Jennifer Campbell, Ottawacitizen.com, 16.11.2016
Canadians wanting to travel to Kazakhstan will have an easier time of it come January, when they can do so visa-free.
Kazakh Ambassador Konstantin Zhigalov said his government decided to lift visa requirements for all Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development member states, which includes Canada, starting Jan. 1. Beginning that day, Canadians will be able to travel to Kazakhstan visa-free for up to 30 days.
“This is an unprecedented measure aimed at making travel to our country easier for all OECD countries,” the ambassador said. “(Our) embassy had been working hard to get Canada on the list of visa-free countries because it makes it much easier for the citizens of Canada travelling to Kazakhstan for business, tourist, private and transit purposes.”
Although it hasn’t happened yet, Zhigalov said he hopes the Canadian government will reciprocate and allow Kazakh citizens to travel visa-free to Canada.
The Kazakh embassy has been busy these days — it has established a Kazakstan-Canada business council and a Canada-Kazakhstan Parliamentary Friendship Group.
From a business point of view, Kazakhstan is an important trading partner, with more than $7 billion in bilateral trade between 2012 and 2014, a volume that’s lessened in recent years because of lower commodity prices and overall market volatility. Yet even today, Kazakhstan is on Canada’s global market action plan.
The creation of the business council aims to reinvigorate trading activities, the ambassador said. It was officially launched earlier in 2016 with its inaugural meeting in Astana, Kazakhstan’s capital, attracting more than 130 participants, including 30 representatives from Canadian companies, government and non-profit organizations. Annual meetings, alternating between Canada and Kazakhstan, are planned although the 2017 meeting will again be held in Astana, because the city is hosting EXPO-2017 and will attract many of the Canadian members.
The parliamentary friendship group, meanwhile, held its inaugural meeting last month to review bilateral relations and identify new priorities. MP Robert Nault and Sen. James Cowan will co-chair the group.
“We very much appreciate the commitment of Canadian parliamentarians to strengthening (our) partnership in the wake of the 25th anniversary of our diplomatic relations,” Zhigalov said.
Finally, for the first time in its history, Kazakhstan joins the UN Security Council as a non-permanent member, beginning Jan. 1.
“It is the first time not only for Kazakhstan, but for the entire Central Asian region, to have a voice in the world’s most powerful body,” Zhigalov said.