ASTANA – The European Union is open to working together with Russia and China to foster stability and prosperity in Central Asia, the bloc’s special representative for the region told EFE on Thursday.
“The EU is ready for constructive cooperation with all the partners of Central Asia, including with the ‘big neighbors’ of Central Asia,” Peter Burian said on the sidelines of the 25th Anniversary of the European Union – Central Asia: From Past to Future conference in the Kazakh capital.
“And there is no choice between the EU or Russia or China. We all should try to avoid all geopolitical games and the clash of narrow interests of individual players,” Burian said.
There is room in Central Asia for all partners who are prepared to help maintain stability and promote development in the region, the EU envoy said.
At the same time, he was cool toward Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s call for institutional ties between the EU and the Russian-inspired Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU).
“We do not hide the fact that the issue of deepening and establishing closer relations between the EU and EAEU is not being considered, as the EU needs to resolve with Russia the issue of stabilizing the situation in Ukraine,” Burian said.
Tensions between the EU and Russia also have an effect on Kazakhstan and other Central Asian countries, according to Nicolas de Pedro, a scholar with the Barcelona Institute of International Studies.
“In these moments, in which relations between the EU and Russia are openly at a low point, Kazakhstan suffers a certain impact as it continues trying to develop it relations with the EU to compensate for its still significant dependence with regard to Russia,” he said.
Kazakhstan’s deputy foreign minister, Roman Vassilenko, said that everyone stands to benefit from cooperation in the region.
“Kazakhstan believes that the opportunities, the resources and the challenges of Central Asia are so great that there is room for mutual beneficial and productive cooperation between Kazakhstan and other countries of the region and other external players,” he said.
The goal of the conference in Astana is to contribute to the formulation of a new EU strategy in Central Asia, organizers said.