New agreement can give a ‘major boost’ to EU and Kazakhstan economies
A new partnership between the EU and Kazakhstan can pave the way for much improved relations between the two sides, a conference in Brussels was told.
The prediction comes after European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Alikhan Smailov, prime minister of Kazakhstan, recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding establishing a new partnership between the EU and the Central Asian state.
A conference in Brussels on Thursday heard the new deal will ensure the development of a “secure and sustainable” supply of raw materials and develop renewable hydrogen and battery “value chains”.
This, it was also said, will boost the green and digital transformation of both sides’ economies.
Smailov said at the time that the signing of the document “creates conditions for the establishment of financial and technological cooperation” between Kazakhstan and EU industrial alliances.
The conference at Brussels press club was a chance to reflect on what the MoU means for both sides and how it might bolster relations between the EU and Kazakhstan, the world’s 9th largest country.
Among participants in the event were Marat Karabayev, the Kazak Vice Minister of Industry and Infrastructure Development and Peter Handley, Head of Unit for Raw Materials at the Commission’s DG GROW.
Karabayev noted that major companies such as Rio Tinto, a leading global mining group that focuses on finding, mining and processing the Earth’s mineral resources. and Arcelor Mittal, a Luxembourg-based multinational steel manufacturing corporation,both currently have operations in his country and the MoU will, it is hoped, lead to yet more investment.
Sitting alongside him, his comments were broadly echoed by Handley, from the EC, who said he believes that developing new skills, together with technological development, can both help sides deliver fresh opportunities, both economically and in many other ways.
Others taking part was Al-Farabi Ydyryshev, the Kazak Director General of the National Centre for Technology Foresight.
Kazakhstan currently has the ability to generate about half of up to 30 critical materials such as nickel according to Ydyryshev, a figure which – following the newly signed “landmark” agreement between Kazakhstan and the European Union – might potentially increase substantially in the coming years, benefiting both.
The agreement, the event heard, aims to ensure the development of a “secure and sustainable” supply of raw materials and refined materials. It also aims to develop renewable hydrogen and battery value chains and boost the green and digital transformation of both sides’ economies.
Speaking separately, von der Leyen said: “A secure and sustainable supply of raw materials, refined materials and renewable hydrogen is a key layer to help build a new, cleaner foundation for our economies, especially as we move away from our dependency on fossil fuels.
“This partnership with Kazakhstan shows Europe’s commitment to work with partner countries on our shared commitments to a greener and more resilient future in line with the Global Gateway Strategy and the objectives of the REPowerEU Plan.”
She thanked Smailov “for his efforts and look forward to our co-operation”.
Closer relations between the two sides has also been welcomed by senior Latvian Socialist MEP Andris Ameriks who told this website: “Kazakhstan is a very close and important partner for the European Union, especially in today’s reality, when aggressor Russia have shown its ambitions and criminal way on how to reach them. Today we share the same understanding of values with Kazakhstan and we see that it is a hard time for Kazakhstan too.”
Ameriks added, “Kazakhstan, with one of the biggest economies in the region, builds stability in the region and we have to work together closely in order to keep region stable. Today Kazakhstan is facing very difficult times, when it has to find new ways of exporting oil and other products to Europe. Taking into account that Kazakhstan is a land-locked country, makes this situation even harder, however there are already possible solutions found, like Middle corridor through Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey. This way would help Kazakhstan to bypass the countries under the sanctions.
“We understand this is not a question of one day. Great investments and work have to be done and we as the EU have to support this since it is crucial for us as well. The current situation in the energy market makes the EU to find as well new ways and probably new partners for constant energy supply in the EU.”
He went on: “Public speeches of the President of the Kazakhstan have shown that Kazakhstan has clear and common vision of the geopolitical situation same as the EU. This means that Kazakhstan is becoming even closer and more important partner and friend of the EU. We as the European Union should support and cooperate with Kazakhstan in this sphere at all the possible levels in order to create stability and predictability in the energy markets and peaceful geopolitical situation in the EU and Central Asian region.”
The partnership discussed at Thursday’s conference is centred around various areas of collaboration:
- Closer economic and industrial integration in the strategic value chains of raw materials, batteries and renewable hydrogen through, among others:
- Identifying joint projects throughout the respective value chains including recycling and attracting private investment and
- Aligning high environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards;
- Modernisation of mining and refining processes and technologies through the introduction of new technologies and sustainable practices.
- Increasing the resilience of raw material, battery and renewable hydrogen supply chains through, among others:
- Enhancing the transparency and information on measures related to investment, operations and exports relevant to the scope of this partnership.
- Closer bilateral cooperation on capacity-building, skills and research & innovation on topics through, among others:
- Decarbonisation of the critical raw materials value chain including by using renewable energy and digitalisation;
- Greening and sustainability of mining processes and
- Management of industrial mineral waste and extraction of critical raw materials from them.
The conference was told the EU and Kazakhstan have committed to develop a Roadmap for 2023-2024, with concrete joint actions agreed within six months of the signature of the Partnership. These actions, it was also said, are to be carried out in close cooperation with relevant industrial and financial stakeholders from the EU Member States and Kazakhstan.
Raw materials, batteries and renewable hydrogen value chains are, it was argued at the conference, critical to the green and digital transitions. Critical Raw Materials are essential for the deployment of technologies like wind turbines (with rare earth magnets); batteries (lithium and cobalt) and semiconductors (polysilicon).
Similarly, batteries are crucial to our energy transition and shift to zero-emissions transport, while renewable hydrogen technology supports the decarbonisation of hard to abate sectors and energy intensive industries.
The EU needs to secure a sustainable supply of raw materials, especially critical raw materials, as an essential prerequisite for delivering on green and clean energy objectives. As part of the Action Plan on Critical Raw Materials the Commission has already started working to build partnerships with resource-rich third countries, making use of all external policy instruments and respecting its international obligations.
In the margins of the UN General Assembly in September von der Leyen and Kazak President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, voiced a willingness to deepen economic cooperation in the critical raw materials domain and agreed to intensify work on an MoU where the Global Gateway could play a role.
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