EU and Kazakhstan to build energy ties

Dec 05, 2006 01:00 AM

The European Union agreed to improve its ties with Kazakhstan in a move seen as a bid to reduce its growing dependence on Russian and Middle Eastern gas supplies.
Both sides signed a memorandum of understanding which would make it easier to import gas and oil from Kazakhstan, and the 25-nation EU also initialled a deal to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy with a nation that holds one-fifth of the known reserves of uranium.

"Kazakhstan and the European Union have laid the foundations of constructive cooperation in the energy sector," EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said after meeting with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev.
Kazakhstan is expected to pump 3.5 mm barrels of oil per day in the coming decade and also has sizeable gas reserves.

At the moment, the EU is counting on Russia as a vital supplier of energy. Kazakhstan now wants to help the EU diversify its imports and make it less dependent on Moscow.
"The role of Kazakhstan as a reliable supplier to European and global markets is increasing," Nazarbayev told.

Apart from Kazakhstan, the EU has also signed similar agreements with Azerbaijan and Ukraine, and is in the final stages of concluding one with Algeria. It also wants to assess cooperation with expanding producers in Africa and Latin America.
The EU is seeking to persuade Russia to ratify an international energy charter that would regulate transit and investment in the energy sector, and would allow for market competition between foreign and independent companies.

Nazarbayev also said the EU wanted to diversity Kazakhstan's pipeline network to make it less dependent on the countries it crosses.
"I would like to assure you that any route which is feasible and efficient for transportation of Kazakh hydrocarbons will be thoroughly considered," he said.

Europe's drive to improve economic ties with Kazakhstan has raised questions about human rights and democracy. Nazarbayev was re-elected with 91 % of the vote in December balloting that international observers called flawed. The 2004 parliamentary vote produced a legislature without a single opposition lawmaker.
Nazarbayev was in Brussels to lobby for his country to assume the rotating one-year chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, a move backed by Russia and many other European countries but opposed by the United States and Britain over human rights concerns.

"Kazakhstan enjoys peace and coexistence between a diverse population of 130 different nationalities and 46 different religions for the last 15 years. I think this would be a very valuable experience that might be shared by the OSCE," Nazarbayev said.
French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said his country was open to Kazakhstan's chairmanship of the OSCE, which he said would be a "positive signal to Kazakh authorities to complete their reforms." But other countries urged Kazakhstan to carry out reforms first and then apply for the group's presidency.

Source: The Moscow Times
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