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Repression against the opposition in Kazakhstan — the Commission’s response

MEPs Marek Migalski and Piotr Borys issued a request in connection with the intensifying situation in Kazakhstan and more violent repression against the opposition leaders.

On the 4th of July 2012, rulings were issued in the trial of 37 people arrested after the tragedy of 16th of December of the previous year, when in Zhanaozen, as a result of police violence, more than a dozen workers lost their lives. Paradoxically, the most ardent defenders of the workers have been sentenced to the most severe punishments. Among them was Talgat Saktaganov, inspector of European institutions and participant of the OSCE conference,  2011.

Furthermore, over the past month the authorities have intensified their actions against the opposition activists. Among those arrested were persons such as: Bolat Atabayev, a famous theatre director, winner of the Goethe Prize (which he was supposed to receive in August 2012 in Germany), also an activist of the opposition movement “Halyk Maidany”, and Zhanbolat Mamai, the leader the youth organisation “Rukh Pen Til.”

At the same time, labour strikes increased and it is possible that, due to the absence of dialogue between the companies’ managements and workers, the tragic events of the past year may repeat themselves.

Therefore, deputies asked whether the Commission is going to respond to the increased repression against the opposition in Kazakhstan, and how the Commission intends to manage its future relations with Kazakhstan in  light of the events described above.

Answers to this question were provided by the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs & Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission, Catherine Ashton. Below we present the content of her response:

The High Representative/Vice-President of the European Commission is concerned about the recent events, human rights situation, and the increasing pressure on the opposition activists in Kazakhstan. These concerns are an issue that is being discussed in bilateral contacts with the authorities of Kazakhstan, as well as on a public forum through the statements of the High Representative published last year, increasingly after the presidential elections in April 2011, and in connection with the violent events of December 2011, and subsequently following the parliamentary elections in January 2012. The High Representative/Vice-President also emphasised on numerous occasions that both the EU and Kazakhstan could achieve significant benefits from enhanced cooperation and closer relations. This however must be combined with respect for our shared values. Therefore, the High Representative/Vice-President has made it clear that strengthening the relations between the EU and Kazakhstan is not independent from progress in political reforms.

However, the Kazakh authorities replied that they do take into consideration the concerns of the EU, especially in the context of negotiating a new contract and strengthening the bilateral relations. In the last weeks Bolat Atabaev and Zhanbolat Mamai, two opposition activists, who had been previously detained, were released.