After the Enhanced PCA: Kazakhstan in Focus

On December 21 in Astana, the EU and Kazakhstan signed an Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA). This agreement provides an important platform for European engagement with Kazakhstan and wider Central Asia. The first of its kind with a Central Asian country, it is recognition of Kazakhstan’s growing regional and international standing, and the fact that Kazakhstan is the EU’s key partner in Central Asia.

In conjunction with the signing, ISDP’s Silk Road Studies Program has issued a four-part series of policy briefs. Two policy briefs focus on EU-Kazakhstan relations. Arguing that the EU is unlikely at first to exert much influence in domestic governance and regional security affairs, S. Frederick Starr and Svante Cornell contend that the EU should prioritize the development of a partnership in trade and transport that places Kazakhstan as a lynch-pin in transport corridors connecting Europe and Asia. Michael Emerson, former EU Ambassador to Moscow, concludes in his policy brief that while the Enhanced PCA will strengthen cooperation between the two sides in diverse areas, Astana’s membership of the Eurasian Economic Union poses some complications.

The two other policy briefs in the series focus on Kazakhstan’s development, proactive foreign relations, and relative stability in a region characterized by turbulence and, in some cases, “failing” states. A Senior Fellow at the Jamestown Foundation, Vladimir Socor argues that Kazakhstan’s model of centralized reforms and promotion of balanced foreign relations have been key to its stability and predictability. At the same time, he notes the growing challenges in Kazakhstan’s neighborhood that Astana will be forced to mediate. Finally, Johan Engvall and Svante Cornell survey the drivers behind Kazakhstan’s constructive participation in a range of international organizations, but also how its “multi-vector” foreign policy is being challenged by Russia’s increased assertiveness.

The EU and Kazakhstan: Developing a Partnership in Trade and Transport
By S. Frederick Starr and Svante E. Cornell
ISDP Policy Brief no. 188, 14 December 2015

In 2015, the EU revised its Strategy for Central Asia, and finalized an Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with Kazakhstan. These welcome steps will not turn the EU into a regional powerhouse overnight, but provide the EU with a platform to play a constructive role in Central Asia. The EU can achieve that if it avoids focusing on issues where it has little hope of direct influence, such as regional security affairs and domestic governance. Instead, to gain such a role eventually, the EU should focus on revitalizing the promise of its visionary initiative of the 1990s – the Transport Corridor linking Europe to Asia via the Caucasus and Central Asia – which it allowed to slip, handing the initiative to other powers, primarily China.


Fourth Vector: Making Sense of Kazakhstan’s Activism in International Organizations
By Johan Engvall and Svante E. Cornell
ISDP Policy Brief no. 189, 17 December 2015

Since the fall of the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan has developed a track record of being the most proactive and innovative former Soviet republic in the sphere of international cooperation. Kazakhstan’s multilateral relations have always expressed a clear logic: to establish itself as a reliable and constructive international actor. The core of this strategy has been to create several foreign policy pillars – Russia, China, the U.S., the EU, Turkey – without prioritizing one too heavily over the other. However, in recent years the Russian pillar has expanded heavily, thus compromising the delicate balance of Kazakhstan’s multi-vector foreign policy.



Kazakhstan and Europe: Towards a New Partnership
By Michael Emerson
ISDP Policy Brief no. 190, 21 December 2015

The signing of the new Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement between the European Union and the Republic of Kazakhstan offers a good basis for the further development of relations in a range of fields. It also provides a platform on which to deepen ties with other Central Asian countries. Notwithstanding, Astana’s membership of the Eurasian Economic Union complicates relations with the EU. In this context, both sides need to work closely to balance relations and promote mutual interests.


Kazakhstan: An Island of Stability in a Turbulent Region
By Vladimir Socor
ISDP Policy Brief no. 191, 22 December 2015

Kazakhstan’s stability and predictability has been central to the newly uprgraded status of relations with the European Union. Key to this is Astana’s model of orderly and centralized reforms as well as pursuit of a constructive, multi-vector foreign policy. Looking ahead, however, Kazakhstan faces a number of significant external challenges including declining oil prices and not least the economic and political risks of membership in the Russia-dominated Eurasian Economic Union.