During the last few years, the priority of the Republic of Kazakhstan foreign policy is economic diplomacy. Kazakhstan and Serbia have mutually good opportunities in the areas of industrial production, agriculture, investment, trade and tourism. We must help manufacturers, business people and companies of the two countries to establish mutually beneficial contacts and joint work – Ambassador Gabit Syzdykbekov
H.E. Mr. Gabit Syzdykbekov, Kazakhstan’s first ambassador to Serbia, has set ambitious goals for himself for the years ahead. In this interview for CorD Magazine, he says that he will advocate for stronger economic cooperation to be aided by the establishment of a direct flight between Nur- Sultan and Belgrade and that he will engage on the renewal of the Kazakhstan-Serbian Business Council. He announces that the two countries will continue to strengthen cooperation through the Intergovernmental Commission on Trade and Economic Issues. On the other hand, he adds, with its signing of an agreement with the Eurasian Economic Union, of which Kazakhstan is a member, Serbia has opened the doors to more than 180 million people to its exporters.
Your Excellency, almost three decades after the establishment of diplomatic relations, Kazakhstan has finally opened its Embassy in Serbia. What were the reasons behind raising the level of your diplomatic presence in Serbia?
As you know, our diplomatic relations were established in 1996 with Yugoslavia. Since then we have maintained good relations with Belgrade and Serbia, as the legal successor of Yugoslavia. There are no unresolved issues between our countries, and Kazakhstan and Serbia traditionally support each other in the international arena. The cultures of our countries are of big interest to both peoples. Having overcome various challenges, the Republic of Serbia shows good development indicators. In the last years, GDP growth has been at least 4%, which – in the unstable environment of the world economy – is estimated by experts as a very good result for the country.
Kazakhstan is showing similar economic growth. In general, our economies can complement each other successfully, primarily in the fields of investment and trade.
Throughout all these years, positive conditions have been accumulating for the further development of relations between our states. And the first to realise and announce that at a high level was His Excellency Aleksandar Vučić, President of the Republic of Serbia, during his visit to Kazakhstan in 2018. And in 2019 our Embassy was opened here in Belgrade.
The two countries will continue to strengthen cooperation through the Intergovernmental Commission on Trade and Economic Issues. On the other hand, with its signing of an agreement with the Eurasian Economic Union, of which Kazakhstan is a member, Serbia has opened the doors to 180 million people to its exporters
How does it feel to be the first ambassador of Kazakhstan in Serbia?
I am the first ambassador in the history of my country to the friendly land of Serbia, while this is simultaneously my first appointment as a career ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary of the Republic of Kazakhstan.
Therefore, I feel twice the responsibility for the trust placed in me by my President, His Excellency Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, and for the warm fraternal welcome given to our diplomatic mission in your country. I think the citizens of Kazakhstan and Serbia deserve the best ties between our two states. And that’s why we have a lot to do.
The letter sent to you by the President of Serbia on the occasion of the opening of the Embassy reminded of the longstanding friendship between the two countries. What will be your priorities as the ambassador of Kazakhstan in Belgrade?
Our Embassy proceeds from the tasks set by the leadership of Kazakhstan. During the last few years, the priority of the Republic of Kazakhstan’s foreign policy has been economic diplomacy. Kazakhstan and Serbia have mutually beneficial opportunities in the areas of industrial production, agriculture, investment, trade and tourism. We must help manufacturers, business people and companies from the two countries to establish mutually-beneficial contacts and joint ventures. We believe that this will have tangible, practical benefits for the well-being of both nations.
At the political level, Kazakhstan’s support for Serbia’s sovereign territorial integrity stands out when it comes to bilateral support. Will you maintain your stance when it comes to non-recognition of Kosovo’s unilaterally declared independence?
Kazakhstan officially declared its position of non-recognition of Kosovo’s independence and continues to adhere to this policy consistently.
The EAEU represents a market of more than 180 million consumers, which is now open to Serbian business. We have direct access to China, while goods from the EAEU are also becoming geographically closer to the countries of Central and Western Europe
Are you satisfied with the cooperation between Kazakhstan and Serbia at the parliamentary level, and can this cooperation contribute to strengthening overall bilateral relations?
Parliamentary cooperation between Kazakhstan and Serbia is developing dynamically. In September last year, Maja Gojković, the Speaker of the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia, visited Nur-Sultan to attend the 4th Meeting of the Speakers of the Parliaments of Eurasia.
In October 2019, Nurlan Nigmatulin, Chairman of the Mazhilis of the Parliament of the Republic of Kazakhstan, visited Belgrade as part of the 141st Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union. Despite the fact that these were multilateral events, the leaders of the two Parliaments held bilateral negotiations. And in the opinion of both parties, exchanges of experience on legislative support for reforms carried out in our countries, active interaction among cooperation groups and relevant committees are all of the mutual interest.
In addition, parliamentarians are focusing on the prospects offered by the newly created free trade zone between the Eurasian Economic Union and Serbia. I will note in particular that the friendship group with Kazakhstan, formed in October 2016 within the National Assembly of Serbia, is one of the largest (77 MPs). The group is headed by the Honorary Consul of Kazakhstan Mrs Milanka Karić, who provides a great contribution to the development of relations between our countries.
Kazakhstan is a member of the Eurasian Economic Union. How do you see the importance of signing a free trade agreement with Serbia?
The importance of this Agreement is related to the economic opportunities that it provides to the parties involved. In particular, the EAEU represents a market of more than 180 million consumers, which is now open to Serbian business. We have direct access to China, while goods from the EAEU are also becoming geographically closer to the countries of Central and Western Europe.
Considering that continental Eurasian transit, due to technological progress, is entering the era of its “revival” following several centuries of “maritime dominance”, the significance of this Agreement will grow ever greater over time. And that’s especially so when you consider that Serbia, like Kazakhstan, is similarly landlocked and a transit state.
Kazakh companies are ready to offer their highquality road construction services in Serbia. Some investors from Kazakhstan have already shown an interest in investing in various sectors of the Serbian economy
Do you see any ways to strengthen economic cooperation between Kazakhstan and Serbia, which currently remains at a low level?
First of all, we need to open a direct flight between Nur-Sultan and Belgrade. Then the activities of the existing Kazakhstan-Serbian Business Council need to be revitalised. We also plan to expand the corps of honorary consuls of Kazakhstan in Serbia, including participation in this process by prominent business people from your country who contribute to the implementation of specific bilateral projects. This year, together with our Serbian partners, we will hold the next meeting of the Kazakh-Serbian Intergovernmental Commission on Trade and Economic Issues in Belgrade. Kazakh companies are ready to offer their high-quality road construction services in Serbia. Some investors from Kazakhstan have already shown an interest in investing in various sectors of the Serbian economy.
For example, representatives of Kazakh company Qaz Eco Fruits have visited Serbia recently, with the intention of purchasing a large consignment of apple seedlings (about 267,000) here for the development of horticulture in the southern part of Kazakhstan. Last week the management of Kazakhstan construction company Aizia Invest visited Belgrade to study the construction market and the prospects for investment in Serbia’s economy.
Finally, could you speak in more detail about the comprehensive political and economic reforms in Kazakhstan that were announced by the President Kassym- Jomart Tokayev last year as “Constructive Social Dialogue”?
This is a very important subject and the first Address by Kazakhstan President Kassym- Jomart Tokayev to the citizens of Kazakhstan, introduced on 2nd September 2019, was dedicated to it. Everyone interested in Kazakhstan and the development prospects of my country can find the text easily (link). And I assure you that anyone who carefully examines this document will learn a lot, not only from the viewpoint of studying the Kazakhstan realities but also can enrich his political, socioeconomic vision and individuality. I should note that a period of serious transformations in many areas of life is underway today in Kazakhstan. And one of the first steps of the Head of State was to develop a programme of comprehensive state activities aimed at maximising the current interests of citizens.
The political development of Kazakhstan will be in line with democratic values and under the auspices of the concept of the “Listening State”, an effective state, dedicated to the interests of all citizens.
President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev clearly outlined the task of strengthening the legal protection of citizens’ legitimate interests, as well as a systematic fight against corruption. In the Presidential address, there is a strong focus on supporting small and medium-sized businesses and the development of the agriculture sector. Social and medical support for the country’s population remains a priority for the state. State efforts will also be aimed at improving the social situation in regions and rural areas. I would like to emphasise that the President of Kazakhstan is looking at youth with special care. He assigned appropriate tasks to create conditions to support the potential of young people, as they will determine the future of the country.
Most recently, at the behest of President Tokayev, the Presidential Personnel Reserve was formed, which included 300 of the most professionally trained, talented and ambitious young managers aged under 35. For them, this is a unique opportunity to take leading positions in the public administration and semi-public sector. This is a transparent and effective social elevation opportunity for our talented youth.
The citizens of Kazakhstan and Serbia deserve the best ties between our two states. And that’s why we have a lot to do
Kazakhstan and Serbia have mutually beneficial opportunities in the areas of industrial production, agriculture, investment, trade and tourism
Social and medical support for the country’s population remains a priority for the state