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Central Asia news

Kazakhstan: Opposition activist Akejan Kajegeldin is optimistic

18.01.2008 13:00 msk

Vremya Novostei

Analytics Kazakhstan

The government of Germany retains vivid interest in Central Asia, and consultations with Kazakh ex-premier Akejan Kajegeldin convened by the office of the federal chancellor on January 16 confirm it. A charismatic Kazakh politician who sided with the opposition in late 1998, Kajegeldyn has been living in immigration in West Europe for years because in Kazakhstan he was sentenced (in absentia) to ten years imprisonment for abuses committed in 1994-1997.

One of Kajegeldyn's hosts Fridberg Pfluger (member of the Christian Democratic Union presidium and ex-deputy defense minister of Germany) was surprised to hear that the verdict was still valid. Pfluger and Kajegeldyn first met in 2003. The German politician knows that charges against the Kazakh opposition activist were fabricated by ex-leaders of the Kazakh National Security Committee Rakhat Aliyev [President Nursultan Nazarbayev's former son-in-law - Vremya Novostei] and Alnur Musayev. Aliyev himself drew 20 years and Musayev 15 years imprisonment in Kazakhstan the other day for "organization of a criminal group", fabrication of evidence, and so on. Pfluger therefore cannot understand why official Astana is not in a hurry to void verdicts engineered by "a criminal group".

Federal chancellor's office in the meantime wanted to pick the Kazakh opposition activist's brains concerning development of democracy in his country. Kajegeldyn met with Christof Heusgen, Angela Merkel's foreign policy advisor. Sources close to Kajegeldyn claim that Heusgen was particularly interested in what the Kazakh politician thought of fulfillment of the promises to advance democracy official Astana had made. The promises in question were given by Kazakh Foreign Minister Marat Tajin when he was addressing the OSCE Council of Ministers in Madrid in late November. These promises were what made the OSCE change its mind and grant Kazakhstan its request for chairmanship.

Its relations with Astana closer and warmer than Washington's or London's, Berlin retains certain reservations fed by the lack of any evidence of the readiness to launch the political reforms on the part of the Kazakh leadership. When the OSCE Council of Ministers meets in Helsinki come November, Kazakhstan is expected to join the so called OSCE leading trio (three consecutive chairmen or Finland'2008, Greece'2009, and Kazakhstan'2010). Unless Astana really means to keep its promises, cooperation within the trio will be a sheer impossibility.

According to what information is available to this newspaper, Kajegeldyn was quite optimistic on Astana's ability to carry out at least some reforms. First, it may amend the acting legislation and have all political parties existing in Kazakhstan officially registered. Second, it may amend legislation to secure freedom of expression. And third, it may drop charges against political refugees to allow them to return to Kazakhstan. As far as Kajegeldyn was concerned, a display of political will on the part of the president was all it would take.

Kajegeldyn assured his hosts that Nazarbayev and the mature Kazakh elite and population were what was making Kazakhstan best ready for democratic reforms in all of Central Asia. The opposition activist pointed out as well that the reforms would be evolutionary and without any upheavals, a nuance making Astana EU's foremost partner in the whole region. European Union's concept of dealing with Central Asia in general meanwhile treats the region as a source of hydrocarbons and a vast market with the population standing in excess of 50 million.

Pfluger liked the idea of observation of the reforms in Kazakhstan Kajegeldyn suggested. He even promised to advise his party to appeal to the Bundestag to chart the monitoring mechanisms and reforms evaluation criteria in time for the EU summit in Ljubljana this March.

Echard von Kladen, member of the International Affairs Committee of the Bundestag (Christian Democratic Union) was the third German politician Kajegeldyn met with. He was asked to have the German parliament send a delegation to Kazakhstan to meet with the Kazakh leadership and emphasize the importance with which Tajin's promises to the OSCE in Madrid were treated in Germany and throughout the European Union on the whole. The German legislator liked the idea.

Arkady Dubnov, Vremya Novostei, January 18, 2008, p. 2, © Translated by Ferghana.Ru