The President of Kazakhstan, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, is starting his visit to Brussels today to meet with EU leaders.
The visit comes after a larger meeting between the EU’s foreign policy head, Josep Borrell, and the foreign ministers of Central Asia. At the conference, Tokayev spoke of Kazakhstan taking a leadership role in Central Asia. Observers noted that Tokayev’s remarks aligned with his focus on increasing Kazakhstan’s economic ties within the region. This trip likely aims to further support Tokayev’s goals of increased diplomacy and economic ties.
Challenging the visit is Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) recent call for EU leaders to be more critical of human rights violations in Central Asia. Kazakhstan’s human rights abuses have included stifling non-profits, creating “misinformation laws” that threaten free speech and not investigating the death of human rights activists. However, Tokayev has actually implemented several reforms, though not as aggressively as groups like HRW want.
The EU has supported economic development in Kazakhstan in the past, particularly as a way to help Kazakhstan achieve the kind of reforms that HRW wants. As long as Tokayev can show the EU that Kazakhstan is keeping up these changes, the EU will continue to be a partner.
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Todd is a Current Developments Analyst at The Daily Brief. He specializes in the Former USSR and writes for several publications on topics in international law.