Newly re-elected Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev met his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron in France on Tuesday after a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday amid Europe’s energy crisis.
Tokayev arrived in France for a two-day visit to discuss strategic partnerships in the trade, economic, investment and humanitarian sectors. He will also participate in meetings with French companies.
This meeting with the French president is the first official visit with a European leader since his reelection on 20 November and the second after a short visit to Putin on Monday.
“During the talks in the Kremlin between the presidents of Kazakhstan and Russia, they talked about creating a ‘tripartite gas union’ consisting of Russia, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan to coordinate actions in the transportation of Russian gas through the territories of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan,” Tokayev’s spokesperson Ruslan Zheldibay said on Tuesday.
A source close to the issue told EURACTIV that the aforementioned gas union is “not aimed at circumventing the European sanctions against Russia” and still needs to be “understood and studied.”
The source mentioned that France is one of the five largest investor countries, as Paris invested $17 billion in the Kazakh economy and that the country accounts for 90% of France’s trade with Central Asia, namely in the nuclear sector.
“France is active in the nuclear sector in Kazakhstan, namely with Orano,” the source said, adding that EDF too was one of the three top contenders to build the first Kazakh nuclear power plant by the end of the decade together with Russia and South Korea.
According to information published earlier in 2022 by Le Monde from the Euratom Technical Committee, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan have provided up to 55% of French supplies of uranium. In 2020, Kazakhstan was the first natural uranium worldwide producer (40,6%) and the EU’s second uranium provider for the EU (22,99%) after Niger (24,26%), according to Euratom data.
Kazakhstan is also at the heart of the EU’s energy strategy in Central Asia. At the COP27 conference in Egypt on 7 November, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Prime Minister of Kazakhstan, Alikhan Smailov.
In the document, the two parties agreed to establish a new partnership ensuring the development of a secure and sustainable supply of raw materials, renewable hydrogen and battery value chains, and boosting both economies’ green and digital transformation.
“This partnership will enable European investors to have a better and a more privileged access to the Kazakh market,” EEAS Head of division Dietmar Krissler told EURACTIV during an event in Kazakhstan. “I would even hope that it would serve as an example for other Central Asian countries,” he added.
(Charles Szumski | EURACTIV.com)