Prepared by Joseph Urbanas, director of company Kazakhstan Newsline
General and Politics
China Post (April 12, 2006)
EU Indecisive on Central Asia, ICG Says
The EU is failing to play a tangible geopolitical role in strategic and volatile Central Asia, an international think tank said… “The EU cannot afford to ignore Central Asia, where despite a surface calm, the potential for instability and conflict is high,” the Brussels based International Crisis Group said in a new release on Monday. The statement indicated that the region is important for Europe’s energy security but Brussels is doing little in a region that recently has mostly seen economic declines, political instability and a rise of some of the world’s most authoritarian regimes. The ICG criticized the EU’s regional policies as fragmented and project-driven, rather than strategic… ICG also said that the EU should give up region-wide projects as “a nonstarter” due to the reluctance of Central Asian countries to work together, and instead activate those tailored to the distinct characteristics of each nation. It also said the EU should increase its presence and spend more money on promoting freedoms and human rights.
BBC (April 1, 2006)
Kazakh Women Enjoy Economic and Social Freedom
For a country where feminism is a Western oddity, Kazakhstan is teeming with successful and independent women. Almaty is awash with fashionable clothing shops and salons, and many bars have a predominantly female clientele… The authorities are also anxious to promote the role of women in what they see as an enlightened society. A pro-government international advertising campaign that was published before the presidential elections emphasized the successful career of President Nursultan Nazarbaev’s daughter, Dariga, and the presence of four female ministers in the cabinet…Despite outward progress, however some say there are limits to how far women can go. None have been appointed as akims, nor were any of the five presidential candidates female….During the election, several womens’ groups “gender-profiled” the candidates. The results were not encouraging, according to participants. All five were accused of “the extreme masculinist characteristic of a patriarchal world view,” Raushan Sarsembayeva, the head of the Association of Kazakh Businesswomen, said. Their language was said to contain too many aggressive words, such as “tough” and “crackdown”.
Mongolia Web News (April 11,2006)
Mongolia and Kazakhstan to Cooperate
The 4th session of Kazakh-Mongolian Intergovernmental Commission on Commercial Economic, Scientific Technical and Cultural Collaboration is expected in Ulan Bator on April 13-14, a spokesperson from the Kazakhstani MFA Yerzhan Ashikbayev said during a briefing in Astana. During the meeting, they discussed expanding bilateral commercial economic interaction, the prospects for collaboration in social and cultural humanitarian sectors, the Foreign Ministry noted. The participants signed a bilateral treaty following the session.
Oil and Gaz
BakuToday (April 1, 2006)
U.S. Demonstrates Interest in Trans-Caspian Pipeline
The trans-Caspian gas project was the focus of a meeting between Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mamedyarov and Daniel Stein from the U.S Agency of Trade and Development…The Foreign Ministry news service said that Mr. Stein stressed the importance of the project for Europe’s energy security and as an alternative source of energy…Mr. Stein said the project will also allow Kazakhstani gas to be transported to Europe. Elmar Mamedyarov has confirmed Azerbaijan’s interest in implementing the Trans-Caspian project and said an international conference on energy security will be held in Baku at the end of February. He also said that Azerbaijan’s has potential not only to be a source of natural gas, but also as a transit country.
Finance and Investment
RIA Novosti (April 11, 2006)
Raiffeisen Looking at Kazakhstan
Raiffeisen International said Tuesday it hoped to sign a $550 million deal to buy the Russian Impexbank by early next month, and announced plans to expand into Kazakhstan…The Austrian banking group announced plans to take 100% control of Impexbank during early February….Jeffrey Millikan, regional director for Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, said Raiffeisen would attempt to ink the deal by May 1st, but t by May 15th at the latest. The deal must first be approved by the Central Bank, as well as Russian and Austrian regulatory authorities…The company also said that it would take over one of the five largest Kazakhstani banks. Mr. Millikan said Raiffeisen International already holds 8% of TuranAlem, and has made several offers to buy a controlling stake.
Communications and Transportation
Flight International (April 1, 2006)
Peter Foster kicks around in Kazakhstan
Peter Foster has served in many countries during his 17-year career – mostly south-east Asia, Europe, Qatar and Australia – but he never expected to deplane in Kazakhstan…So, when Cathay Pacific, an unofficial head-hunter connected Foster with Air Astana in 2005 it was a bit of a surprise to the former Royal Brunei Airlines CEO…. He laughs when asked what tempted him about the job: “At first nothing at all. I laughed it out of court. But then people said that Kazakhstan was growing fast. A couple of friends who had worked around the region said Almaty was a great place.” …He also spoke with executives at BAE Systems, a founder of Air Astana and a 49% shareholder. “They were very persuasive,” he says. As Foster looked deeper into the company he found an ambitious organisation and became hooked… The Kazakhstan government owns 51%, and wanted an airline running on international standards. It now employs 1,300 people and operates 12 aircraft…“It is a very lean organisation and has been set up very effectively,” says Foster… Air Astana is preparing a request for proposals for aircraft to replace its narrow-body and wide-body fleets, and will place an order this year for three of each. It had operating profit of $18 million with revenues of $198 million in 2004. “We’ve got good routes with traffic being driven by market growth and we get good utilization out of our aircraft.” A public offering is possible at some stage in the company’s future. As it grows it will increase its profile. “Air Astana is virtually unknown, but that is going to change,” Mr. Foster says.
New York Times (April 7, 2006)
Aral Sea on the Comeback
Young and old men living in the villages near the Aral Sea are beginning to do something that they haven’t done for more than a generation; they are going fishing. In many such areas, cold green water has once again begun to lap up against long abandoned fishing harbors….The Aral Sea has lost a total of 75 percent of volume so far, but has taken on millions of cubic feet of new water years this year, quite ahead of schedule, and with each month, the water pushes back the desert a bit more…The sea’s 400-square-kilometer retreat from the original shoreline has often been cited as one of the most horrific environmental catastrophes of the 20th century’s. The disaster was a consequence of the Soviet policy of diverting two main tributary rivers into canals for irrigation.
A joint World Bank and the Kazakhstani reclamation project to be completed in September 2006 has already shown surprising results, and small Aral’s level has quickly risen to 38 meters from less than 30 meters. As the water levels rise, many of the former residents are now beginning to move back to their hometown’s…Kudaibergen Sarzhanov, a former Soviet minister of fisheries for Kazakhstan plans to release 30,000 fish he has been incubating at home in 2009. He financed his project with a small UN grant and local government funding. Mr. Sarzhanov has spent his retirement collecting the almost extinct usech, a rubbery fish native to the Aral that can eventually grow to 18 kilograms, or 40 pounds. He is eager to release his hoard. “I live together with the fish,” he said…The Komushbosh Fishing Hatchery, an incubator funded by a
$143,000 grant from Israel plans to release up to 30 million young sturgeon, carp and flounder when
the water is at full level, double the number scheduled for release in 2006. In the Aral’s heyday, 2
0 thousand tons of fish were harvested annually. No one thinks the sea could ever meet its original c
atches again, and some in the Kazakhstan government warn of a long road ahead.
Entertaiment and Living
Syrian Arab News Agency (April 10, 2006)
Syria and Kazakhstan to Produce a Joint Film
Information Minister Mohsen Bilal discussed the enhancement of cooperation between countries to produce a movie about King Al-Zaher Bebars with the Kazakhstani Ambassador to Syria and Egypt, Baghdad Amreyev…The Kazakhstani delegation included the Director General of the Kazakhstan