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Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev (C) welcomes his Czech counterpart Milos Zeman (R) during their meeting in Astana on November 24, 2014. AFP PHOTO / ILYAS OMAROV
November 24, 2014

Zeman calls Kazakhstan a ‘priority’ for Czech business

Central Asian country has been run by same president since 1991

Astana, Nov. 24 (ČTK) — Kazakhstan is a country with an economic miracle, and Czechs consider it a priority and a long-term interest, Czech President Miloš Zeman said after meeting with his Kazakh counterpart Nursultan Nazarbayev today in the capital of the Central Asian country that used to form part of the Soviet Union.

Zeman also announced that he had invited Nazarbayev to Prague.

Zeman said Kazakhstan has made a significant progress since 1999 when he visited the country the last time in his capacity as then–Czech prime minister.

He expressed conviction that “the country with an economic miracle,” extremely rich in raw materials, would become an even more significant economic player in the future.

Zeman promised the Kazakhs a simplification of the visa procedure for travelers to the Czech Republic.

He also highlighted the possibility of advantageous contracts with the Czech Tatra lorry maker, the development of cooperation in civilian aviation and the use of financial services of the Czech Home Credit firm, owned by the PPF Group.

Zeman said he would like to return to Kazakhstan in 2017 for the World Expo exhibition, which will take place in Astana.

Zeman talked about bilateral economic cooperation at a business seminar later in the day.

A Czech firm has offered to build a railway in Kazakhstan, from the airport to the center of Astana, Zeman said.

He praised Czech breweries and called Czech beer the world’s best but criticized American beer calling it “filthy water,” for which he was applauded.

Nazarbayev supported the unification of the free trade zones of the European Union (EU) and the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), a duty-free union created by Russia along with Kazakhstan and Belarus, at the press conference. He said he expected Prague to support this idea.

He also called on Czech firms to build their plants in Kazakhstan so that their goods could be exported to Russia and Belarus without customs duties.

In this regard, he even referred to the legacy of Czech King Jiří z Poděbrad, who was promoting a peaceful union of European rulers in the 15th century.

“We expect the Czech Republic to talk about cooperation of Europe and Asia today,” Nazarbayev said.

He appreciated economic relations with the Czech Republic, mainly in transport, education and farming, mentioning the real estate activities of Kazakh businessmen in Karlovy Vary, west Bohemia.

“We know that many buildings in Karlovy Vary are owned by Kazakh businessmen. Now we are inviting Czech firms to cooperate. We are a country rich in oil, iron and coal. However, we want to build up an economy independent of raw material sources. Czech companies can help us achieve it,” Nazarbayev pointed out.

Czech firms should invest in Kazakhstan and enjoy a 10-year tax holiday and state incentives, thanks to which they would have up to 30 percent of their investments returned, he added.

Both presidents talked about foreign policy as well. They focused on the fight against international terrorism, and they also touched upon the crisis in eastern Ukraine and the EU and U.S. sanctions against Russia for its intervention in it.

Nazarbayev said the sanctions helped no one.

“They will benefit neither Europe nor Russia. As soon as we got out of the serious crisis from 2008, we sank again,” Nazarbayev said, adding that politics should not affect economic relations.

Kazakhstan, where a strong Russian minority resides, has expressed interest in the preservation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity in reaction to the Ukrainian crisis. Nazarbayev has not recognized Russia’ annexation of Crimea, but he criticizes the Western sanctions as measures with a zero political effect.

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