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#Kazakhstan President Tokayev’s first year in office a success says EU



What happens in Kazakhstan also matters for the EU because the 27-member bloc is the number one investor in Kazakhstan.

Kazakhstan’s new president, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev (pictured), has marked his first year in office, with a pledge to forge ahead with more reforms. Tokayev won the presidential election on 9 June 2019 with 70% of the votes, running against six other candidate.  He is widely praised for introducing far-reaching reforms in the country, the eighth largest in the world though with a population of just 20 million.

In his first major speech, the president defined his policies in all fields of the economy and society.

In the state-of-the-nation address he promised to oppose ‘unsystematic political liberalisation’ and instead carry reforms ‘without running ahead’. Crucially, a large part of his one-hour speech was devoted to improving living standards for the Kazakh people.

He also emphasised his goal of having a strong president, an influential parliament, and an accountable government. This reflects the government’s continued focus on reducing inequality in Kazakhstan and improving Kazakh citizens’ quality of life.

At the same time, the president also focused on political and economic development, including supporting micro, small and medium-sized businesses.

While much of President Tokayev’s first year in office has focused on – successfully – delivering on these promises  prioritised domestic reforms, he has also paid heed to several foreign policy priorities for Kazakhstan.

Most recently, of course, the focus has been very much on combating the ongoing health pandemic.

Last month, he admitted that this “has not been easy for our country.”  He also warned, “the crisis has not yet been completely overcome. The epidemic has not completely disappeared. A pandemic is still dangerous to public health.”

Several key issues, he believes, still need to be resolved in the near future.

First. Improving the self-sufficiency of the Kazakh economy.

Second. Kazakhstan has allocated around 1 trillion tenge for the implementation of the president’s Employment Roadmap and, following the implementation of the projects, an analysis of their socio-economic efficiency will be carried out.

Third. the construction of affordable housing will give a powerful incentive for economic development, employment growth and social support.

Fourth. the time has come, he insists, to work out the issue of introducing a progressive scale of individual income tax in respect of wages and other types of income.

Fifth. Support for national business.

Sixth. The country should switch to working directly with each capital holder to boost increased competition for foreign capital.

So, what is the verdict on his first year?

Mukhtar Tileuberdi, the minister of foreign affairs of Kazakhstan, says, “The President has been quick to implement his ideas. In his first few months in office, he has shown his commitment to promoting the development of a multi-party system, increased political competition, and pluralism of opinions in the country”.

High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission, Josep Borrell, said that in recent months “the breadth and depth of our relationship has progressed immeasurably.”

This is partly due to the fact that president Tokayev, in March this year,  signed an Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with the European Union, he said.  In doing so, Borrell notes it became the first country in Central Asia.

The Spanish official, a former president of the European parliament, adds “The European Union is the country’s biggest trade and investment partner, while Kazakhstan is by far the EU’s largest trade partner in Central Asia. What is more, we have invested heavily in strengthening governance, supporting its justice, social and economic reforms.”

Borrell says that, under the president’s tutelage, “We are turning the page and beginning an exciting new chapter.”

Polish MEP Ryszard Czarnecki, the Chair of the EU-Kazakhstan Friendship group in the European parliament, is equally enthusiastic, saying “In Europe, the prevailing opinion is that Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, in fact, is building a social welfare state, where special attention is paid to reducing inequality, improving the quality of life of every Kazakh, and where priority is given to solving the day-to-day problems of the people.”

The ECR deputy adds, “In the field of foreign policy, Kazakhstan, as has been the case before, pays special attention to its partnership with the European Union. On 1 March 2020, the European Union-Kazakhstan Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement came into force. On the basis of this document, we expect that the parties will be able to fully reap the benefits of their partnership. As EU-Kazakhstan Friendship group chair I will do my utmost to further our relations to our mutual benefit.”

But the president has also overseen a whole raft of other changes, including abolishing the death penalty and reaffirming the need to strengthen the role of the Kazakh language as a state language.

He is spearheading a rapprochement between the EU and the Eurasian Economic Union and also promoted freedom of expression for his country’s 20m citizens.

The president is also intensifying efforts to attract foreign direct investment, support farmers to market their products to foreign markets and support the activities of the Astana International Finance Centre.

He has also pledged to continue to support micro, small and medium sized businesses.

Shavkat Sabirov, director of the Institute for security and cooperation in Central Asia, says there has been a damaging lack of public confidence in political leadership around the world in recent time and this has many causes.

“But,” he notes,” perhaps none is more important than the widespread belief – fairly or unfairly – of citizens that their wishes, concerns and hopes are being ignored or taken for granted by those they have put in power.

It is a charge that Kazakhstan Tokayev has shown in his first months in office that he is determined to avoid.

Since his election last year, he has made his main priority reforming state and government services so they are more responsive to the needs and ambitions of its citizens.

He has wasted no time, either, in extending as he promised opportunity to all and increasing support to those who need it most.

It is a packed agenda – and President Tokayev is promising there will be no slow-up in reforms.

Fraser Cameron, director of the Brussels-based EU/Asia Centre, is a vastly experienced and respected expert on Asian affairs and gives a decidedly upbeat assessment of the country’s new head of state.

“President Tokayev’s ambitious reforms,” says Cameron, a former senior European Commission official,”should provide a solid basis to deepen cooperation between the EU and Kazhakstan.”

According to Willy Fautre, director of Human Rights Without Frontiers, there is still room for improvement. He says, “In the field of human rights, the legacy of President Tokayev’s predecessor is very heavy and a lot of progress needs to be quickly achieved. Freedom of religion is one of those areas where some controversial laws should be revised and aligned to international standards as quite a number of peaceful Sunni Muslims have been unduly sentenced to very long prison terms. The US is putting in place a constructive policy in this regard with the establishment of the US-Kazakhstan Religious Freedom Working Group.

“Washington is also developing an Enhanced Strategic Partnership Dialogue (ESPD) and has engaged Kazakhstan on a range of issues, such as human rights, labor and religious freedom. President Tokayev should not miss this opportunity to restore the image of his country.”

Looking to the future, there is still much more to do if the shared ambition of First President Nazarbayev and his successor of Kazakhstan joining the ranks of the world’s most developed 30 countries is to be achieved.

 

Kazakhstan/EU Factfile

  • The EU is Kazakhstan’s biggest trade partner, with almost 40% share in its total external trade.
  • Kazakhstan’s exports to the EU are heavily dominated by oil and gas which account for more than 80% of the country’s total exports.
  • Exports from the EU are dominated by machinery and transport equipment, as well as products within the manufacturing and chemicals sectors.
  • Imports from Kazakhstan greatly exceed EU exports to Kazakhstan.
  • Kazakhstan has a growing importance as an oil and gas supplier to the EU. Kazakhstan has benefited from strong foreign direct investment in recent years, largely to its oil and gas sector. Almost half of the foreign direct investment inflow comes from the EU.

 



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Ryanair to resume 40% of July flights with new rules for passengers


Ryanair on Tuesday confirmed it will return to 40% of its planned flight schedule from July 1 and will require passengers to wear face coverings and to ask crew permission to use the toilet, Trend reports with reference to Reuters.

The Irish airline, Europe’s largest low-cost carrier, is to begin to fly 1,000 flights per day on July 1, up from a skeleton service of 30 flights per day it is currently operating, it said in a statement.

That will allow it to cover 90% of its pre-crisis network but fewer frequencies, it said.

This month CEO Michael O’Leary said Ryanair was likely to go from 40% of normal flights in July to 50% in August, but with at least half of the seats likely to be empty due to “anaemic demand”.

As part of its COVID-19 response, Ryanair will require all passengers to fill out a form detailing the length of their planned visit and where they will stay, information that will be provided to EU governments to monitor quarantine measures.

Britain, one of Ryanair’s three largest markets, plans to quarantine for 14 days after arriving in the country, a move that industry leaders on Monday said would worsen an already grave situation for the aviation sector.

Ryanair said it will disinfect all aircraft interiors every night and ban cash sales on board and encourage customers to check their temperature before traveling.

“Queuing for toilets will also be prohibited on board although toilet access will be made available to individual passengers upon request,” the statement said.



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Coronavirus live news: confirmed deaths in Brazil surpass known Chinese toll | World news






Updated





Updated





Doctors on the frontline also widely believe that the real numbers are much higher – one factor being people dying at home.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, one medic in Rio de Janeiro state said three patients who were intubated after testing positive using faster, less accurate serological tests died during his overnight shift last weekend at a public hospital in the town of Nova Iguaçu.


If one doctor saw this (in one night) I think it’s unlikely the number for the whole of Brazil is 474.





Confirmed deaths in Brazil surpass known Chinese toll

Brazil’s total number of confirmed deaths has now overtaken the WHO’s figure for China as cases accelerate in Latin America’s biggest country.

On Tuesday, the Brazilian health ministry reported 474 deaths over the previous 24 hours, taking the total to 5,017 – more than China, where the virus was first reported and which has seen 4,643 deaths so far, according to the WHO.

Brazil now has 71,886 confirmed cases after adding 5,385 in the last 24 hours, though widespread underreporting and a generalised lack of tests means numbers are almost definitely much higher. The G1 news site reported on Tuesday that deaths in São Paulo are 168% more than the official number of 2,049.

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Streamed films to be eligible for Oscars









In the UK, leading BAME campaigners have said the credibility of an inquiry into why black, Asian and minority ethnic people are being disproportionately affected by Covid-19 is being undermined among those it seeks to serve by the appointment of Trevor Phillips.

The former chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission was selected despite being suspended from the Labour party last month for alleged Islamophobia, including a reference to UK Muslims as being “a nation within a nation”.

The first four UK doctors with Covid-19 known to have died were all Muslim.

And Labour’s former shadow home secretary, Diane Abbott, has said:


We need a public inquiry. Very sadly, the public health executive have chosen to make Trevor Phillips one of their advisers on their inquiry, which I think means that their inquiry is dead on arrival.









The US vice-president Mike Pence has been heavily criticised for failing to wear a face mask on a visit to the Mayo Clinic’s facilities in Minnesota.

Pence leads the US government’s coronavirus taskforce, though he is typically overshadowed by Donald Trump or medical experts at the regular press briefings.

Updated









Updated



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Coronavirus live news: EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier tests positive | World news


French police officers patrol and control citizens while a strick lockdown comes into in effect to stop the spread of the Covid-19

French police officers patrol and control citizens while a strick lockdown comes into in effect to stop the spread of the Covid-19 Photograph: Laurent VU/SIPA/REX/Shutterstock

France has suggested extending a two-week lockdown to try to stem the spread of the coronavirus as the interior minister blasted “idiots” who flout home confinement rules and put others at risk, AFP reports.

President Emmanuel Macron has ordered French residents to stay at home except for essential excursions such as going to the doctor, walking the dog, or going for a solitary run, and banned any gatherings.

For a two-week period that began Tuesday, people can go to work only if their employer cannot make tele-commuting possible.

But news reports have shown groups of friends and families strolling in parks despite the clampdown, prompting calls from some officials for even stricter limits.

Many have been observed ignoring the one-metre (three feet) safe inter-personal distance in queues at the essential businesses that were allowed to stay open.

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said people ignoring the measures were “idiots”.

“There are people who underestimate the risk… There are people who think they are modern-day heroes by breaking the rules while they are in fact idiots,” he told Europe 1 radio.

Macron on Thursday urged companies and workers to continue their activities “in compliance with the health safety rules”.

Genevieve Chene, who heads France’s public health agency, said between two and four weeks are needed for the outbreak to be adequately contained.

“Within two to three weeks we should be able to observe a slightly different dynamic” to the outbreak’s momentum, she told Franceinfo radio, and “a significant braking” within two to four weeks.

“It is likely that it is indeed necessary to extend (the containment measures) in order for the braking to be sufficient,” Chene said.

Meanwhile, the French government has started requisitioning hotel rooms for homeless people to occupy during the confinement period, Housing Minister Julien Denormandie announced.

More than 170 rooms will be made available in Paris by the end of the week, and the government has identified 80 sites elsewhere across the country to accomodate the country’s estimated 250,000 homeless people.



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NATO’s Most Elite Operators and their Biggest Challenges


This unique national-security focused expert insight can’t be generated for free.  We invite you to support this kind of quality content by becoming a  Cipher Brief Level I Member .  Joining this high-level, security-focused community is only $10/month (for an annual $120/yr membership). It’s a great and inexpensive way to stay ahead of the national and global security issues that impact you the most.

 

 





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France braces for further strikes over pension changes | World news


French unions are staging a second round of mass street demonstrations as the country entered its sixth day of a nationwide strike and transport standstill over proposed plans to change the pensions system.

The government’s standoff with unions continued as the prime minister, Édouard Philippe, said he would stand firm and announce details of the pension changes on Wednesday, with speculation over possible concessions on the start date in order to diffuse growing tensions on the streets.

The government was watching Tuesday’s turnout after being caught off-guard by the scale of last week’s street protests when at least 800,000 people took part in one of the biggest demonstrations of trade union strength in a decade.

Crucially, the number of protesters has been particularly high in small provincial towns, echoing the mood of the gilets jaunes anti-government protests earlier this year. People are angry not only with pensions but low salaries, worsening prospects, the state of public services and what one demonstrator called “the feeling of being forgotten”.

Commuters wait on a platform at the Gare du Nord RER station on Tuesday morning



Commuters wait on a platform at the Gare du Nord RER station on Tuesday morning. Photograph: Eric Gaillard/Reuters

One local MP for president Emmanuel Macron’s party said it would be hard to tackle a protest movement that spread from pensions to several different grievances at once.

Across the country, transport turmoil continued on Tuesday with trains at a virtual halt, some flights grounded, 10 lines of the Paris metro closed and more than 300km of traffic jams on roads around Paris by 7am. Teachers, hospital staff, fire officers, air-traffic controllers and other public sector workers were expected to walk out alongside train drivers and transport workers.

In the greater Paris area, where more than 9 million people depend on an already overburdened public transport system each day, there were dangerous crushes on packed platforms as crowds of commuters tried to push on to the very few banlieue trains running at rush-hour.

Commuters wait at Gare de l’Est train station in Paris during a strike by SNCF workers and the Paris transport network RATP as part of a second day of nationwide strikes.



Commuters wait at Gare de l’Est train station in Paris during a strike by SNCF workers and the Paris transport network RATP. Photograph: Christian Hartmann/Reuters

Macron, the pro-business president who has promised to deliver the biggest “transformation” of the French social model and welfare system since the postwar era, regards his pension reforms as a key test.

He has staked his political credibility on refusing to buckle in the face of street protests, accusing previous presidents of lacking the resolve to stand strong. With Macron potentially aiming to run for a second term in office the 2022 presidential election, backing down would be to risk losing his support-base. But demonstrators said they feared France’s social safety net was being unpicked.

Union members and employees of the Paris transport network RATP block a bus depot in Les-Pavillons-sous-Bois near Paris



Union members and employees of the Paris transport network RATP block a bus depot in Les-Pavillons-sous-Bois near Paris. Photograph: Lucien Libert/Reuters

The government argues that unifying the French pensions system – and getting rid of the 42 “special” regimes for sectors ranging from rail and energy workers to lawyers and Paris Opera staff – is crucial to keep the system financially viable as the French population ages. But unions say the changes are an attack on fundamental worker rights, and fear people will have to work longer for smaller pensions.

Police ordered all shops to close on the route of the demonstration in southern Paris. Other big marches were planned in cities including Grenoble, Lyon and Rouen.



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Dutch police arrest 35-year-old suspect in Hague stabbings



Dutch police on Saturday said they had arrested a 35-year-old man suspected of stabbing three youths on a street in the center of The Hague late on Friday, Trend reports citing Reuters.

Police said the suspect, described as having no fixed address, had been brought to a police station for questioning.

The three people injured, two 15-year-old girls and a 13-year-old boy were all discharged from hospital late on Friday.

National broadcaster NOS quoted two eyewitnesses as saying the girls had run screaming from the street into a nearby store. One said an “athletic” man fled the scene, jumping easily over obstacles.

The area was cordoned off for hours as first aid workers helped victims and police combed the area for clues.

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