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Why Polish media should be interested in Kazakhstan

Economic expansion

Poland wants to enter the market of Kazakhstan. The participation of Polish companies in the Kazakh market is getting bigger (large investments in Kazakhstan are carried out by stock giants – Petrolinvest, Polpharma, Eko Export) and the Polish authorities are trying to actively support Polish entrepreneurs. The Polish Ministry of Economy indicates Kazakhstan as one of five prospective markets for Polish firms which results in the implementation of many programs to promote mutual trade and investment. Our companies are increasingly active in this country, especially in the mining, petrochemical and pharmaceutical industries. A significant fact was the last year’s acquisition by the Polish Polpharma of the largest drug maker in Kazakhstan.

The Kazakh Internet sites comprise information regarding the participation of Polish companies in the industry and commerce exhibitions as well as the announcement of the representative of the Polish Embassy in Kazakhstan about participation in such events of a growing number of companies from over the Vistula river.

Policy behind the closed doors

The strengthening of relations between Poland and Kazakhstan could be seen during the first working visit of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan in Poland, which took place on the 21st of June, 2012. Erzhan Kazykhanov met with Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy Waldemar Pawlak and the Speaker of the Senate Bogdan Borusewicz. Apart from the politicians of the highest rank, only a small group of people in the Polish Institute of International Affairs could count on the meeting with the head of Kazakhstan’s diplomacy Kazykhanov’s lecture was of a closed nature because the embassy, probably fearing uncomfortable questions, asked for a guarantee that there the minister would have no contact with the media, making it a condition of approval for the meeting.

Another evidence of a closer cooperation between the two countries is a presidential visit, planned for this autumn.

History, sports and pop culture

For Poles, Kazakhstan should not be associated solely with the place of exile during the Soviet Union period or, for the younger generation, with a backward country, presented in a satirical film by Sasha Baron Cohen’s ‘Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan’.

Currently, the most of the contemporary information about this country can be found in newspapers or sports supplements in connection with the participation of players from Kazakhstan in the UEFA competition. Lech Poznan on Thursday, the 5th of July, will play a match with Kazakh Zhetys Taldykorgan, while the Polish team with fans will travel more than 4000 km to arrive on the 12th of July 12 at a return game in Kazakhstan.

The visa problems

The lack of information about Kazakhstan in other media may influence some kind of a blockage used by prevention authorities of that country. This year, more than 30 Polish citizens, among whom were journalists, experts on the eastern affairs and NGO activists did not receive visas. In most cases, they didn’t receive any reason for the ‘lack of consent from Kazakhstan’. It can be assumed that the authorities of this country are afraid of people who come not just to watch the beautiful scenery, or to do business, but with the intention to take a closer look at the socio-political life.

Democracy and the transformation as export goods

In addition to economic and diplomatic relations at the official level, it is worth noting that Poland is becoming a safe haven and a window to the West for many persecuted dissidents, independent journalists and social activists. Polish tradition of fighting for ‘our and your’ freedom is now cultivated through the involvement of NGOs and politicians in their defense in the international arena. In practice, this means the support of efforts to legalise the stay, invitations for language courses and conferences, organization of speeches, seminars and exhibitions in the parliaments of European countries and institutions devoted to Central Asia. Creating a space for a forum for dialogue between organisations and individuals persecuted in Kazakhstan, and official representatives of the authorities, also invited to participate in organised events, has a unique value. Polish MEPs – despite their political differences – are some of the most active advocates of Central Asia in the European Parliament. Representatives of the civil society from Kazakhstan who come to our country have a keen interest in the legacy of the Solidarity, the Polish experience of political and economic transition, the practice of the functioning of European political institutions and the model the relationship between the government and the media and NGOs. These experiences are our valuable export commodity. In the changing world, where more and more frequently a question about the new role and position of Europe and the West is asked, we have a unique know-how, allowing to shape civic and political elite which will be the alternative for the declining post-communist dictatorships.

Polish media should make every effort to find reliable information about the country, in which Poland has vested interests. More news come to us from the Arab countries with whom we are no less connected than with  Kazakhstan. Yet the degree of civil liberties, particularly freedom of speech in Kazakhstan is similar to those in Arab countries. In the rating of the World Press Freedom Index, prepared by the ‘Reporters without Borders’ organisation, Kazakhstan takes the 162th place among 178 countries.