If a nation does not know its history, if the country loses its history, then its citizens have nowhere to go.
Mirzhakyp Dulatuly

Eurasian Integration Initiatives of Nursultan Nazarbayev

Eurasian Integration Initiatives of Nursultan Nazarbayev - e-history.kz


The world in the twentieth century was far from stability. The First and Second World Wars brought to humanity damage equivalent to all the wars throughout the history. The bipolar system of world order resulted in the arms race between the two competing blocs. The collapse of the Soviet Union led to the U.S. victory in the Cold War but this did not bring the stability.

Since independence Kazakhstan adopted a policy of developing a system of trust and security in Asia. The idea of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) was launched by Nursultan Nazarbayev during the 47th session of the UN General Assembly in 1992. He assumed that nowadays the principle of strategic deterrence, based on nuclear forces, can no longer serve as a guarantee of neither national nor international security. The risk that the weapons of mass destruction would turn from limiter into catalyst for conflicts was too high. Under these conditions the most important mechanism of international security has become the principle of greater confidence among States.

On June 4, 2002 at the first Summit of the Conference the Almaty Act was signed. By this document the CICA has turned into a full-fledged forum for dialogue aimed to find compromise solutions to problems and conflicts in Asia. In October 2004, during the Second Meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the member states the CICA Catalogue of Confidence Building Measures, which became an important historic milestone in the development of Asian security, was adopted.

Counter-terrorism was defined as one of the most important areas of the CICA’s activity. In this regard, at the meeting the need for a holistic system to counter new challenges and threats in Asia had been discussed. In particular, adopted at the meeting Catalogue of Confidence Building Measures included «joint measures to suppress terrorism, exchange of information on activity against terrorism, separatism and extremism».

By the decision of the heads of the CICA’s member states, in accordance with the performance of President Nursultan Nazarbayev in 1992 at the 47th session of the UN General Assembly with the idea to establish the Conference, October 5 was declared the Day of the CICA. The Conference has become a significant factor in regional and global security ensuring.

Thus, Kazakhstan not only proposed the idea of CICA’s establishment but also implemented it. This can be illustrated by the election of Kazakhstan on the post of CICA’s chair in 2002–2006 and 2006–2010.

The Third Summit of CICA was held in June, 2010. In the framework of the Summit the special event «Cooperation in economic and security sphere in XXI on Eurasian space» was organized.

Independent Kazakhstan contributed in positive transformation and modernization of international relations in Asia. Nursultan Nazarbayev proudly underlined: «Without any exaggeration it is possible to say that the name of our country on the international scene directly linked to the proposal on creation of Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia… And if in 1991 international community did not pay attention on Kazakhstan, today it sees, recognizes and respect our country.

The Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia, the concept of which was worked out by the Republic of Kazakhstan, demonstrated maturity of our state and its ability to occupy key places on Asian and in a whole world political arena.

Another important initiative of Nursultan Nazarbayev was the creation of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). Kazakhstan’s cooperation with other states in the framework of Shanghai Cooperation Organization is one of the most perspective directions of RK’s foreign policy.

On May 26, 1996 in Shanghai an Agreement on Confidence Building Measures in the Military Sphere in the Border was signed by five states (China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan), which were united by common border line. And in 1997 Presidents of five states, including Kazakhstan, Russia, China, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, signed Agreement on the Mutual Reduction of Armed Forces in the Border Area.

Thus, both agreements (Agreement on Confidence Building Measures in the Military Sphere in the Border and the Agreement on the Mutual Reduction of Armed Forces in the Border Area) adopted till the end of 2020 became the first military and political documents in Asian continent and started the military cooperation with the aim to maintain border stability.

By 2001 there were structural changes in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization which were directly linked to escalation of terrorism threat. SCO’s transformation and establishing of new structures and mechanisms was not only quite actual decision but also very perspective step. In the middle of June, 2001 in Shanghai the participants of the Summit declared establishment of a new international organization and signed Declaration on SCO’s creation and Convention about combat against terrorism, separatism and extremism.

Considering exiting backround for escalating of terrorism threat in the Central Asia, China and Russia initiated the establishment of new counter-terrorism mechanism based on five. The SCO became the real segment of international security system. Member states created an effective mechanism for using of all preconditions in the sphere of suppression of terrorism, extremism and separatism.

The first SCO’s military exercises, named «Cooperation-2003», was held in 2003. SCO’s development dynamics reflects not only the effectiveness of the association, but also its prospects. Topical issues of economic cooperation were incorporated into areas of cooperation.

Economic cooperation was an important component of cooperation in the framework of SCO. States created mechanism of meeting of ministers of economy and trade and ministers of communications (transport), formed favourable conditions in the sphere of trade and investments as well as defined the route of practical cooperation in trade and economic area. At the meeting of heads of governments of SCO’s member states in September, 2003 in Beijing the Programme of multilateral trade and economic cooperation of SCO’s member states was adopted. All that build a bases for regional economic cooperation establishment.

In December 2005 SCO’s Executive Secretary Zhang Deguang, referring to the President, stressed that the Republic of Kazakhstan on Nursultan Nazarbayev’s face stood at the very source of the SCO both at the time of the «Shanghai Five» and during the development of the SCO. «You have made and are making an invaluable contribution to the strengthening of stability and multilateral cooperation in the region in the framework of the SCO. We appreciate Kazakhstan’s policy in respect of our Organization. I sincerely wish you good health, great achievements in your noble work for the prosperity of the Republic of Kazakhstan and the benefit of its people» — Zhang Deguan said.

SCO play its own role in the international relations system. By the Treaty on long-term friendship and cooperation, signed in Bishkek on August 16, 2007, SCO’s member states affirmed «readiness to broaden mutually beneficial cooperation both between each other and with all interested states and international organizations with the aim to contribute in constructing of fair and rational world order to create favorable conditions of sustainable development of SCO’s member states».

The tenth anniversary SCO’s summit held in June, 2011 in Astana had a significant role in the political life of Kazakhstan. Documents signed at the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Astana helped to strengthen an important element of international security system. Following the summit in Astana, the heads of the SCO member states signed the Astana Declaration which summed up the activities of the SCO for 10 years and identified promising development guidelines. In particular, the Astana Declaration reported that in ten years the Shanghai Cooperation Organization has successfully gone from institutionalization to the formation of effective institutions for cooperation in various spheres. Priority in the international activities of the SCO was to strengthen and develop links with the UN in the fight against new challenges and threats, economic, social, humanitarian and cultural development. The SCO member states were in favor of strict compliance with the provisions of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

«In connection with the tenth anniversary of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, we, Heads of SCO Member States, declare in this Declaration that the Shanghai Cooperation Organization will effectively carry out its goals and objectives to ensure peace, stability and prosperity in the SCO space» — noted in conclusion.

In general, the anniversary meeting of heads of the SCO member states in Astana marked an important milestone in the evolution of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

Thus, participating actively in SCO’s activity Kazakhstan has resolved many issues related to national security and reached the level of cooperation with great world powers including Russia and China.

Shanghai cooperation organization is not a military and political block, acting against other states and regions, follow the principle of openness and is ready to develop contacts with other states, international and regional organizations in political, trade and economic, cultural, scientific and technical and other areas.

The CICA and SCO’s aims are close: maintenance of regional stability and security. However this does not mean that the mentioned organizations are duplicates. They complement the system of collective security in Asia. If SCO is an association based on the specific rights and obligations of the participating countries, the CICA is an enlarged forum for free discussion and search of solutions to pressing topical problems. The SCO and CICA are considered as important factors in contemporary international relations in Asia and the Eurasian continent as a whole.

The most important feature of Nursultan Nazarbayev as a statesman is his ability to think many moves ahead, intuitively capture and take into account major areas of international development in practical politics.

Our President considered regional integration as one of the most effective and efficient ways to confront the threats and challenges of globalization jointly. He drew the attention of Kazakhstan’s partners in the former Soviet space to the trend of world political and economic integration transition from interstate to interregional level. Thus, countries that are unable to integrate risked being marginalized in the world history. Kazakhstan assumed that in the long term there were no alternatives to regional cooperation.

According to Nursultan Nazarbayev, «inertia of recession was stronger than our integration efforts». Some post-Soviet leaders could not respond promptly to his Eurasian initiative formulated on March 29, 1994 at the speech in Moscow State University. To be fair it should be noted that the international expert and academic community came to the idea of Eurasian Union more closely and objectively. For example, the rector of the Moscow State University Victor Sadovnichy stressed that Nursultan Nazarbayev was an outstanding statesman and scholar who had made an enormous contribution to the development of friendship between peoples. «At MSU, we are proud that Nursultan Nazarbayev expressed the idea of Eurasianism and integration of former Soviet countries within these walls in 1994. Kazakhstan’s leader is outstanding, one of the most respected government officials in the world. President of Kazakhstan has established himself as a thoughtful reformer, an active supporter of idea of friendship of peoples, not only in Russia and Kazakhstan, but also the entire Eurasia» — said v. Sadovnichy.

The development of interstate relations in the post-Soviet space has confirmed the relevance of the Eurasian idea. On October 10, 2000 Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan established the Eurasian Economic Community (EEC), which is one of the most successful and effective economic integration projects in the post-Soviet space nowadays.

Largely due to the authority and influence of Nursultan Nazarbayev, Kazakhstan has become one of the locomotives of Eurasian integration. The RK initiated the reformation of the CIS undergoing a systemic crisis caused by the lack of real progress and lots of unresolved problems. Nursultan Nazarbayev emphasized: «For the objective and subjective reasons the CIS has not become the decisive structure of integration of post-Soviet space».

The process of establishing of sectoral integration structures of the CIS was dynamic, however the project of the Eurasian Union remained only on paper, until December 2010 when it breathed a new life at the summit of the Eurasian Economic Community. In autumn 2011 the Eurasian Union project received a new impetus after such «Izvestia» newspaper publications as «New integration project for Eurasia — a future that is born today» by the Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, «On the fate of our integration» by Alexander Lukashenko and «Eurasian Union: from idea to the history of future» by Nursultan Nazarbayev.

After the formation of the Customs Union in December 2010 at the summit of the Eurasian Economic Community in Moscow agreements on the creation of a Eurasian Union on the basis of CES of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia was reached.

Since January 1, 2012 on the territory of three member states of the Customs Union the Common Economic Space (CES) has been operating. The full integration agreements on CES, adopted on November 18, 2011, came in force in July 2012. The aim of the CES establishment was to create conditions for sustainable and effective development of member states economies and to enhance the standard of living of the people.

Nursultan Nazarbayev, unlike many public figures, not just put forward integration initiatives, but persistently and consistently implemented it in practice. His views on the nature and character of the integration process had evolved and enriched with new content, relevant to the new realities of the modern world.

In his article «Eurasian Union: from the idea to the history of future» President outlined four principles which are bases of his approach to Eurasianism. «Firstly, while not denying the importance of cultural and civilizational factors, I offered to build integration primarily on the basis of economic pragmatism. Economic interests but not abstract geopolitical ideas and slogans are the main engine of integration processes.

Secondly, I’ve always been a supporter of voluntary integration. Each state and society must independently assumed that there is no point to revel endlessly in own identity and wrap in its borders in a globalizing world.

Third, primarily I saw the Eurasian Union as a union of states on the basis of equality, non-interference in the internal affairs of each other, respect for sovereignty and inviolability of state borders.

Fourthly, I suggested creating a supranational bodies of the Eurasian Union, which would operate on a consensus basis, taking into account the interests of each member state, has a clear and real authority. But by no means this does not imply the transfer of political sovereignty. It is an axiom».

Kazakhstan’s President gave the particular importance to the development of integration processes in Central Asia. The region was in the process of formation of its internal architecture and finding its place in the overall global architectonics. The region is not fully developed as a geopolitical entity, hence the presence of many unresolved problems and contradictions here.

At the same time, since independence the region again became economically important for the global economy. Today, according to Nursultan Nazarbayev, Central Asia faces a historic choice between remaining raw materials appendage of the global economy, waiting for the next empire, or going on a serious integration of the Central Asian region.

Central Asia with its rich natural resources, transit- transport potential and fast-growing domestic market is able to create a common market, meet its basic needs for food and energy resources, as well as to establish common currency.

Regional integration is the shortest path to stability and progress in the region and its economic and military- political independence. «Only in this case, the region will be respected in the world. Only by these means we will ensure the security and combat effectively with terrorism and extremism. Such union, finally, is in the interest of ordinary people living in our region» — underlined Nursultan Nazarbayev.

Based on this, on February 18, 2005 he put forward the idea to establish the Union of Central Asian States (UCAS) which not only received moral and political support of some countries in the region, but gradually began to move into action.

«Stability and prosperity in the entire Central Asian region is in the interest of our country and the international community. That’s why there the initiative of Central Asian integration arose, — said Nursultan Nazarbayev. — There are no any Kazakhstan’s ambitions to stand out or lead. This reflects long-term interests of the fraternal peoples living in the region».

It is important to note that the idea of Central Asian integration was positively received by the world powers, international organizations, well-known officials and public figures.

Famous writer Chingiz Aitmatov supported and appreciated the initiative of the President of Kazakhstan. «The idea of the President of Kazakhstan about the Central Asian economic integration in the region is a strategic way for us. This is super-idea which will unite our region. Each of us have to support this idea in our environment because it is our future», — he said.
So there are enough reasons to believe that soon or later all regional states, including those who now are skeptical about the prospects for regional integration, overcome their doubts and prejudices and support the idea of the UCAS.

The Chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in 2010 was a historic event for the Republic of Kazakhstan. This event showed the intention of Kazakhstan, in the spirit of the Helsinki Final Act in 1975, to tackle the international challenges, to participate freely in the European process and to exchange experiences. First country located primarily in Asia, served as chairman in the European organization.

OSCE Chairmanship, undoubtedly shows the growing international prestige of Kazakhstan and its national leader. President of Kazakhstan in a difficult historical conditions of the beginning of 1990s made the political decision to join the ranks of such an authoritative regional forum as the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. This momentous event took place at the meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the CSCE in Prague on January 30–31, 1992. Kazakhstan, among the ten countries of the former Soviet Union, became a full CSCE member state, thereby connecting to the process of ensuring European security and stability. The fact that Kazakhstan joined the CSCE before the UN and by the moment of receiving this status less than two months later from the date of the declaration of independence is remarkable.

OnFebruary 24, 2000 the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev delivered a report at the OSCE Permanent Council. The Head of the State noted that the cooperation with the OSCE and Central Asian countries, in addition to political processes evaluation, particularly elective procedures and human rights, should include such areas as the fight against drug trafficking and drug abuse, terrorism and extremism, reduce regional conflict potential related to the limited water resources, deepening of integration in order to create a unified economic and trade zone as well. He also urged to pay special attention to the fact that the war in Afghanistan is a major source of instability, drug trafficking and terrorism in the region.

Astana began its way to the chairmanship in 2003, when at 436-th meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council Kazakhstan for the first time announced the wish to present its candidacy for the chairmanship in future.

During the discussion of Kazakhstan’s application to chair the OSCE it had been convincingly demonstrated that the country as a whole complies with the European requirements: market economy was functioning, there was a middle class, democratic elections was held, human rights are respected, society was characterized by stability, non-governmental sector as well as various media was operating. The result was natural: in December 2007 foreign ministers of 56 OSCE member states decided to support Kazakhstan’s chairmanship for the OSCE in 2010. Following the meeting of heads of states of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the parties adopted the Astana Declaration of the OSCE, in which they reaffirmed their full commitment to the Charter of the United Nations and all OSCE norms, principles and commitments, starting with the Helsinki Final Act. In particular, in the Declaration «states and organizations involved in the OSCE, marking the 35th anniversary of the Helsinki Final Act and the 20th anniversary of the Charter of Paris for a New Europe, reaffirm their commitment to the vision of a free, democratic, common and indivisible Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian security community from Vancouver to Vladivostok, based on agreed principles, shared commitments and common goals, as well as their aspirations and principles which are the bases of the organization».

Kazakhstan considered the OSCE chairmanship not only as a «strategic national project» but «as an opportunity to give the organization a new breath, a new impetus» to revive and strengthen «the spirit of Helsinki» as well. As pointed out by the Head of State, there was a «lack of embeddedness of the Eurasian space» in the development potential of the OSCE. «The OSCE should increase the existing practice of positive contacts with other regional organizations such as CIS, CSTO, EurAsEC, SCO, CICA». In this case, Astana was a «reliable platform for this kind of inter-institutional and supra-regional dialogue».

The President stressed that «the OSCE has turned from continental European organization into an organization which area of responsibility and specific work sites have transcontinental character». Therefore, «today it would be more correct to speak not only about European but Eurasian security as well» «without which is impossible in principle to provide a solid European security. Kazakhstan proposed the topical and real agenda for the summit including building a unified security architecture, rehabilitation and assistance to Afghanistan, the development of the Programme of Action for the interethnic and interreligious harmony.

Thus, Kazakhstan’s OSCE chairmanship and the summit of this organization in Astana had a great historical significance for the republic.

In general, a retrospective analysis of regional and global initiatives of Kazakhstan indicates its internal unity, consistency, tendency and dynamism. Year by year Kazakhstan’s trend aimed at global security strengthening is obtaining a new dimension and measure, the content and geography of initiatives are expanding. Kazakhstan’s strategy on the arena of international security is becoming more confident as a result of increased prestige and political influence of the President.

A. Auanasova, A. Suleimenov 


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Materials provided by the Institute of History of States CS MES of Kazakhstan
Published in the Journal of Eurasian Law № 5 (60), 2013