and steel goods and chemical products. Kazakhstan is Germany’s fourth-largest supplier of oil. German exports to Kazakhstan comprise machinery, electrical equipment, chemical products, cars and car parts and pharmaceutical products.
The German-Kazakh Intergovernmental Working Group on Business and Trade (RAG) meets once a year under the auspices of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy and Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Investment and Development. It addresses the conditions for German companies operating in Kazakhstan and Kazakh companies operating in Germany as well as issues relating to cooperation on areas like funding, raw materials, industry, energy, agriculture, health care, the environment and tourism. The tenth meeting of the RAG was held on 23 June 2016 in Schwerin.
The German Business Delegation for Central Asia in Almaty oversees German companies’ business activities in Kazakhstan and the other Central Asian countries and helps local firms establish business contacts with Germany. The German Business Association in the Republic of Kazakhstan has around 100 members (company offices and branches). In all, there are more than 200 German companies operating in Kazakhstan. Germany Trade & Invest (GTAI) has an office in Almaty.
The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy’s Manager Training Programme has already provided training to 600 Kazakh managers in Germany since 2004.
The 2017 EXPO international exhibition is to be held in Astana from 10 June to 10 September 2017 with German participation. The basic structure of the German Pavilion was presented to Kazakhstan’s government in October 2016.
Kazakhstan joined the World Trade Organization (WTO) on 30 November 2015 as its 162nd member. Through its accession, Kazakhstan undertakes to remove trade barriers (in particular customs duties).
Germany is active in Kazakhstan through its regional development cooperation programmes in Central Asia. Besides advising the Kazakh government on building a vocational training system in the country, these programmes focus on areas including good governance (legal advice), sustainable economic development and disaster prevention. The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) has offices in Astana and Almaty. The Centre for International Migration and Development (CIM) and the Senior Experten Service (SES) second German experts to Kazakhstan.
Culture and education
Key elements of bilateral cultural relations are the programme and language work of the Goethe Institute in Almaty, the exchange and academic teaching programme of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and the Central Agency for Schools Abroad’s teacher-secondment programme (five seconded teachers). These teachers examine students taking the German Language Diploma II of the Standing Conference of German Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs at selected schools in Kazakhstan. The Robert Bosch Foundation has an academic teacher in Kazakhstan.
There is no German School in Kazakhstan but German is taught as a foreign language at several of the country’s schools. There are also grammar schools offering enhanced German instruction.
Working as partner institutions of the Goethe Institute, there are German language centres in Astana, Karaganda, Pavlodar and Kustanai offering the opportunity to obtain internationally recognised certificates. The German Reading Rooms in the libraries in Astana and Ust Kamenogorsk provide information on Germany as well as print, audio and video material from and on Germany. Every year, the DAAD finances stays in Germany for some 60 to 70 Kazakh students (university summer schools, partial and full grants, some of them for a several-year period) and looks after scholarship holders in Germany who are participating in the Kazakh government programme “Bolashak” (Future).
Cooperation between Germany and Kazakhstan in higher education is wide-ranging.
The German-Kazakh University (GKU) was set up in Almaty in 1999 as a private university. The study programmes offered cover the following areas: social sciences and economics, engineering and economics, international relations and finance. In addition, since 2011 the GKU has offered a master’s programme in Integrated Water Resources Management, which is funded by the Federal Foreign Office in cooperation with the Freie Universität Berlin. Since 2009, the GKU has been financed in equal parts by Federal Foreign Office funding (through the German Academic Exchange Service, DAAD) and through fees paid by the over 600 students. Up to the end of 2013, Germany invested a total of around EUR 11 million in the GKU.
In addition, there are several university partnerships and exchange programmes. Many Kazakh universities offer German instruction parallel to regular studies. There are German Departments at seven universities in Kazakhstan (including L.N. Gumilyov Eurasian National University in Astana, Bukhetov Karaganda State University and Al-Farabi Kazakh National University in Almaty). The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation awards research scholarships to particularly qualified Kazakh scientists and academics. School exchange and encounter programmes form a bridge between German and Kazakh partner schools.
The Federal Foreign Office regularly invites junior diplomats from Kazakhstan to attend further-training courses in Germany.
Since 2004, Kazakhstan has participated in the German Bundestag’s international parliamentary internship programme. Every year, up to five scholarship holders from Kazakhstan are chosen to spend time working in the German Bundestag.
The ethnic German minority in Kazakhstan receives funding from Germany’s Federal Ministry of the Interior via the so-called Rebirth Societies that exist throughout the country. Their encounter centres receive assistance from the Goethe Institute. The Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations (ifa) supports the German-language newspaper Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung (DAZ) by funding a media assistant post, which is filled from Germany. A meeting of the Intergovernmental Commission on Issues Relating to the German Minority, presided over by Federal Government Commissioner for Matters Related to Ethnic German Resettlers and National Minorities and German Bundestag Member Hartmut Koschyk, was held in Berlin on 8 September 2016.
There are some 800,000 ethnic Germans from Kazakhstan living in Germany, and in Kazakhstan itself approximately 180,000 (or 1.1 per cent of the total population), who are well integrated into society. The origins of most of the German minority in Kazakhstan can be traced back to Stalin’s edict of 28 August 1941 ordering the deportation of ethnic Germans from Russia’s Volga Region.