KZ and NL: New Areas of Cooperation

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altAmbassador 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?
I am pleased to remark that, having vast reserves of oil and gas, Kazakhstan is still very much interested in the renewable and alternative energy resources. Energy issues are the priority ones for the future of the world. That is why the Netherlands is so keen on diversifying the energy sources and to come up with a balanced energy-mix. We cooperate with the government of Kazakhstan in the important feld of development of alternative energy sources and application of modern energy efcient techniques, both in wind and solar energy.
A memorandum on cooperation in the feld of energy was signed between the Netherlands Ministry of Economic Afairs and Kazakh Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources in October 2007. Following that our countries exchange delegations and together organized a seminar on energy ef-fciency and renewable energy in 2009 in As-tana. As a result in the Dutch experts will be assisting their Kazakhstani partners in development of standards of energy efciency in housing and industry and elaboration of the policy instruments such as energy indexes for buildings.

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?
Undoubtedly, Astana is a young dynami-cally growing capital, that’s why infrastruc-ture here is supposed to be constructed con-sidering special routes for cyclists. It is beter to incorporate bike lanes in early city design and planning and road construction. In that way it will be easier to promote bicycles as alternative way of transport. Biking is good for the environment, health and for counter-ing trafc problems. It is a very efcient and economic way of transportation.
Our embassy is currently involved in ex-tensive promotion of the bike culture in As-tana. In 2012 we will launch a new project “Promoting Bike Culture in Astana” in cooperation with the municipality. The project involves bringing the Dutch experts to share their experiences on implementation of cycling in urban areas and assisting the city in promotion the bicycle use and the security of the cyclist.

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?
This is one of the Embassy tasks we are working on at the moment. So far we have participated in several education fairs in-cluding the European Union fairs in Almaty and Astana. We closely cooperate with the Bolashak presidential scholarship program and hope that more Dutch universities will be included in the list of the ofered universi-ties for applicants. It is indeed very unfortu-nate that few Kazakh students study in the Netherlands. I think our signifcant achievements in diferent sectors clearly indicate that the quality of education in Holland is one of the best in the world. Our country offers the top programs in agriculture, renewable energy, international law, maritime, water management, and medicine, to name a few. I think, Kazakh students should not go for rankings, even though the Dutch schools are in the top lists as well, but for the highest quality of the programs at lower costs. Let me note that the education system in the Netherlands ofers high quality at consid-erable lower cost, as compared to the USA and the UK. You will get more for less, or as good as, for less. Moreover, the vast majority of university courses are in English. Hopefully, we will be able to pass on this message to all prospective students and bring more young Kazakh people to Holland.

Will you hold big cultural events in the future?
Certainly. In December we have already participated in the annual charity exhibition called Christmas Bazar where a number of embassies presented their respective tradi-tional cuisine and products of their coun-tries. We sold the Dutch cheese, famous Dutch stroopwafes, chocolate, made Dutch pancakes called ‘pofertjes’. And of course we organized a clog race for those who wanted to try real wooden Dutch shoes!
We have big plans for the next year. In April or May, 2012, in the light of the Dutch National Day we will organize a Cultural Week in Astana, where we will show Dutch movies, bring Dutch guest lectures, have a biking promotion race, announce the winners of the student essay “Learning about the Netherlands”, and celebrate the Queen’s birthday. So please don’t miss these events!

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!

Shaira Rakhim