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Europe needs to invest in Kazakhstan to secure green transition

Kazakhstan is a vital partner of the European Union in the green transition. At a high-level discussion in Brussels, business leaders and diplomats explored the country’s role as a crucial source of critical raw materials and the investment required to secure sustainable development. The event also marked the recent opening of Kazakh Invest’s new Brussels office, writes Political Editor Nick Powell.

The agreement between the European Union and Kazakhstan on Strategic Partnerships in Sustainable Raw Materials, Batteries, and Renewable Hydrogen Value Chains, signed in November 2022, demonstrated the political will of both sides to deliver the green transition through a secure and sustainable supply of critical raw materials. Attention has now turned to what’s needed to make it happen, the investment required to achieve the EU’s and Kazakhstan’s joint goals, as set out in the 2022 Memorandum of Understanding.

Kazakhstan’s Ambassador to the European Union, Margulan Baimukhan, hosted an exchange of views between senior Kazakh and EU oficials, as well as key voices from industry. The government of Kazakhstan was represented by Bolat Akchulakov, Presidential Adviser for Energy Affairs. He outlined his country’s own commitment to eventual complete decarbonisation, even as it remains an important and reliable source of the fossil fuels that Europe currently requires. 

Matthew Baldwin, from the European Commission’s DG ENER, said there is no dichotomy between efforts to diversify oil supplies, in which the importance of Kazakhstan has never been greater, and working towards the phasing out of fossil fuels in a fair and orderly way. Sarah Rinaldi, from the Directorate-General for International Partnerships, stressed the need to strengthen the supply chains in critical raw materials.


Jorgo Chatzimarkakis, from Hydrogen Europe, envisaged a future in which the restrictions of pipeline and cable capacity that currently limit energy supplies could be overcome. Green hydrogen produced in Kazakhstan would be used to process iron ore mined in the country before the pellets were exported to Europe. 

It’s not just iron ore. Peter Handley, Head of Unit for Energy Intensive Industries and Raw Materials at DG GROW, observed that when it comes to critical raw materials essential for battery technology and other aspects of the green transition, “Kazakhstan is big -and it’s got a lot”. He said fresh geological surveys are needed to replace Soviet-era records and that the French and German national geological surveys had the capacity to do the work at scale. 

The Head of the newly opened Kazakh Invest office in Brussels, Bauyrzhan Mukayev, said that securing investment in prospecting for critical raw materials was one of the reasons for coming to the EU’s capital. He outlined how specialised EU companies could participate in geological exploration, analysis and sustainable extraction, with production and processing in Kazakhstan. 

Joint scientific research would develop the new high-tech products needed to complete the green transition. Specialists would be trained in Kazakhstan and clusters of expertise would aid the production of battery components from raw materials such as nickel, cobalt, manganese and lithium.

Luc Devigne, from the European External Action Service, spoke of the long-term and deep relationship between Kazakhstan and the EU, which is its largest investment and trading partner. Furthermore, he said, the European Union is very supportive of President Tokayev’s reform agenda. He also welcomed Kazakhstan’s closer relationships with the other Central Asian countries. He commented that it was a region of old nations but young states. Borders had been built after the collapse of the Soviet Union but now they must be made easy to cross.


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