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Central Asia’s global importance growing: Foreign Minister Maas meets his Kazakh Counterpart Kazakhstan

Joint press conference: Foreign Minister Maas and his Kazakh counterpart Atamkulov

Joint press conference: Foreign Minister Maas and his Kazakh counterpart Atamkulov, © dpa

19.08.2019 - Article

At a time of growing international tensions between the major powers, Central Asia plays an important role. As the largest country in the region, Kazakhstan is an important driving force here and has close ties to Germany.

Kazakh Foreign Minister visits Berlin

On 19 August, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas met his Kazakh counterpart Beibut Atamkulov at the Federal Foreign Office in Berlin. They talked about their joint economic relations, the rule of law and climate initiatives that Germany intends to support in Kazakhstan. President Steinmeier travelled to Kazakhstan in 2017 to celebrate the establishment of diplomatic relations 25 years previously.

Link between Europe, China and Russia

The Foreign Ministers discussed economic relations, the rule of law and climate initiatives
The Foreign Ministers discussed economic relations, the rule of law and climate initiatives© dpa

Even though the countries of Central Asia rarely dominate foreign policy headlines, their importance for Europe is growing. At a time of increasing tensions between Russia and the US, with China and the US involved in a trade dispute and Asia as the world’s most populous economic area, Central Asia is playing a strategic role as the geographical centre between Russia and China. It is therefore no coincidence that the EU adopted its Strategy for Central Asia two months ago and is looking to work more closely with the region.

The fact that Kazakhstan is intent on bringing its influence to bear in the region was demonstrated last year when it hosted a summit of Central Asian leaders there, the first meeting of its kind for many years.

The rule of and democracy

Strengthening democratic principles is an important part of Germany’s engagement in Kazakhstan.

If we Europeans want to strengthen economic relations, it is important for us to include the issues of the rule of law and democracy,

said Foreign Minister Maas to his counterpart. As a member of the OSCE, Kazakhstan has committed itself to these principles. However, the OSCE Election Observation Mission identified irregularities in the elections held last June.

Germany and Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan is by far Germany’s most important trading partner in the region. Hundreds of German companies are doing business in Kazakhstan. The large number of ethnic Germans in Kazakhstan forms a special bridge between the two countries. Since last year, Kazakh school pupils have been able to learn German as their first foreign language. Foreign Minister Maas said that this was “a wonderful sign”.


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