Germany and Kazakhstan: Bilateral Relations Kazakhstan

08.04.2019 - Article


Germany and Kazakhstan enjoy wide‑ranging bilateral ties. Germany is a major partner of Kazakhstan among the EU member states, a fact demonstrated by the numerous high‑level visits in both directions. Federal President Frank‑Walter Steinmeier’s visit to Kazakhstan from 11 to 13 July 2017 gave new momentum to the German‑Kazakh relationship with a view to further deepening cooperation in the 25th anniversary year of the establishment of bilateral diplomatic relations. During his visit, the Federal President attended the Astana Expo 2017 and met Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev. In recent times, German‑Kazakh relations have been marked by a more intense political dialogue, a sound legal basis between the countries and the dynamic development of cooperation in the economic, cultural and humanitarian spheres.
The some 800,000 ethnic Germans who have immigrated to Germany from Kazakhstan and the some 180,000 members of the German minority still living in Kazakhstan form a special bridge between the two countries.


Kazakhstan is by far Germany’s most important trading partner in Central Asia. After the difficult years of 2015 and 2016, trade between the two countries reached a total of over five billion euros in 2018. Export credit guarantees, known as Hermes insurance, still remain a problem as their availability continues to be limited.
Both Germany and Kazakhstan are keen to see partnerships in the fields of raw materials and technology. As early as February 2012, the two countries signed an intergovernmental agreement to establish a partnership in the spheres of raw materials, industry and technology with the aim of securing the supply of raw materials for 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 as well as 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 as well as pharmaceutical products.
The German‑Kazakh Intergovernmental Working Group on Business and Trade (IWG) meets once a year under the auspices of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy and Kazakhstan’s Ministry for Investments 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 in areas such as funding, raw materials, industry, energy, agriculture, health care, the environment and tourism. The 11th meeting of the IWG was held on 13 July 2017 during the Astana Expo.
The Delegation of German Economy 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. Around 100 German representative offices and branches have joined the German Business Association in the Republic of Kazakhstan. In all, there are more than 200 German companies operating in Kazakhstan. Germany Trade and 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 Expo international fair was held in Astana from 10 June to 10 September 2017 with German participation. The German Pavilion attracted approximately 600,000 visitors – a record number – and won a gold award for best thematic presentation.

Kazakhstan joined the World Trade Organization (WTO) on 30 November 2015 as its 162nd member. Through its accession, Kazakhstan has committed to removing trade barriers (in particular customs duties). The country has continued to make significant efforts to attract foreign investors, as demonstrated by the restructuring of the state investment agency Kazakh Invest and the implementation of accompanying measures to improve the investment climate. Kazakhstan has risen considerably in the World Bank’s Doing Business rankings from 52nd place in 2015 to 36th place in 2018.  

Development cooperation

Although Kazakhstan has not been a partner country for bilateral development cooperation since April 2008, 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, the environment and energy efficiency as well as 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 Expert Service (SES) second German experts to Kazakhstan. The two countries are seeking to regulate water resources in Central Asia within the framework of the Berlin Process. Furthermore, Germany supports the upgrading of Kazakhstan’s credit standing within the framework of the OECD.

Culture and education

Key elements of bilateral cultural relations are the programme and language work of the Goethe‑Institut in Almaty, the exchange and lector programme of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD, four lectors) and the teacher‑secondment programme (five seconded teachers) of the Central Agency for Schools Abroad (ZfA). These teachers examine students taking the German Language Certificate II (DSD II) of the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs at selected schools 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. The 16 PASCH schools occupy a special position in efforts to promote the German language. The Federal Foreign Office launched the Schools: Partners for the Future initiative (PASCH) in 2008 and continues to play a coordinating role. 
German language centres in Astana, Karaganda, Pavlodar and Kostanay operate as partner institutions of the Goethe‑Institut, providing the opportunity to obtain internationally recognised certificates. The German Reading Rooms at the libraries in Astana and Ust‑Kamenogorsk provide information on Germany as well as print, audio and video material from and about Germany. The dual system of vocational training, which is based on the German model, is still being developed and is supported by Germany and the EU. 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 over several years) and looks after people in Germany on scholarships from the Kazakh Government’s Bolashak (Future) programme. The Kazakh Centre for Culture and Literature in the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin was officially opened in November 2018 and contains many works by Kazakh authors in different languages.  

Cooperation between Germany and Kazakhstan in higher education is wide ranging:

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, industrial engineering, international relations and finance. In addition, since 2011 GKU has offered a Master’s programme in Integrated Water Resources Management, which is funded by the Federal Foreign Office in cooperation with Freie Universität Berlin. Since 2009, GKU has been financed in equal parts by Federal Foreign Office funding (through the DAAD) and through fees paid by the over 600 students. Up to the end of 2016, Germany invested a total of around 13 million euros in GKU.
In addition, there are several university partnerships and exchange programmes. Many Kazakh universities offer German instruction in parallel to regular studies. There are German Departments at seven universities in Kazakhstan (including L.N. Gumilyov Eurasian National University in Astana, Buketov Karaganda State University in Karaganda and Al‑Farabi Kazakh National University in Almaty). 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 Scholarships (IPS) programme. Every year, up to five scholarship holders from Kazakhstan are chosen to spend time working in the German Bundestag.
The fifth round of Kazakh‑German bilateral consultations on cultural cooperation was held in Astana on 30 November 2017.


The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation awards research scholarships to particularly qualified Kazakh scientists and academics. German political foundations with offices in Kazakhstan include the Konrad‑Adenauer‑Stiftung, the Friedrich‑Ebert‑Stiftung and, as of recently, the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation. The Hanns Seidel Foundation funds a Master’s programme at the Academy of Public Administration under the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan. The German Foundation for International Legal Cooperation (IRZ) has been active in Kazakhstan for several years already, but does not maintain its own office in the country. 

German minority

The ethnic German minority in Kazakhstan receives funding from Germany’s Federal Ministry of the Interior via the Wiedergeburt-Gesellschaften (Rebirth Societies) that exist throughout the country. Their meeting centres receive assistance from the Goethe‑Institut. The Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen (ifa) is supporting the German‑language newspaper “Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung” (DAZ) by funding a media assistant position, which is filled from Germany. The 16th meeting of the Intergovernmental Commission on Issues Relating to the German Minority was held in Berlin on 28 June 2018. On the German side, the meeting was presided over by the Federal Government Commissioner for Matters Related to Ethnic German Resettlers and National Minorities, Hartmut Koschyk. The German Government is actively supporting the Germany minority in Kazakhstan, for example by providing financial assistance. Activities cover various areas, whose aims include preserving German linguistic and cultural identity, increasing the participation of young people and providing social support to those sections of the ethnic German population in need. 
There are some 800,000 ethnic Germans from Kazakhstan living in Germany, and in Kazakhstan itself approximately 180,000, who make up 1.1 percent of the total population and 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, which ordered the deportation of ethnic Germans from Russia’s Volga region.


This text is intended as a source of basic information. It is regularly updated. No liability can be accepted for the accuracy or completeness of its contents.


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