World Monitor Magazine, Business and Investments WM_march 2019_web - Page 26

DESTINATION europe in Astana is a great opportunity to demonstrate that Kazakhstan is not only open for business but is willing to be a model for sustainable trade openness in a moment where very damaging protectionist tendencies are spreading. The EU is very keen to cooperate with Kazakhstan and other like-minded partners to make the Conference a success. Should we expect negotiation in regards to the visa facilitation for citizens of Kazakhstan? Will it allow to reduce the number of documents required for issuing visas, reduce the amount of consular fees, shorten the time for consideration of documents? The European Union is fully aware of Kazakhstan’s interest in concluding a Visa Facilitation Agreement and we appreciate the reforms you have already undertaken in this regard. Your decision to lift the visa requirements for EU citizens in early 2017 is a proof of strong commitment in enhancing our relations and improving people-to- people contacts. From our part, a few days ago the European Union adopted a new EU Visa Code. The changes will be applicable six months after the text is published in the Official Journal of the EU, most probably in September. The new EU Visa code will simplify procedures and conditions for requesting and issuing short-stay visas and will use the visa policy to encourage all non-EU countries – including Kazakhstan – to cooperate on migration. The main purpose of the reform is to facilitate legitimate travel for tourism, trade and business, whilst preventing irregular immigration and contributing to internal security. 24 world monitor Procedures for bona fide travellers will be simpler, and there will be a direct link between visa and migration policy. Allow me to recall that the current EU Visa Code already grants to these travellers a number of facilities to obtain short- stay visas from which, according to our visa statistics, citizens of Kazakhstan are already benefiting by a very low visa refusal rate (3.7% in 2017). Are there any plans to increase cooperation in the field of security, rule of law, countering challenges and threats, environmental protection, energy and education, including in the regional format in the framework of the new EU Strategy for Central Asia, which is scheduled for approval in the middle of this year? You properly pointed out that the new EU Central Asia Strategy is still under development, so it would be a bit premature to go into detail at this stage. But from our part the EU Delegation plans to provide support for sustainable economic development, including investment promotion, through a mix of actions mainly funded by the EU’s Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI). DCI provides funding for the Investment Facility for Central Asia (IFCA) that finance so-called ‘blending’ projects, including infrastructure projects in the field of waste management, water and renewable energy and SME development. It also funds country specific interventions carried out as part of regional programmes related to climate change mitigation, environmental protection, water, rule of law and education. The latter includes EU-Central Asia Cooperation on Water, Environment and Climate Change (WECOOP), the Central Asia Energy and Water Development Programme (CAEWDP), Nexus Dialogue, the EU-CA Education Platform, Erasmus+, Central Asia Invest and SWITCH (green economy transition for SMEs). WECOOP, CAEWDP and Nexus support various aspects of policy and legislative reforms and interregional dialogue as well as advice on the investment project pipeline. Kazakhstan’s participation in the EU's large Horizon 2020 research programmes can also serve to promote the country’s economic development. All programmes are expected to be of interest to EU based investors, producers, suppliers and service providers. The EU is also implementing a number of regional programmes addressing various aspects of security. These include BOMCA (on border management), CADAP (on drug actions – demand side. i.e. treatment and prevention), EU ACT (Drug action – supply side, i.e. policing), CBRN (training and advice on the handling of Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear materials), Countering terrorism (anti-terrorist financing actions, prevention of radicalisation in prisons) and regional cooperation to support stabilization and development in Afghanistan. A ‘triangular’ project is currently under preparation on economic empowerment of Afghan women through education at higher education institutions in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Kazakhstan will also benefit from a new regional action starting in 2019 on Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR). The Centre for Emergency Situation and DRR (CESDRR) in Almaty, which was established with EU support, will play a key role in the implementation of the new regional programme.