Experience of Russia and Kazakhstan to be shared with Baltic states
At the meeting in Omsk, Presidents Vladimir Putin and Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev discussed cross-border cooperation between Russia and Kazakhstan. According to experts, this experience can be used in the western direction.
The presidents of Russia and Kazakhstan met in Omsk for the second time. The first forum of cross-border cooperation with the participation of Presidents Nursultan Nazarbayev and Vladimir Putin was held in 2003. Then they put forward an idea to meet every six months in the border regions either of Russia or of Kazakhstan. The presidents listened to the reports of officials, evaluated the work done and gave the necessary impetus to the bureaucracy. The numbers speak for themselves. Over the past 15 years, cross-border trade has grown 3.5 times and now amounts to more than 70% of Russian-Kazakh trade. "This suggests that they chose the right idea, format and implementation. Cross-border trade is the engine of Russian-Kazakh integration. The idea of creating the Eurasian Economic Union was born from this format. Many ideas were run in the format of cross-border trade of relations between Russia and Kazakhstan," director of international programs at the Institute of Russian National Strategy Yuri Solozobov told Vestnik Kavkaza.
According to the expert, the format of the inter-regional forums is very successful. First, the land border between Russia and Kazakhstan is the longest one. It was marked along the administrative borders of the Soviet Union, dividing the settlements, roads, industrial complexes. All this required the “stitching” of the border areas. “This was achieved. In addition, it was possible to move from personalities to institutions. This is a very important point,” Yuri Solozobov said.
The current meeting of Russian and Kazakh partners was already the 16th in a row. It was the first time for Kazakhstan's second president Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev. The Kazakh president gave a new impetus to the format of bilateral cooperation. Various issues were discussed: economy, congestion at the border, ecology of the Urals and Irtysh, tourism.
“It is of paramount importance to expand and develop infrastructural potential of the cross-border regions, since the infrastructure of the existing ones no longer meets the modern requirements, much work remains to be done. We need to modernize the border crossing points with the consideration of the transnational corridors formed, including within such megaprojects as the Belt and Road Initiative and the North - South," Tokayev noted, discussing the problem of congestion at the border. The Kazakh head of state said that they need additional checkpoints. Following the forum, Tokaev and Putin supported a joint action programme for border crossing points on the state border.
The cross-border cooperation is being expanded from simple trade, which is also not bad, to direct interaction between the regions, which is one of the main tasks, Solozobov believes. According to him, the leaders of the Altai Territory and Pavlodar region signed direct agreements. “Our cooperation moves to the level of joint ventures and industrial projects. This is very important. In fact, we are moving in the same direction as the European regions. Europeans united economic and cultural regions of several states, traditionally located in one place, but belonging to different countries and these boundaries were removed for large projects," the expert emphasized. He noted that there are projects that cannot be implemented by one country. For example, industrial ones. At the forum, a Concept for the Russia-Kazakhstan Cross-Border Cooperation Programme and a joint action programme for border crossing points on the Russia-Kazakhstan state border between the Kazakh Ministry of Industry and Infrastructure Development and the Russian Ministry of Transport were signed.
The issues of the Ural River, the Irtysh River also cannot be solved by one country. This is a new content of Russian-Kazakh cooperation. Governor of Omsk Region Alexander Burkov believes that it is necessary to agree on a single regulatory mechanism for the Irtysh River, shipping conditions of which are unsatisfactory. Akim of Pavlodar region Bulat Bakauov agrees with him: "In the 1970-1980s, inland water transport transported up to nine million tons of cargo per year along the river. A government decision is needed to conduct annual dredging works on the Irtysh River by the Russian side."
“The experience of the past 15 years should be generalized and applied in other Russia's border regions. For example, our Baltic partners - the Baltic countries and Poland showed great interest in cross-border cooperation at the forum of European regions held in Krakow. There was a proposal to make the same good cross-border area of cooperation around the Kaliningrad region in the Baltic Forum format at the level of the presidents of these countries. This could dramatically increase trade security and cultural ties in such an important for Russia western direction," Yuri Solozobov told Vestnik Kavkaza. According to him, the Omsk forum is not only of regional, but also of international significance.
"I hope the future is in establishing direct contacts between the Russian and Kazakh regions, the development of large projects and giving a new dimension to the Eurasian region. This has been discussed for several years, but now this format is urgent and relevant,” the expert said.
If the rapprochement between Russia and the Baltic countries crosses the strategic line, one can say that Russia will completely cover its backs and concentrate on creating a pole of economic and political mutual power on the Eurasian continent.