For Kazakhstan and its President N. Nazarbayev the OSCE Chairmanship in 2010 is a prestigious project. At the moment East and West take care of a great and primarily reach in resources state of Central Asia.
Kazakhstan is in Europe. But not geographically. From the beginning of this year Central Asian state possesses a mean of control over the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). In Vienna office of OSCE Kazakh employees are developing guiding decisions for Europeans. During several years Kazakhstan has worked to gain OSCE Presidency. Eventually 2010 has become a year of Europe for the country of “steppes”. President of the country N.Nazarbayev wants to cover this event with a summit.
This annual chairmanship is another premier for OSCE. This is the first time when the chairmanship in the organization of 56 member-states belongs to Asian post-soviet country. Except for that, Kazakhstan heads the organization as a state with generally Muslim population. Strictly governed country by all democracy deficiency is the most progressive in its region. Now President, who has headed the country for a long period of time, has a chance to manage European policy.
Kazakhstan has planned much for its year of presidency.
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It promised a “new dynamics” of conflict solution, should develop “European road map” for new challenges as terrorism, financial crisis and migration. In the top of agenda there is Afghanistan. More than 30 OSCE member-states are involved into the projects on military or humanitarian aid to this country. Kazakhstan finances educational programs for teachers, servants and engineers.
A Key Region of Central Asia
And suddenly a new conflict arose right by the own front door. President of Kirgizstan K.Bakiyev was expelled from his post.
Kazakh Minister of Foreign Affairs Kanat Saudabayev those days rushed to Kirgizstan as an OSCE crisis manager to talk to a “strong woman” R.Otunbayeva. N.Nazarbayev promised his poor neighbor overwhelming humanitarian aid. Eventually, it was economic inconsistency that led to the upheaval in Kirgizstan.
East and West look after Kazakhstan, the 9th big country in the world with 15 million people of population, either due to its geographic location or due to its natural resources. Kazakh steppe hides oil, gas, uranium, lead, gold and other treasures.
The authorities in Astana skillfully play their card. “We export into all profitable directions” sounds the slogan loudly. Oil pipelines run to Russia and China, sea supplies through Caspian Sea. Oil production should enhance from the current 75 million tons two times till 2015. From Tengiz field oil goes through Russian Black Sea cost to world markets. Kashagan field in Caspian Sea was discovered only in 2000. In addition steppes have great gas fields, to which the same as in Turkmenistan tries to reach Austrian OMV for the planned “Nabucco” project. The group of companies actively works in Kazakhstan with the help of its Romanian affiliate “Petrom”.
Kazakhstan possesses another precious good, these are third greatest uranium reserves in the world. Production of the given mineral that is extremely vital for nuclear energy should increase, and exactly for 15000 tons in the current year. N.Nazarbayev has initiated the establishment of a fuel bank.
Kazakhstan singed the treaty on nuclear weapon reduction and after the Soviet Union collapse gave nuclear weapon to Moscow.
Hard Heritage of the Soviet Union
However, economically strong, closely connected with Europe, state also experienced decline. Down the years Kazakhstan suffered from bank crisis. The state took over some big banks.
In a year a zero level of development began increasing, reported in the end of 2009 Minister of Economy Bakhyt Sultanov: “This was a soft landing”. By the way the fifth big ATF Bank in the country belongs to the bank Austria- UniCredit.
Kazakhstan presents itself as a history of success. Together with the independence of 1999 the “Armory Chamber” of the Soviet Union inherited also 2 ecologically catastrophic regions: contaminated nuclear ground in Semipalatinsk and the region with drying up Aral Sea. “We had a deadly ill economy and an explosive mixture of nationalities” reported Minister of Foreign Affairs. Today economy of Kazakhstan twice stronger than the economies of other states of Central Asia taken all together.
The population of Kazakhstan consists of 140 ethnic groups. Ethnic Kazakhs and Muslims comprise about 57% of the population, Russian about 27%. Polishes, Ukrainians, Germans appeared here only by the will of fate.
Christian part of the population, which is 40%, is the biggest in comparison with other Muslim states of Central Asia.
Karaganda in the North of the country was a “synonym to suffers” recollects a main vicar Jean-Marc Felix Shtoop on Stalin labor camp, where innumerous people died. A new capital Astana, which N.Nazarbayev authorized to build in the middle of steppe, in 2008 celebrated its 10th anniversary with a big pomposity. The transfer of Government from Alma-Ata on North, into the region of mostly Russian settlement land, became a delicate chess move. Simultaneously Astana became a sample of regional force, with governmental buildings of increased dimensions, and with new God’s houses of Abraham’s religions.
For example, a wonderful mosque, the construction of which was sponsored by Arab states, was called Nur-Astana. Away there is a new catholic cathedral, on the front of which the portrait of the Pope is depicted, which reminds of his visit in 2001, and a synagogue financed by the native Jewish patron Alexander Mashkevich. Rabbins come from Israel, catholic priests – from all Europe. Kazakhstan is the only country in the region which concluded an agreement with Vatican.
A glance through the boarder into the direction of Uzbekistan shows a smart fox heading the country, giving restraint assistance to the policy of state control of ethnic groups and religions in order to keep off Islamic movements. N.Nazarbayev in his turn develops a dialogue with cultures and religions. The congress of politicians and Heads of religions can carry a shadow of a propaganda show, however they need inter-religious coexistence.
At Least Little of Critics
Kazakhstan is the only state in Central Asia possessing half operating civil society. In the eve of its presidency in OSCE Astana solemnly held the NGOs forum, which included about 35 thousands non-governmental organization. They all focused on the issues of environment and health, less on human rights. Nevertheless, the author of this phrase during the forum managed to acknowledge that there also were critical comments. Speakers complained on a impeded access for the NGOs to information, by this they use state security as an excuse.
Others were furious against expensive health care services and a closed educational system.
Most Mass Media are controlled by the sate or belong to the presidential clan. A democratic-political stumbling block for OSCE and the Council of Europe is in fact a one-party system with a ruling party Nur-Otan. Other political groups have no chances to overcome a minimal 7% barrier. At the same time, without any doubts democracy deficiency in other neighboring states Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan is much greater.
Here we shouldn’t talk only about judicial proceedings with a former Kazakh Ambassador R. Aliyev in Vienna, ex-son-in-law of N.Nazarbayev who was trapped into disgrace, the extradition of whom is demanded by Kazakh justice. Only one comment: this was the reason of failure of the first Austrian state visit to Kazakhstan. Even if they explain it differently in Hofburg.
Translated by EuroDialogueXXI from Die Furche, Austria