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INTERVIEW: Kazakhstan Ambassador Barlybayev on Economic Cooperation with Croatia
Tuesday JUTARNJI LIST online edition
Ambassador of Kazakhstan to Croatia Tolezhan Barlybayev gave a wide-ranging interview for the Monday print and Tuesday online editions of JUTARNJI LIST, in which he discussed, among other issues, the potential for increased economic cooperation and trade between Kazakhstan and Croatia.
“Consumer goods, clothing and footwear produced in Yugoslavia was very popular in Kazakhstan, and Yugoslav experts participated in the construction of industry, schools, hospitals and retail centers,” recalled Barlybayev for JUTARNJI LIST. He also reminded that while Croatia had been a part of the former Yugoslavia, Kazakhstan was a part of the Soviet Socialist Republics, between which economic ties were developed—and that after the independence of Kazakhstan and Croatia, those contacts have been reestablished with great progress having been made in the last two years.
Barlybayev informed that trade between Croatia and Kazakhstan has reached USD 353 million, compared to only USD 30 million in 2017 and emphasized that there is a long history of relations between the people of Croatia and Kazakhstan, dating back to the Silk Road era and the travel of Marco Polo to Kazakhstan.
The visit to Kazakhstan in April 2019 by former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign and European Union (EU) Affairs Marija Pejcinovic Buric, to open the Croatian embassy, is assessed by Barlybayev as an exceptionally successful and fruitful event, where the establishment of an intergovernmental commission for economic cooperation was agreed upon. Kazakhstan has waived visa requirements for Croatian citizens, and Kazakhstan citizens can now get a visa at the Croatian embassy instead of going to Moscow or Istanbul. “We now plan on organizing business forums, with an important role played by Kazakh Invest director Ivica Piric,” said Barlybayev for JUTARNJI LIST.
Barlybayev also pointed out that several Croatian companies are doing business already in Kazakhstan. “In our capital city Nursultan, Montmontaza is building a business center called ‘Zagreb’, and Ericsson Nikola Tesla (ENT) is working with the Ministry of Health on a EUR 25 million project so that every Kazakhstan citizen will have an electronic health card,” he says. Other Croatian companies active in Kazakhstan include Instrumentaria which will open a prosthetics production facility together with a Kazakhstan company, and the food production company Podravka.
“Jadranski Galenski Laboratorij (JGL) is present with their products, Croatian companies have participated in construction of stadiums, tennis courts and other sports venues in Kazakhstan… today there are around 30 Croatian companies active in Kazakhstan and we are interested in increasing that number,” Barlybayev noted for JUTARNJI LIST.
Barlybayev also pointed out that more and more tourists from Kazakhstan are visiting Croatia, especially since the embassy has opened, making it simpler to obtain visas. “We expect that next year there will be even more tourists because the Croatian embassy in Kazakhstan will issue visas for tourists and business travelers from Kazakhstan,” he said.
Natural gas and oil comprise most of Kazakhstan’s exports, together with aluminum and some food products, Barlybayev noted. “Cooperation has already been lifted to a high level in sport – since a treaty was signed six months ago between China and Kazakhstan, according to which 65% of Chinese exports to Europe will travel through Kazakhstan, this creates huge opportunities for cooperation,” he says, adding that many ships will be needed to transport goods from Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan ports in the Caspian Sea.
This transport route for Chinese goods can also include Croatia, Barlybayev said for JUTARNJI LIST. “Croatia and Kazakhstan now have a very positive relationship, and this must produce results – Kazakhstan companies see Croatia as a country with great investment opportunities and a gateway to Western Europe,” he pointed out.
With Croatia’s ratification of the Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement between the EU and Kazakhstan, which covers 29 areas such as security, trade, investment and others, this will also lead to better relations between the EU and Kazakhstan. He points out that the EU accounts for half of Kazakhstan’s foreign trade and foreign direct investment (FDI). “The signing of bilateral economic agreements, as well as the ratification of the Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement between the EU and Kazakhstan, will only strengthen the growth trend of Kazakhstan-Croatian cooperation,” Barlybayev concluded for JUTARNJI LIST.