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Estonia hopes to increase cooperation in Central Asia


New NATO Contact Point Hopes to Share Alliance’s Values in Central Asia, Increase Bilateral Trade

Though Estonia is much smaller than Kazakhstan, it can be geographically important, and it also has high technology, particularly information technology and cyber security, to offer its partners

As NATO Contact Point in Kazakhstan, Ambassador of Estonia Jaan Reinhold hopes to share the values of the alliance in the country; bilaterally, the ambassador is hoping to see an increase in educational, technological and scientific exchanges during his mission here, as well increase agricultural and transit cooperation, reported The Astana Times .

“The EU is currently reviewing the EU’s Central Asia strategy, and I guess we have to do the same about NATO, about NATO’s role in Central Asia and further joint activities,” Ambassador of Estonia Jaan Reinhold said.

Undoubtedly, Kazakhstan, as a member of the Partnership for Peace Programme, is an important partner for NATO in the region, Reinhold added.

Bilaterally, transit is generating major buzz, with the head of the Port of Tallinn commenting earlier this month that they would like to be a transit point for cargo shipped from China to Europe via Kazakhstan. The main issue is the opportunity to create synergy between the Silk Road and former Hanseatic League countries along the Baltic Sea, Reinhold said.

The Port of Tallinn is currently operating below its capacity, he commented, which is driving interest in shipping from Kazakhstan.

“The main obstacle to that is higher tariffs for railway cargo transportation via Russia to Baltic states, but at the end of the day, the reloading and warehousing in our ports is safe, smooth and well-organised, and so could be beneficial for the Kazakh side. … We are also offering many other investment opportunities for Kazakhstan,” he said.

Ambassador of Estonia Jaan Reinhold

Ambassador of Estonia Jaan Reinhold

Estonia-Kazakhstan relations generally are dynamic, the ambassador said, with high-level visits and a bilateral governmental commission on economic affairs established in 2010. They are currently waiting for the appointment of new co-chairman of this commission by the Kazakh side, Reinhold noted, saying he hopes later this year the commission will hold a working session in Tallinn.

“What I think is our advantage, in Estonia and other Baltic states, is that we can speak relatively good Russian; we can understand recent Kazakh history and they can understand us, and these connections are still very rich and very good,” Jaan Reinhold said.

Most recently, in February, a business delegation led by former Estonian President Arnold Rüütel came to the Kazakh capital. While it is too early to determine the exact outcome of the visit, Reinhold says the Estonian side were very satisfied and that they hope to meet and follow up with potential partners soon.

“From the embassy’s point of view, we would also like to intensify cooperation in education and science, as well as tourism and culture,” Reinhold said.

In education, the ambassador would like to ramp up activities with the two Estonian universities that are on the Bolashak scholarship list, he said. They would also like to send more lecturers to Kazakhstan.

“We are offering courses for the Academy of Public Administration under the President of Kazakhstan; they are bringing their students or post graduates to Estonia, to the Estonian Diplomatic School and others. We would like to show [our Kazakh partners] Estonia`s model of state administration and they are really interested,” he said.

Another area of Estonian expertise the country is eager to share is in e-governance and e-services, Reinhold said.

“Using e-services, we are saving about 2 percent of our gross domestic product in administration costs. I believe it is relevant also for Kazakhstan as well, to provide better online and other services to its citizens, not only to save their time but also to reduce bureaucracy and reduce administrative costs.”

Most government services in Estonia are internet-based, he noted, including parliamentary voting, and the Estonia E-Academy is ready to share their experiences and technology with Kazakhstan, which is in the midst of a push to modernise and streamline its government processes.

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