Kazakh–Finnish friendship is based on solid pillars, encompassing a good political will, trust and openness, mutual respect, and interests. We have rich historical and cultural heritage, our substantive dialogue is motivated by long–term perspectives, and stems from similar approaches towards most acute issues of the international agenda. The ever-expanding bilateral cooperation between Astana and Helsinki represents an excellent example of combining efforts for the sake of our nations and the entire world community.

Kazakhstan and Finland overcame many challenges and tests that resembled one another. Despite this, we have been successful in our path towards independence, international recognition, and integration into the world community as strong, sovereign, and dynamic states.

And Kazakhstan stands ready to further foster its role as a reliable regional partner and gateway for Finland not only to Eurasia, but also to the entire Asian continent.

Landmark events in political and economic dimensions, our achievements and future endeavors, and ongoing large-scale political and socioeconomic transformations in the two states mean to bring our people even closer, to amplify potentials and opportunities.

In this context, 2017 promises to be a year rich with historic dates and important decisions. First and foremost, this year we celebrate Together Centenary of Suomi’s independence. Yet, it is a good occasion to generate fresh ideas and build on undertakings started in 2016 when Kazakhstan marked its 25th anniversary. 2017 is very symbolic for us due to one more reason – on May 13th, we shall observe the 25th anniversary of the establishment of our diplomatic relations.

Participation of Finland in the forthcoming EXPO–2017 international exhibition in Astana is yet another milestone on the way to boosting Kazakh–Finnish cooperation, a new bridging-platform between Asia and Europe. It is an excellent chance for Kazakhstan and Suomi to try on a new capacity as regional actors in technological, educational, financial, and cultural exchanges.

As it was said by President Nursultan Nazarbayev, “Participation in EXPO–2017 is a win-win formula and a good investment that will be paid back in medium-term perspective."

While giving a short glance to our past track, it is important to refer to the official visit by President Mauno Koivisto to Kazakhstan in 1992. This first visit in the modern history of the two states laid a firm foundation for regular political contacts and active economic cooperation. Later, in Suomi, this summit meeting was referred to as "the great conversation."

The visit by President Nursultan Nazarbayev to Finland in 2009, three official trips by President Sauli Niinistö in 2013 and 2015, and President Tarja Halonen in 2010 legitimately serve as crucial points in the history of bilateral relations. During those stays in Helsinki and Astana, our leaders have demonstrated a genuine aspiration to strengthen multifaceted ties, and high-level negotiations set out priorities for decades ahead.

Also, our Parliaments are committed to stepping up their contacts to a higher and more substantive level. For that they have exchanged with eight delegations. Friendship groups of legislative bodies closely interact to ensure productive dialogue within the framework of various international organizations, OSCE PA, PACE, and IPU.

Fruitful endeavors among our ministries, public, and non-governmental entities are well-conducted thanks to effective coordination of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan and Finland. Dozens of delegations traveling between the two capitals speak themselves for this fact.

At the current stage, it is vital to gain fresh impetus and elaborate on the meaningful activities of the Kazakh–Finnish Joint Commission on trade and economic cooperation to develop respective strategy for the core bilateral vectors. The 10th session of the Commission to be held on March 15th, 2017, is a good occasion for that. It is also a follow-up meeting and continuation of talks on the Prime Minister's level at the ASEM Summit in 2016.

Today, exchanges on official levels transformed to concrete steps and undertakings from the business and private sectors, where a leading role is played by the Kazakh-Finnish business hub operating in our capital.

Astana and Helsinki aimed at keeping momentum and expanding areas of collaboration. In this regard, all efforts directed to creation of additional opportunities based on traditional spheres of economic, cultural, and humanitarian ties are worth every possible guidance.

And we have great a deal of remits and records to crystallize a new architecture on the economic track. Finland is Kazakhstan’s biggest trade partner and the second largest investor among all Nordic countries (with about $300 mln FDI). Here, turnover statistics are the best way to feel dynamics and great potential of our economic cooperation – at the rise of Kazakhstan's independence, we have embarked just from $6.7 mln. and 13 years later it exceeded $1 bln.

In the meantime, the number of Finnish companies operating in our country is growing steadily. Kazakhstan has already shown its hospitality to about one hundred Finnish companies. This list includes well-known names such as Wärtsilä, Vaisala, Kemira, Honka, Pemamek, etc. The most successful global engineering flagships from Suomi like Outotec, Metso, ABB, and Kone are also represented in various parts of the Great Steppe to pave the way for intensive technology investments.

For example, Outotec’s experience illustrates this thesis in the very best manner. During the past 30 years, they have implemented a number of mining projects and are now builds processing plants in our territory. Vaisala supplied equipment for our twenty airports and fifty meteorological stations for environmental observations. The world’s fourth leading energy supplier with a 10% share in global power production, Wärtsilä, explores the possibility of opening its permanent office in Astana or Almaty. It's also good to mention Kemira, who have established a mutually beneficial cooperation with Kazakh industrial giants such as Kazzinc and Kazchrome.

The merge of technologies of Sampo with financial resources of KazAgroFinance already resulted in production of agricultural machines in several regions of Kazakhstan and the next aim is to export them to neighboring markets.

Tikkurila and Ruukki Construction companies – Masters of Arts in Kazakhstan’s market – seek to expand their operations to other Central Asian countries, like China and Iran.

The success story of Tikkurila, Ruukki Construction, and Sampo-Rosenlew should encourage other Finnish SMEs not to miss their chances and enter Kazakhstan. So here is a key message - we are open for a broader exchange and technological cooperation, and we are ready to warmly welcome all representatives of Finnish business to discover the benefits of doing business together.

Economic, tourism, and cultural exchanges are expected to see a breakthrough after launching direct flights between the two countries, as well as a unilateral decision by our government to introduce a 30 day visa-free policy for citizens of 54 states, including Suomi.

The past decade has witnessed a tremendous advancement of initiatives in the sphere of education, where our Embassy relies on the support of the Finnish–Kazakh group on education and innovations. We are also happy to note positive trends in this extremely important field. Now, we study the possibility of using the Finnish model of education in Kazakhstan without excluding the broader context.

In healthcare, Kazakhstan has already introduced Finland’s best practice in many medical institutions. Beside that, about four hundred Kazakh medical nurses were invited to Suomi for short-term training. Yet, synergy of Kazakhstan’s Great Silk Road infrastructure policy, well familiar as “Bright path” and Chinese undertaking - widely known as OBOR - allow us to focus on a current economic reality and market opportunities in Central Asia, Eurasian Economic Union, China, Iran, India, Caucasus, and the Middle East.

This thesis has quite a solid basis and is already justified, if we think about test launch of the first container train this year connecting China and Northern Europe through territories of Kazakhstan and Finland.

Of course, this kind of effort would not be crowned with success without our reliable partners. Thus, a much-extended and strong presence of Finland contributes to the achievement of Kazakhstan’s noble goals declared in Strategy “Kazakhstan-2050,” Nation’s Plan - five institutional reforms through “100 concrete steps” and an industrialization program until 2020.

Thanks to successful implementation of these and many other initiatives, Kazakhstan enjoys high international rankings. According to Doing Business, we are among the top 35 states in terms of business climate and competitiveness, in contract implementation we are on the 9th position, and LPI also places us in 77th position in transport networks.

For sure, the major records of Kazakhstan during the 25 years of independence are political stability, unity of the nation, openness to cooperation, and balanced multi–vector foreign policy. Astana’s non-permanent membership on the UN Security Council for the period of 2017-2018, OSCE and OIC Chairmanships, many international initiatives such as convening CICA summits, nuclear disarmament, and dialogue among religions are the shortest list of our deeds.

All the examples mentioned above should be considered as the beginning of a big journey, since Kazakhstan takes two more decisive and irreversible steps crucial both for our country’s future and for perspectives of collaboration between Kazakhstan and Finland in the years to come.

Firstly, head of our state, in his recent address to the nation on January 25th gave a start to constitutional reforms, which will transform the very foundation of Kazakhstan's traditional statehood model.

The quintessence is that the president delegates forty of his current functions to the parliament and government. Vertical separation of powers has been necessary for us in the course of overcoming the enormous difficulties of state-building. That principle has justified itself.

In practice, the authority and responsibility of the government on regulating social and economic processes will be significantly expanded. The influence of the parliament on the government is also proposed to be strengthened.

As the guarantor of the constitution, the president will play the role of an arbiter between branches of power. The Head of State will concentrate on the foreign policy, national security, and the country’s defense.

A new, more democratic political system of Kazakhstan will be based on the concept of "a strong president – an competent Parliament – an accountable government."

Secondly, on January 31st, 2017, in the president’s State of the Nation Address, Kazakhstan announced its transition to a new model of economic growth. In other words, it is the third stage of our socioeconomic modernization through five priorities - an accelerated technological modernization of the economy, improvement of the business climate, macroeconomic stability, improving the quality of human capital, institutional transformation, as well as security and the fight against corruption.

These acts of tremendous transformation are designed to open broader horizons for mutually beneficial ties with all our foreign partners. Needless to say, that every single message from Astana can be taken as a call on Finnish friends and food for thought for many.

Moreover, we can suggest a wide variety of platforms for realization of joint projects on various forms of partnership, including so called PPP. Finnish friends are most welcomed in every region and city, International Technopark for IT-startups to be established on the basis of "Astana EXPO 2017", as well as Astana International Financial Center This list can be significantly enlarged with ten Special Economic Zones.

On the background of the new trends in global economy, an introduction of advanced methods of teaching in schools, improving healthcare system, commercialization of innovations, as well as developing a business-friendly environment for SME are issues of a strategic importance for us.

Given the best expertise and practice of Suomi in the field of green and cyclic economy, automatization of industry, energy efficiency, waste and water management, cleantech, transport and logistics, agriculture and constructions, city planning, cybersecurity and other dimensions, we are confident that there are plenty of rooms for our active, multi-faceted cooperation in technology and investment fields.

We live in a rapidly changing world full of challenges, threats, contradictions, and stereotypes. Kazakhstan and Finland, along with other members of the international community have to find their own way in so called new normalities. As one can see, Kazakhstan’s choice is modernization and transformation, openness to cooperation. Our confidence in the future rests on political stability, well-being and prosperity of the nation, balanced foreign policy and vast economic potential.

The whole complex of Kazakh-Finnish relations is not a subject of one publication. We touched upon only some aspects of our fruitful endeavors and tried to build a vehicle for amplifying our opportunities and achievements. This mission is accomplished if the message reaches all of our Finnish friends.


Ambassador of the Republic of Kazakhstan to the Republic of Finland
Murat Nurtleuov