This page provides information about EU supported projects in Kazakhstan in areas such as human rights, education, energy, transport and the environment.

EU-Kazakhstan relations

The Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement between the European Union and Kazakhstan entered into force on 1 March 2020. This new agreement, which constitutes the first of its kind signed by the EU with one of its Central Asian partners, provides a comprehensive framework within which bilateral relations are conducted and has elevated relations between the EU and Kazakhstan to a new level. 

The EU Strategy on Central Asia provides the overall framework for regional engagement. The Strategy, which focuses on resilience and prosperity, should support, amongst other priorities, Kazakhstan's transition to a green economy and the diversification of its economy. 

Relations taken to a new level 

The Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement creates an enhanced legal basis for EU- Kazakhstan relations, providing a broad framework for reinforced political dialogue, comprehensive sectoral cooperation, and promoting mutual trade and investment. It will also enhance concrete cooperation in 29 other key policy areas, including in the sectors of: 

  • Justice and home affairs.
  • Economic and financial cooperation. 
  • Energy and transport. 
  • Environment and climate change.  
  • Employment and social affairs. 
  • Culture, education and research. 

EU – the main trade partner for Kazakhstan 

The EU is by far Kazakhstan's most significant trade partner, representing 40% of its external trade. Kazakhstan's exports to the EU are almost entirely in the oil and gas sectors, alongside minerals, chemicals and food products. 

In 2019, exports from Kazakhstan to the EU totalled €18.4 billion and the import volume from the EU to Kazakhstan totalled €5.9 billion. The EU is also the first foreign investor in Kazakhstan, representing 48% of total gross Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) flows and approximately 60% of total net FDI stocks in 2018. 

From a broader perspective, enhanced EU-Asia connectivity is crucial to Kazakhstan. In this context, a level playing field for business is key, notably by enhancing transparency of public procurement in infrastructure, including through accession to the WTO Government Procurement Agreement (GPA) and the adoption of GPA standards. 

From assistance to a new partnership

Support from the European Union has been important to Kazakhstan’s development since the country’s independence in 1991. In that time, over 350 projects amounting to €180 million have been funded by the EU, notably focusing on: 

  • Strengthening the capacity of regional and local government.
  • Supporting reform of the justice sector.
  • Improving the capacity of the public sector to introduce social and economic reforms. 

Kazakhstan benefits from several regional programmes. This includes: 

  • The EU-Central Asia Rule of Law programme. 
  • Central Asia Invest. 
  • International Trade in Central Asia. 
  • SWITCH Asia. 

The cooperation will also benefit from the EU funded regional programmes: 

  • EU-Central Asia policy dialogue on water, environment and climate change (WECOOP). 
  • The Central Asia Water and Energy Programme (CAWEP). 
  • A programme for Strengthening Financial resilience and Accelerating Risk Reduction. 

Other forms of the EU Cooperation with Kazakhstan 

The EU supports Kazakhstan’s ongoing legal reforms and the promotion of human rights offering experience and know-how in particular through financial and technical cooperation and specific projects funded under the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights. 

With a budget of €1 million per year, the EU finances a variety of projects in Kazakhstan that focus on encouraging a pluralistic political system while strengthening the role of civil society. 

Kazakhstan also benefits from a number of instruments and programmes: 

  • The Instrument for Nuclear Safety Cooperation which promotes a high level of nuclear safety, radiation protection, and the application of efficient and effective safeguards of nuclear material in third countries. 
  • The Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace focusing on crisis response, crisis preparedness and conflict prevention. 
  • The Border Management Programme in Central Asia (BOMCA) and the Central Asia Drug Action Programme (CADAP). 
  • Erasmus+ supporting mobility of students and academic staff and capacity building projects. 

The EU is allocating €454.2 million for regional cooperation projects in Central Asia for the 2014-2020 funding period, including €115 million for the Erasmus+ programme. Erasmus+ has offered already more than 2,000 short-term scholarships for Kazakh students or staff to come to study or train in Europe, and nearly 1,000 scholarships for European students to study in Kazakhstan. Additionally, 137 Kazakh master students have received a scholarship to complete a joint master programme in Europe. 

In 2019, in response to a proposal from the Kazakh Government, the EU launched a €2 million programme, implemented by UNDP in collaboration with UN Women, to support the economic empowerment of Afghan women through education and training in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. 

This action aims to build resilience and support the socio-economic empowerment of Afghan women through education and training in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. This first trilateral cooperation programme between the EU, Afghanistan and Central Asia (Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan) adds a new dimension to the development cooperation between the EU and Kazakhstan. 

Response to COVID-19 

The EU and its Member States have mobilised €134 million for Central Asia. In July 2020, the EU launched a €3 million Central Asia COVID-19 Crisis Response Solidarity Programme, with a primary focus on Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. 

The programme, implemented by the World Health Organisation, will provide support over a period of two years to mitigate the current outbreak of the pandemic and contribute towards longer-term resilience of the national health systems.