Federal Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier travelled to Astana for talks on Sunday and Monday (9 and 10 November), where he met a large number of high‑level partners. Talks with President Nursultan Nazarbayev and his counterpart Erlan Idrissov focused on the further development of bilateral relations as well as international issues. After the meetings, Steinmeier emphasised that Kazakhstan was a “bridge” between East Asia and Europe. In Astana he also met representatives of Kazakh civil society and business.
This was Foreign Minister Steinmeier’s first trip to Kazakhstan during his second term of office. However, the German Foreign Minister stressed that he was pleased to have the opportunity to visit the Kazakh capital for the third time. He said that since his visits during his first term of office, the country, and particularly the capital, had undergone “breathtaking development and change”. He also described their bilateral cooperation as close and successful, both economically and culturally.
On Sunday and Monday the German Foreign Minister held a large number of high‑level talks in Kazakhstan’s capital. On Monday he met President Nazarbayev for in‑depth talks, followed by other meetings with Prime Minister Karim Massimov and his foreign minister colleague Idrissov. Earlier in the day, Steinmeier had spoken with representatives of Kazakh civil society and human rights activists. The German Foreign Minister was accompanied by a high‑level business delegation. Foreign Minister Steinmeier was therefore able to attend the opening of the annual session of the German-Kazakh Economic Council, chaired by entrepreneurs from both countries.
Particularly close‑knit bilateral relations
Kazakhstan is a key partner for Germany and the EU. The country is Germany’s biggest trading partner in Central Asia and one of its most important crude oil suppliers. As a member of the Eurasian Customs Union it is also an anchor of political stability in the region.
Speaking on Monday at a joint press conference with his Kazakh counterpart Idrissov, Foreign Minister Steinmeier emphasised that Germany and Kazakhstan were “neighbours of the major areas of crisis and conflict”. He said that this had prompted them to discuss both the crises in the Middle East – in Syria and Iraq – and the conflict in Ukraine. With regard to Ukraine, Steinmeier said: “Both of us have concluded that Kazakhstan and Germany must maintain their efforts to help defuse the overall situation. With regard to Ukraine, today’s news shows particularly clearly that we must be very careful not to fall back into a situation of conflict, including military activity, which we thought we had already overcome.”
Steinmeier described the development of business relations as “particularly successful”. Currently Kazakhstan is especially interested in expanding its infrastructure in the area of roads as well as ports and airports. Steinmeier also cited the international exhibition EXPO 2017, to be held in Kazakhstan, as another important economic cooperation project with Germany. Here the focus is on the Green Economy, a field in which Germany can draw on a wealth of experience and know‑how. The Foreign Minister therefore spoke of a sound basis for cooperation: “I hope that we can make a contribution in the form of expertise, know‑how and technologies, so that the vision of an economy founded on renewable energy can gain a firmer foothold here.”
In connection with the EU’s strategy for Central Asia, which was formulated during Germany’s EU Council Presidency in 2007, a review is scheduled for the coming year. In Astana on Monday, Foreign Minister Steinmeier stressed the importance of being aware of the region’s interest in this subject. He said that his Kazakh partners had made their interest in the Central Asia strategy clear.
The fall of the Wall: A new era for all the world
Foreign Minister Steinmeier arrived in Astana on Sunday evening (9 November). Shortly after landing, the German Foreign Minister headed to the Kazakh National Library, where, accompanied by the Library’s Director, Umutkhan Munalbayeva, and Vice‑Minister of Industry Albert Rau, Steinmeier opened the exhibition “Spotlights on History – Dictatorship and Democracy in the Age of Extremes”. The event was also attended by a group of Kazakh pupils who chatted to the Foreign Minister in fluent German. As part of the PASCH network, which promotes international partnerships between schools, they receive teaching with a special focus on German.
Looking back on the fall of the Wall 25 years ago, Steinmeier emphasised in his address that this 9 November was a very special evening for Germany – representing “the start of a new era for all the world”. Referring to the chequered history of the 20th century, Steinmeier described the fall of the Wall as a “historic ray of light”, pointing out that as a result of the fall of the Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan had gained its independence. He said that bilateral relations between Germany and Kazakhstan had “consistently made progress” since independence and had achieved an intensity that was unparalleled in the region.