Kazakhstan's President Nursultan NAZARBAYEV:
"WEТLL PAVE THE WAY FOR SINGLE EURASIAN COMMUNITY BY 2015."
After signing the integration documents with Russian and Belarus presidents, Kazakh President Nursultan NAZARBAYEV gave an interview to Interfax and RIA-Novosti to highlight the progress of Eurasian integration, talk about Kazakhstan and Russia relations, and share his view on Syrian and Iranian issues.
- Before we start, we would like to congratulate you, Nursultan Abishevich, on the ideas that you voiced in 90-s coming to life. What are the necessary steps to avoid the mistakes made when similar supra-national structures were formed in USSR and CIS?
- As you know, ideas are always ahead of their time. As one famous classic author once said, Уfor an idea to succeed, it must first occupy the minds of the masses.Ф It seems the states needed some time after the collapse of the Soviet Union to enjoy their independence, look around and realize what each of them needed and what to do next.
In today's world of globalization not a single state can remain locked within its borders. This is a dead-end that leads nowhere, but to stagnation. The world has 240 integration unions with the European Union, NATO, SCO, APEC to be the largest of themа ... The Customs Union, the major one in the post-soviet area, is now joined by the Common Economic Space.
Five years have passed since I voiced this idea at the Moscow State University. The countriesТ leadership did not uphold it back then, though people have been always ready to go for it.а The idea has been in the air, and in peopleТs minds ever since. And finally, it has been put to life.
I will be frank with you: without the support of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev it would be hard to make it a reality.
In 2005, when Vladimir Putin was in office, we agreed to establish a Customs Union. In five years we have covered the way that took the EU 40 years to accomplish. Having adopted a huge number of laws and ratified them, we moved on to the next stage of integration, a Common Economic Space.
We sealed 17 agreements to pave the way for the formation of the Eurasian Economic Community. We have yet to adopt a law on harmonization of macroeconomic indicators, such as level of public debt, inflation, unemployment, etc.
We also need to agree on common tariffs for rail, pipeline transport and electricity transmission.а We plan to have it all done by the end of 2015 and reach a stage of creating a single Eurasian Community. As you can see, only three states had the political will to create a union that we needed.
- Does the EU serve as an example for the Eurasian Union? Is the EU interested in cooperating with the new union in the post-Soviet space?
- The opinions vary. Vladimir Putin has repeatedly spoken about integration from Vancouver to Vladivostok, meaning the whole post-Soviet space. Zbigniew Brzezinski supported the idea at the Yaroslavl forum that it is possible to do without us.
My personal opinion is that the European Union should be interested in cooperating with us, with the Common Economic Space or the Eurasian Economic Union that we are building, because it is from here that Europe is getting its energy resources.
Everything depends on the will of the European leaders. I am convinced that the future of Europe lies in cooperating with our Eurasian Union.
- WhatТs currency will be circulating in the Eurasian Economic Union?
- We have not discussed that.а In general, any union starts with a free trade zone, customs union, single economic space followed by an economic union that may introduce a payment unit, not yet a currency.а Do you remember ECU, the European Currency Unit.
First, we need to create the Eurasian Economic Union and then we might consider the currency issue. Now the foundation is laid for the trade in major trade articles using either ruble or tenge. Together with the Russian and Belarus presidents we had a brief visit to the VTB Capital Bank.а We were told that VTB bank handles 600-800 million Kazakh tenge daily, in other worlds, tenge comes only second to ruble. In other words, in our mutual trade we need to use either ruble or tenge, to skip purchasing dollar to settle accounts.
This is the first step. After we see the benefits and have proofs of our equal rights in our economic space and union, the issue about a single currency will inevitably arise.
I believe that none of the national currencies, including, of course, the powerful Ruble, won't do. It must be another currency with a new name.
- What about all the political commotion... What prompted the snap parliamentary elections?
- This year was very eventful in Kazakhstan's political life. Your remember the initiative that came from a public group to hold a referendum to extend my term in office.а I was grateful to the people of Kazakhstan for the honor, but refused the opportunity. The presidential elections took place on April 3 and you are well aware of the results.а Some parliament members had already started talking about disbanding the parliament then. The key argument was to comply with the amendments of the Constitution that provide for at least two parties in the parliament.
The ruling Nur Otan party represents multiple political movements, but the only one party dominates. In order to comply with the Constitution provision on a multiparty parliament elected through party lists, we need a new election. This is the first argument.
The second argument: we all are reading and observing that the second crisis wave is looming ahead.а We are feeling it getting closer.а It may not happen, though, as it hit us when we were unaware of it before, but when we are aware of it coming, it may not materialize. However, the actual developments in Europe, some other states and the US suggest that it is quite feasible. The parliament members are confident that the resources must not be diverted from tackling the problems at hand to the 2012 elections.
Thirdly, Kazakhstan has launched a wide-scale industrialization program. Over a span of two years more than 350 will be put online.а The processing industries have taken a prevailing role and started exporting their products. To make the industrial program successful, we need fresh blood in the parliament to adopt new laws.а I see the point in that.
I accepted these arguments. According to the Constitution, the president has the right to disband the parliament with the consent of the parliament leaders. The decision has been made and it is constitutional and legitimate.
- Russia has joined the WTO ahead of Kazakhstan. The entry of two our countries was not synchronized. Will this impact bilateral relations and integration processes?
- WeСve already finalized negotiations with all countries [WTO members]. I think that Kazakhstan will be part of the WTO at the end of 2012. We did not join the WTO together, bit no one enters the WTO collectively. Kazakhstan sees it important for Russia to enter first, as all of our transport corridors to Europe go through Russia. We fully support that.
Now when it joined first, Russia would support all our WTO accession efforts at all levels.
- How do you regard prospects of SCO enlargement, in particular, IranСs request to join the organization?
- Today six countries are either observers or partners of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, that inlcudes Iran, India, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
I support the idea of accepting both India and Pakistan and later probably Iran. But, you know all political problems that come with it. In principle, I am personally not against the expansion of the SCO, but such decisions are made together by all member countries.
We celebrated the 10th anniversary of the SCO in Astana. We announced terms and conditions for accepting new members to the organization. We want the organization to be strong and reputable.
Many would like to join the SCO. The U.S. also wants to be an observer. But this is a decision for all member states to make.
- What are the reasons behindа the so-called СArab springС that led to regime changes in a number of North African and Middle East countries?
- We are witnessing a wave of anti-governmental riots in North Africa, the U.S., United Kingdom, Europe. These are all justice-related matters. Two words are the most frequently used in this regard УfreedomФ and Уjustice.Ф Clearly freedom is a good thing, and we wonСt forget about that. But Уsocial justiceФ is the matter in question. The gap between the very rich and very poor is deepening. The crisis has uncovered other big problems. The deterioration of living standards after the crisis in Europe and North Africa served as a catalyst for such protest actions. Therefore, the question of social justice -- raising living standards and reverting the economy to that particular path of improving life quality -- is the key priority now.
Terrorism is on the rise throughout the entire world. And, as you know, it has reached Kazakhstan. The terrorist acts we witnessed donСt have any organized force behind them, though. We had something like the Norwegian case when one person, plainly speaking a criminal, decided to kill people and then kill himself. The investigation proved that we were confronted with a similar case.
There is no frontline for terrorism, and all countries should be fighting the evil together.
- The West has been talking about sanctions against Syria more often lately. Could you comment on this?
- Regretfully, we were witnessing how the UN had made a decision to watch, which for some reason resulted in the attack and GaddhafiТs murder. IСm not a Gaddahfi supporter and not going to defend him, but this looks like abuse of powers and a distorted way to follow the Security Council decision. All these led to interference in the domestic affairs of another country.
That sad experience should keep us from following the same tactic towards another independent state such as Syria. The international community is well aware what is happening there, people are dying and a great number of people are suffering. I think we should work on that.
Kazakhstan presides over the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and we are also working on that. We will chair an OIC session to discuss this issue.
- In this regard, we would also like to learn your opinion on the WestСs attempts to introduce sanctions against Tehran?
- Plenty of sanctions have been applied to Iran, however, Iran continues to live and work. As for the Iranian nuclear program, I would like to see the diplomatic efforts continue.
When speaking of the Iranian nuclear program, why we never mention the case with Pakistan, which developed nuclear weapons? Why we never speak of Israel that actually possesses nuclear arsenal? No restrictions, no international treaties were applied then. One should not approach things so asymmetrically.
Iran claims that it is developing a peaceful nuclear program. It says that everything can be checked and lets the IAEA in.
Earlier the IAEA said that everything was alright in Iran; now, it says it is hiding something. It certainly raises doubts. Therefore, the negotiating process should continue to make Iran allow IAEA inspectors into all its facilities to prove it to the world that Iran is really engaged in a peaceful nuclear program.
I believe that any use of force to resolve the problem is out of the question, as it is fraught with upheavals for the whole world and primarily for Iran.
- Russia and Kazakhstan are two major energy powers. Are they allies or competitors in the energy market?
- Russia is a huge oil and gas power. It produces 500 million tons of oil. Kazakhstan used to produce 20 million tons of oil 20 years ago. Now it produces 80 million tons. Russia produces 530 or 540 billion cubic meters of gas. We currently produce 25 billion. By 2020 we plan to reach the 100-billion target. Therefore I do not feel any competition between us for now.
We use Russian gas pipelines selling our gas at the border, Russia transports it further on. Besides that we have oil and gas pipelines to China, but we do not cross each other's path or close the markets for each other.
The two countries make the same products. This has been acutely felt this year, when we have a high yield of grain. Both our countries have a shortage of transport means to export the grain. This is a problem.
Within the Common Economic Space our macroeconomic performance indicators and foreign trade will be coordinated. I think we will be able to find a balance here and avoid competition.
- Which gas pipeline route Ц the Trans-Caspian or the Central Asia-Center Ц has a higher priority for Kazakhstan?
- I call the Central Asia-Center route - North Caspian. Today the main bulk of Kazakh oil exports, 45 million tons, is transported via Russian systems Ц from Atyrau through Novorossiysk towards the Baltic Sea.
Besides, we have a 2,500 km-long oil pipeline to China. The gas pipeline passes through Turkmenistan.
Kazakhstan cooperates with Russia in the gas sphere. Both the Central Asia-Center and Central Asia-Urals gas pipelines pass through Kazakhstan. All Turkmen and Uzbek gas flows through Kazakhstan. We have a cooperation agreement with Russia. Kazakhstani gas is also subject to that agreement.
The question is that every nation should have its own interests at the core. If it is lucrative for us to transport our gas through Russia, we will do so. If it loses its economic benefit, we will start supplying gas to China.
- Is there a plan to build a gas pipeline to China?
- The construction is already in progress. It will reach from the Caspian Sea through Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan to Kazakhstan where the pipeline already exists. The largest section or 1,300 km will be in Kazakhstan.
- What are the prospects of the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to Azerbaijan past Russia?
- The prospects are very hazy. The project has not gone far beyond conversations in many years. The pipeline is called Nabucco. There are also other names. The pipeline is proposed to run along the Caspian seabed to Baku and further to Ceyhan. The issue is yet open.
Russia is interested in having the Turkmen gas flow through its territory, which has been recently stopped for reasons unclear to me. I do not think Turkmenistan objected to that. Why? I cannot tell you exactly, but Turkmenistan is not supplying its gas to the Russian pipeline system anymore. They have built a gas pipeline with a capacity of 30-40 billion cubic meters running through Kazakhstan to China. I know that they are working to build a pipeline to Pakistan through Afghanistan. They have recently signed an agreement of intent despite difficulties.
It is easy to make accusations that someone wants to bypass Russia. No one is going to do that. I can remember the history of Kazakhstani oil, when it took me 4-5 years to get the go-ahead for the North Caspian pipeline to Novorossiysk. It was in the time of the late Yeltsin and Chernomyrdin. My case was that Russia was losing one and a half billion dollars on transportation alone. It took us 4-5 years to get the question solved. It was then that Kazakhstan said it would join the Baku-Ceyhan project and we started to ship our oil to Baku using tankers.
Therefore the Customs Union and the Common Economic Space are designed to solve such issues.
- These days we will be marking the 20th anniversary of the failed talks to renovate the former Soviet Union and the 20th anniversary of the CIS. You were a participant of these processesЕ
- Let us not talk about the collapse of the Soviet Union. Much has been said. It is a separate topic. I have something to say. I am reading and listening to what people say in their memoirs. Everyone is trying to emphasize his role. That is why I am not saying or writing anything about this. People say different things. The union was shattered into smithereens like broken dishes. It was a real catastrophe for all the member states. All ties were broken. No jobs, no electricity Ц everything was in deficit.
It was in that setting that I proposed creating the Commonwealth of Independent States. If you remember, it happened on December 21, 1991 in Almaty. Nine states participated, two joined later. You know what came out of the CIS. From the first days I struggled to make the CIS function normally. Some states gradually left the organization, others remained as idle bystanders.
That is why, again, I proposed creating the Eurasian Union, which implied yet closer cooperation and integration. We have the Eurasian Economic Community. Our future will depend on what we create today.
On January 1, 2012 the practical implementation of the Common Economic Space will begin. The process will be completed in 2014-2015. We are yet to agree on the free movement of capital, goods, services; set unified railway and, later, pipeline tariffs. This will be finished in 2015. Then we will announce that the Common Economic Space is accomplished and will move to the creation of the Eurasian Union.
I have thanked Dmitry Medvedev for our meeting to announce this decision. Russia has played an important role.
I would like to add that Russia is now in the middle of a big and complicated electoral campaign: election to the State Duma followed by a presidential contest.
Kazakhstan will respect any choice of the Russian people. We are committed to cooperation with Russia in different areas.
I welcome Vladimir PutinТs nomination for presidency. We remember when he came to power in 2000, Russia was on the verge of collapse and civil war. Vladimir Putin succeeded in bringing order. I believe that Dmitry Medvedev, too, has shown real statesmanship. Stability in Russia is very important. It is not the time to start any disputes within the ruling tandem.
Both the politicians have shown true courage when they sacrificed their own ambitions on the altar of the interests of Russia and the Russian people. I wish both of them success and Russia peace and prosperity.
- Thank you for the interview!
й 2011 Interfax-Kazakhstan news agency
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© 2019 Interfax-Kazakhstan news agency
Copying and use of these materials without reference to the source is prohibited