Foreign Minister Baerbock is travelling to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan from 30 October to 2 November. Her itinerary includes the two capitals Astana and Tashkent as well as the Uzbek city of Samarkand.
The countries of Central Asia have been thoroughly caught in the middle since the beginning of Russia’s war against Ukraine, if not before. They must fear ending up as pawns of either Russia or China.
Central Asia offers enormous opportunities
Uzbekistan has a population of over 35 million and saw its economy grow by 7.4% in 2021. Kazakhstan holds enormous potential for the expansion of the hydrogen industry and has close economic ties with Germany going back decades. Trade with Kazakhstan makes up 85% of all German trade with Central Asian countries.
Germany and Europe offer honest and fair opportunities that are not intended to create new dependencies or rely on financial leverage.
Foreign Minister Baerbock emphasised:
It is important to me that the future holds more for them than merely the choice between being straitjacketed in Russia’s front yard or being dependent on China. And so my main aim in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan is to listen to the hopes and expectations that people there are pinning on Europe in the current circumstances.
Climate crisis will have a massive impact on the region
Both countries are at considerable risk from climate change. Uzbekistan in particular must fear severe food insecurity in the next fifty years in the context of a 2-3 degree increase in temperature. Foreign Minister Baerbock will thus also be visiting projects that aim to advance the energy transition in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, as well as a sustainable irrigation project in Samarkand.
In addition, she will speak with representatives of civil society in both countries. The Foreign Minister commented:
Economic development and human rights are two sides of the same coin. Because reliable rules provide the best investment protection for companies and because there can only be lasting prosperity and security if people’s rights are guaranteed.