Germany is looking for a new partner in Kazakhstan – despite differences

Germany and Kazakhstan want to work more closely together, especially economically. But Federal President Steinmeier’s visit is also about geopolitics and the Ukraine war. There were differences.

Germany and Kazakhstan see themselves as “key partners” in their respective regions. The two Presidents Frank-Walter Steinmeier and his Kazakh counterpart Kassym-Schomart Tokayev use this term to characterize their cooperation. The trade volume is almost nine billion euros, 85 percent of German foreign trade in Central Asia is handled with Kazakh companies. In his opening statement at the meeting of the delegations, the Federal President praised Kazakhstan’s reform course under President Tokayev. Above all, Steinmeier mentioned the abolition of the death penalty, the introduction of constitutional jurisdiction and the fight against corruption.

Politically, too, Germany and Kazakhstan have drawn closer together after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Citing the values ​​of the UN charter, Kazakhstan had pledged to support the EU sanctions against Russia insofar as the re-import of prohibited goods through its territory should be prevented.

Worry about Russia

In practice, this proves to be difficult, particularly in the case of so-called dual-use goods, i.e. goods that are manufactured for civilian purposes but can also be used for military purposes. Kazakhstan has close trade ties with Russia as part of the Eurasian Economic Union. In addition, Kazakhstan has a barely controllable border with Russia, which at over 7,000 kilometers is the longest land border in the world. Nevertheless, Kazakh border authorities and EU agencies should also work on specific individual cases in the future in order to track down suspected sanctions violators.

The war in Ukraine had triggered massive fears in Kazakhstan that Russia could expand its imperial ambitions to Central Asia. These fears were compounded by aggressive Russian propaganda.

Kazakhstan is linked to Russia through a variety of agreements. Consequently, the current geopolitical situation requires the Kazakh leadership to constantly walk a tightrope. President Tokayev wants Russia to remain a ‘good friend’ – and he calls for support for all peace efforts in Ukraine; most recently, a group of African states and China launched peace initiatives. They met with a cautious response from Western supporters of Ukraine.

Green hydrogen perspective

Tokayev said even a “bad peace” was better than continuing the war; he hoped that a truce could pave the way for negotiations. Steinmeier, on the other hand, spoke of a “just peace” for Ukraine that did not legitimize the Russian “land grab”. Different accents, common goal.

A number of framework agreements for economic projects, especially in the transport and energy sectors, were signed in the presence of the two heads of state. It also became known that the Kazakh state oil company will increase its deliveries to the German refinery PCK in Schwedt an der Oder by ten percent. The contract runs until the end of 2024. PCK in Schwedt, Brandenburg, can no longer process Russian oil due to EU sanctions against Russia; the deliveries from Kazakhstan partially compensate for this.

In Astana, Steinmeier described the agreement that has now been reached with Kazakhstan as “good news for Germany’s energy security”. On Wednesday Steinmeier wants to travel from Astana to Aktau on the Caspian Sea, where the foundation stone for a German-Kazakh engineering institute is to be laid and the construction site for a planned production plant for green hydrogen is to be opened.

Jean Harris

Learn More →

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *