Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

Kazakhstan

Delivered in Plenary - 16th March 2005

Mr President

I, like all my MEP colleagues, am horrified by the brutal murder of opposition leader Altynbek Sarsenbayev on 13 February. I welcome the fact that President Nazarbayev has called in the FBI to track down the culprits, and his statement of 21 February on punishing the perpetrators. I am also encouraged by the recent arrest of five suspects. Of course there are still concerns regarding democracy and human rights in Kazakhstan. We in the EU are rightly concerned about any instability in this key strategic central Asian Republic, which is anxious not to get too close to Russia or China, but to get closer to us in the EU.

As the rapporteur for the European Neighbourhood Policy, I have suggested including Kazakhstan in that policy. This follows a tradition in which it was the European Parliament that first raised the question of such a status for the three Caucasus republics, which was duly granted by the Council in due course. Kazakhstan has a westward extension, which makes a strong case geographically for its European Neighbourhood status. It also has a strong secular tradition inherited from its Soviet past, with a very large European Christian minority living in harmony with the indigenous Kazakh Muslim people.

Of strategic importance to the EU are its vast oil and gas reserves, which it is anxious to sell to the EU without depending entirely on Russian pipelines to transport its natural resources. Moreover, the Kazakh Diversification Policy includes plans to liquefy its natural gas for export via the trans-Caspian route.

In this context, and less appreciated, is the vast potential supply of Kazakh yellow cake uranium from mines coming onstream, which will be vital to supplying the EUís future nuclear energy needs. The EU must extend every help to this vast, under-populated, geopolitically key country and we in the PPE-DE Group will not support the biased joint text unless our amendments are carried.