KZ and NL: New Areas of Cooperation
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Ambassador Peter van Leeuwen, Chargé d’Affaires of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to RK, who was earlier presented with the «Dostyk» (Friendship) Order II by the government of Kazakhstan, talks with KazEnergy Magazine on politics, economy, culture and mutual benefits from the cooperation between Kazakhstan and the Netherlands.
Mr. Peter van Leeuwen, please accept our congratulations on your return to Kazakhstan! In this regard, can you share your impressions; is there a difference between the republic of that time and the country at present?
Thank you, I am happy to be back. Since the 5 years while I was away I can definitely see the progress. Kazakhstan has matured more. I can see the progress not only in the development of Astana, which has exactly followed the city planning design, but also in other areas. I notice positive changes, like social development and rising living standards, the readiness to become more open to the world. Taking into consideration the globalization, there is also external influence. Kazakhstan has become an even more active member of the international community with stronger links to the rest of the world. It has really grown into an international player at the global stage. On the other side, I am concerned about some developments, for example, the recent terrorist attacks. Authorities make, however, strong efforts to create a cohesive society and to consolidate a stable state; that is indeed a very challenging task.
The current model of relations be-tween countries in comparison with 90-s and period of 2000s is changing. What new is going on in Dutch-Kazakhstani cooperation? Which aspects are prioritized?
We are concentrating on economic and commercial sectors. I would like to stress our cooperation in agriculture, energy sec-tor, and education.
I fully support the government of Kaza-khstan in its intention to prioritize education in the country. The state program of accelerated industrial-innovative develop-ment puts special focus on development of a competitive and educated labour force. Likewise, learning of the English language is also of an utmost importance for a country like Kazakhstan, which intends to be compared with the most developed countries.
The Netherlands is the world’s second largest exporter of agricultural products next to the United States. The profits of the Dutch agricultural sector are equal to the profits of Kazakhstan from oil and gas ex-port. Dutch companies have been working in Kazakhstan’s agricultural field for several years. They are quite active in sub-sectors as poultry, dairy, horticulture, seeds supplies, etc. Poultry and dairy as well as greenhous-es remain one of the most attractive sub-sec-tors for the Dutch companies.
Dutch companies are open for cooperation with their Kazakhstani counterparts. The government of the Netherlands supports and stimulates the activities of the Dutch agricultural companies abroad.
Our government is seeking ways of diversification in all industry spheres. The Netherlands constitute a country with big experience and successes in development of energy sector and agriculture. What can the Dutch suggest to the Republic at this direction?
Certainly, the diversification of the economy will reduce the financial and economic risks related to Kazakhstan’s dependency on oil and gas revenues. So that is why we sup-port this policy of the Kazakh government and we are ready to assist. In this regard, apart from agricultural and energy sectors, our countries could, for example, increase the collaboration in the maritime field. Kazakhstan has access to the sea via the Cas-pian region. Like in other Central Asian countries there are challenges in securing water provision to some parts of the repub-lic. The Netherlands have a vast experience in dealing with water, firstly because it was built out of the water (a famous saying: God created the world, but the Dutch created the Netherlands) and 50% of its land is below the sea level, so we can certainly provide you with expertise such as a wide range ofwater management, water body construction including dikes, dams and canals, and water quality. Water is both our biggest friend and the biggest enemy. We know how to carefully respect it.
Nowadays, taking into account prob-lems of climate change and envi-ronmental pollution, there are many discussions on alternative energy, so called green power. The Netherlands use wind energy as well. Kazakhstan, due its geographic position – a windy and sunny country - should use these natural possibilities. Does the matter of alternative sources of energy rank as signifcant between our two governments?
Along with political and economic cooperation, issues of cultural in-teraction and sports are coming out on top. For instance, recently a big international sport event – a skating competition - was held in Astana. Considerable amount of sportsmen from Netherlands participated in it, testifying to the popularity of this sport in your country.
It is very favorable that there is a good start of professional sport development in Kazakhstan. Several weeks ago, there was a Track Cycling World Cup competition here in As-tana. I am happy to see that more and more Kazakh people are geting on their bikes. Holland is the place where everyone uses bikes, since it is the best alternative to transport by car. It’s cheap, healthy and helps to keep the environment green and clean. And Astana also hosted a Speed Skating World Cup where 25 prominent Dutch ice skaters participated. Ice skating is considered to be the most popular winter sport in the Neth-erlands. Both events are signifcant achieve-ments for Kazakhstan. This makes your country known worldwide. When I spoke to one of the Dutch track cyclists who came for the recent competition, he commended on the quality of the track stadium in Astana: “In the Netherlands we do not have the stadiums of such an advanced level!”
I also would like to mention that the ice arena of the newly built Alau stadium in Astana was designed by the Dutch architect Bertus Buter. It’s state-of-the-art. The Dutch are experts in ice management. And this again shows that the Dutch have a lot to of-fer to Kazakhstan.
Has Astana chances to become a city with ecologically pure transport including bicycle?
As it’s known, the Netherlands are famous for its high quality of education. Only from your country there are 15 Nobel Prize winners. We can meet the students from Kazakhstan in Universities of Great Britain or USA but they are not often guests of Dutch ones. Why?
Will you hold big cultural events in the future?
What the world community and Netherlands in particular can learn from Kazakhstan? Can Kazakhstan be a shining example to other countries at some matters?
Kazakhstan has shown that with determination and discipline, a lot can be achieved. Important is social cohesion and the challenge that one can improve his/her situation. Kazakhstan gives that perspective. It is a small world on its own: so many diferent ethnic groups live together without sectarian polarization, peacefully and tolerant.
Kazakhstan has made progress at a consid-erable speed. It used to be a remote country, but this is not the case anymore. The con-sistent pursuance of this vision enabled the country to achieve a lot in a relatively short period of time.
On the occasion of its 20th anniversary I wish Kazakhstan all the success in its fur-ther development in the interest of the pros-perity of its people!