Austria is known to each Kazakhstani not only as the OSCE headquarters location and one of the most beautiful European landscapes, but first of all as the state rich in cultural traditions and historical heritage, the motherland of prominent rulers, scientists, philosophers and composers. Modern Austria is one of the most developed European states possessing significant international reputation, powerful production, scientific-technological, innovative and investment capacities.
According to many local and foreign experts, one of the most perspective "paths to Europe" for our country runs just through the development of cooperation with Austria. Ambassador of Kazakhstan to Austria and Permanent Representative of Kazakhstan to the International Organizations in Vienna Yerzhan Kazykhanov told about Kazakh-Austrian relations and prospects of their further development in the interview with Kazinform.
Mr. Ambassador, what place is in Kazakhstan's foreign policy assigned to Austria? What can you say about the present level of Kazakh-Austrian cooperation?
The Austrian Republic was one of the first European states to recognize Kazakhstan's independence. February 19, 2010 our countries marked the 18th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations. The Austrian direction is still one of the key priorities in Kazakhstan's foreign policy in Europe as well as the Kazakhstan's vector is major one in Central Asian region for Austria. Special significance is attached to the issues of strengthening bilateral relations in the light of adoption and implementation of Path to Europe Program in Kazakhstan. The program is aimed at studying Austrian experience in improving the political system and institutional and legal framework, industrial and innovation progress and development of civil institutes.
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Before talking about the high level of cooperation Kazakhstan and Austria have at the present stage, it's important to remember the history of relationships between our peoples rich in momentous dates, interesting and little-known facts. Thus, in 1903 the Austrian climbers, among whom were members of the royal family, headed by German geographer Gottfried Merzbacher became the first European explorers who reached the foothills of the Khan Tengri. They collected information, which for a long time remained the main source for the geography of the region. During the period from 1914 to 1916 Austrian prisoners of World War I with their bare hands built a strategic then transport corridor through the territory of modern East Kazakhstan region. It was called the Austrian road and presently is protected by the state as a unique historical monument. During the Great Patriotic War Kazakh soldiers side by side with the soldiers of the Austrian Resistance fought and gave their lives in the fight against fascism. And, of course, it was symbolic when first Kazakh cosmonaut Tokhtar Aubakirov and first Austrian astronaut Franz Viehböck made a joint spaceflight in October 1991.
How do our states develop economic cooperation? What sectors in the economies of Kazakhstan and Austria are most interesting to the business of both sides?
Presently Austria is, first of all, an economic partner of Kazakhstan and our country pays special attention to the development of this important element of Kazakh-Austrian relations. Kazakhstan is the first in Central Asia and third in CIS space, after Russia and Ukraine, trade partner of Austria. According to preliminary data, trade turnover between our states increased from EURO 1.3 billion in 2008 to 1.5 billion in 2009. Over the last years Austria has invested in Kazakh economy about EURO 5 billion and entered the five largest European investors working in Kazakhstan's market. To date about 50 large Austrian companies work in our state in close partnership with local entrepreneurs. I am sure their number will continue to grow. VAMED Group, Reiffeisen Bank, Bank Austria, First Alpina Inc. and others are interested in our market presently.
Strategic importance for our states belongs to cooperation in energy sphere. One of the leading oil and gas enterprises in Europe - Austrian OMV oil-gas concern works in Kazakhstan. At the end of 2009 the company concluded a contract for development of Kultuk oil deposit in Mangystau region. Besides, Kazakhstan is going to study Austrian experience in development of engineering, metallurgy, textile and food industries, electric industry. Much of this interest is due to the creation of the Customs Union and the possibility of establishing production hubs in Kazakhstan. In this context, Kazakhstan is interested in cooperation with the Austria-based Magna concern, specializing in the assembly of cars, including the brand BMW.
What significance have our bilateral relations in cultural and humanitarian field at the present stage of dynamic political dialogue and economic partnership?
No doubt, cultural and humanitarian dimension plays an important role in strengthening mutual understanding and friendship relations between our countries. New impulse in bilateral relations between Kazakhstan and Austria was made by singing a Memorandum on cooperation in the fields of science, education and culture in 1992. There was opened the co-called "Österreich-Bibliothek" with the collection of 4,000 books in the Каzakh University of International Relations and World Languages in 1997. Every year many young professionals of Kazakh Ministry of Foreign Affairs and MA students of the Academy of Public Administration under the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan go to study at Vienna Diplomatic Academy - one of the prestigious academic schools in Austria. We also regularly launch seminars, training courses on market economy, marketing and banking for Kazakh professionals in Joint Vienna Institute.
In the framework of Victory Day 65th Anniversary celebration we have planned to issue a book of memory about Kazakhstanis, who were killed during World War II and open a memorial plague on the territory of former concentration camp Mauthausen.
In conclusion I would like to point out that Kazakh-Austrian relations have great potential in all aspects of cooperation and presently both parties do their best for the sake of prosperity of our nations.