The Republic of Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan lies in the north of Central Asia and is bordered by Russia to the north, China to the east, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan to the south, and the Caspian Sea and part of Turkmenistan to the west. With itsterritory of 2,727,300 square kilometres, Kazakhstan is the world’s largest landlocked country by land area and the ninth largest country in the world. It has almost 2,000km of coastline on the Caspian Sea. Elsewhere the vast territory of almost 2.8 million square kilometres is mostly steppe land with hilly plains and plateaus. It has a population of 16.6 million.
Kazakhstan proclaimed independence from the collapsing Soviet Union on 16 December 1991. The current President Nursultan Nazarbayev has been leader of the country since 1990. He restructured the government in 1997, eliminating a third of the government’s ministries and agencies. In 1997, the national capital was changed from Almaty, the largest city, to Astana. 2007 elections to the lower house of parliament resulted in a coalition led by the ruling Nur-Otan Party, which won every seat with 88% of the vote. None of the opposition parties have reached the benchmark 7% level of the seats. In 2010, President Nazarbayev rejected a call from constituents to hold a referendum to keep him in office until 2020 and instead insisted on presidential elections for a five-year term.
Kazakhstan and the EU
The European Union and Kazakhstan have been partners since the country’s independence, sharing a dialogue that has continually expanded. In the early years of cooperation this dialogue initially focused on trade and investment, but since 2002 many additional important issues of common concern have been included, such as energy, transport, justice, home affairs and political dialogue. The main document underpinning the EU partnership with Kazakhstan is the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) [225 KB], which was signed in 1995 and came into force in 1999. The launch of the negotiations for a new enhanced agreement between the EU and Kazakhstan took place on 27 June 2011 in Brussels. This marks an important milestone in the strengthening of relations and cooperation between the EU and its Member States and Kazakhstan.
During her visit to Kazakhstan in November 2012, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton said that the EU was keen to deepen and strengthen the relationship with Kazakhstan through the new Partnership and Cooperation Agreement which will be the first of the enhanced agreements in this region. She encouraged the country to move forward with economic liberalisation and in support of civil society and human rights.
At the regional level, Kazakhstan is a priority country within the 2007 European Union and Central Asia: Strategy for a New Partnership. This outlines the overall EU co-operation objectives, policy responses and priority fields for engagement in Central Asia. In June 2012, the European Council and the European Commission published their latest Joint Progress Report on the implementation of the EU Central Asia Strategy.
The EU supports Kazakhstan through national-level programmes worth € 44 million for the 2007-2010 period and € 30 million for 2011-2013. In addition, the EU regional Central Asia programmes aim to promote regional cooperation and good neighbourly relations in the region.
Kazakhstan and the Rule of Law Initiative
Kazakhstan hosted the Rule of Law Initiative’s first Regional Seminar “Administrative Justice – Theory and Practice in European and Central Asian Countries” in Astana in November 2012, with Germany as lead. At this seminar, concrete proposals regarding rules for an Administrative Procedure Code were introduced. These were designed to offer Central Asian countries a framework, to be filled out as needed, which could serve as a model for national legislation. This provided the countries with a roadmap to greater compliance with the rule of law. On the occasion of this seminar, Kazakhstan reaffirmed its commitment to pursuing a reform of the legal and judicial system. On 3 July 2012 Kazakhstan hosted the Platform’s first training workshop on administrative law and on 1 October 2013, a training workshop on “The stages of the legislative process: theory, practice and international experience”. A round table on “Fair Criminal Justice and the Fair Trial” was co-organised with the Almaty Bar on 7 October 2013.
On 28 August 2013, Ms Zauresh Baimoldina, Deputy Minister of Justice was officially appointed Kazakhstan’s National Coordinator of the Rule of Law Initiative. In this capacity, Ms Baimoldina will represent the Kazakh Government in all matters related to the European Union’s Rule of Law Initiative for Central Asia, including all matters pertaining to the Rule of Law Platform. The person appointed as Rule of Law Platform contact person at the Ministry of Justice is Mr Darkhan Bakirov, Deputy Director of the Department on Expertise for International Agreements. The National Coordinator is a member of the Steering Committee of the Rule of Law Platform.
The Mission of the Republic of Kazakhstan to the European Union in Brussels provides support to the political dialogue between Kazakhstan and the EU on matters related to the Rule of Law Initiative. The Delegation of the EU to Kazakhstan in Astana supports the EU’s policies in rule of law.
Rule of Law in Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan has already reformed substantially its Criminal Code and its Criminal Procedure Code. Nonetheless corruption of the judiciary and the need to promote the right to a fair trial and defence rights still need to be tackled in order to align the criminal justice system with international standards. The need to reinforce procedural safeguards at pre-trial stage is perceived as a priority in the Kazakh context.
Rule of Law Platform work plan in Kazakhstan
In order to complement other initiatives of the EU in Kazakhstan (i.e. essentially the “Judicial and Legal Reform in the Republic of Kazakhstan”), the Platform will focus its national activities on Administrative Law and Criminal Procedure.
Following the first administrative law training session in Astana in July 2012 (the first training event organised by the Rule of Law Platform) and the regional seminar on administrative justice in November 2012, an additional training workshop will support the efforts to promote the administrative justice reform in this country. In 2014, a number of regional activities organised by the Rule of Law Platform will be hosted by Kazakhstan.
Rule of Law Platform Stakeholders in Kazakhstan
The Kazakh stakeholders include the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Institute of Legislation of the Republic of Kazakhstan under the Ministry of Justice, the Academy of Pubic Administration under the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Institute of scientific expertise and analysis of the Kazakh Humanitarian Legal University, the Sapargaliev Research Institute of State and Law, the Almaty Bar, etc.
Since November 2012, the Platform has developed a very rich and mutually beneficial cooperation with the Judicial Academy of the Supreme Court of Kazakhstan and the Supreme Court of Kazakhstan.