Margulan Baimukhan was appointed Ambassador of Kazakhstan to the European Union in 2021. Having started his career at Daewoo Electronics, he has served as Deputy Foreign Minister and Ambassador to Poland. He is also representing Kazakshtan in Luxembourg and Belgium. Amid today’s 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Belgium and Kazakshtan with sat down with Ambassador Baimukhan to discuss the achievements of this 30-year cooperation, his ongoing priorities and the unique selling points of Kazakhstan’s tourism to attract more Belgian travellers.
What achievements would you say have been made between Kazakhstan and Belgium over these 30 years of cooperation?
Today marks exactly 30 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations between Kazakhstan and Belgium, and on this day I have the honor to represent my country in this beautiful country with the wonderful people.
In these three decades, Kazakhstan and Belgium have been able to reach to high achievements in building a partnership based on trust, mutual respect and common goals. Today, Belgium is an important partner of Kazakhstan in the European Union, and our country is Belgium’s main trading partner in Central Asia.
The strong Kazakh-Belgian political relations have created a favorable ground for the realization of the potential of trade and economic relations and investment cooperation between the countries. In 2021, the volume of mutual trade was US$419.7 million. In 2021, the volume of mutual trade amounted to $419.7 million, including $263.9 million of exports from Kazakhstan to Belgium and US$155.7 million of imports to Kazakhstanfrom Belgium. Gross inflows of direct investment from Belgium to Kazakhstan in 2021 amounted to US$1.069 billion. As a whole, for 30 years of diplomatic relations Belgium has firmly fixed among the largest investors on the Kazakhstan market.
Today, there are more than 70 enterprises with participation of Belgian companies in Kazakhstan. The largest of them are: Solvay Chemicals International SA., Sarens Group (oil and gas infrastructure), Evolion (alternative energy sources), Induss (water treatment systems).
You were appointed Ambassador of Kazakhstan to Belgium in April 2021. What are your tasks and what are your priorities?
Simply put, the function of ambassadors is to build bridges between countries. The previous ambassadors of my country have laid a solid foundation for cooperation and built many bridges in various fields. My current task is to expand these bridges and open new ones.
My priorities are cooperation in agriculture, peaceful use of the atom, logistics, and educational and cultural diplomacy.
Among other issues, we are working on joint projects in the digitalization of the transport infrastructure and related services, as well as makethe cutting-edgetechnologies more accessible to treat cancer in Kazakhstan, both areas where Belgian companies have strong competences.
We have already made good strides in the field of trade in agricultural commodities. For example, Belgian producers already receive high-quality lean seeds from Kazakhstan while we are also advancing on the issue of introducing the Belgian White Blue, the famous breed of bulls, on Kazakh pastures.
I believe more can be done to encourage academic exchanges between the leading universities of our two countries. This would help further expand direct people-to-people contacts involving Kazakhs and Belgians, which is an ultimate goal of any diplomatic mission.
What would you tell our readers about tourism and the tourism potential of your country?
First, I would like people of our countries to have more opportunities to travel to each other. In Kazakhstan, there is a great interest in Belgium, the country that gave the world chocolate, waffles, saxophone, the Smurfs, interesting comics culture and many other things.
In turn, Kazakhstan also has a lot to offer to Belgian tourists. As you probably know, my country is the birthplace of apples, which has been proven by scientists from Great Britain. There are also wild tulips growing here, which were exported to Turkey and then to the Netherlands. Thus, we believe that Kazakhstan is the home of tulips as well. On the territory of modern Kazakhstan, the first known domestication of the horse took place, which made a significant contribution to the development of world civilization. To this day the horse is treasured by Kazakhs and has an important place in the life and culture of our people.
Probably, our majestic mountains, which reach more than 7000 m high, and beautiful lakes, the beauty of which captivates imagination and gives a sea of positive emotions to people, will be of interest for the Belgian tourists. Kazakhstan is also known as a “mecca” for ornithologists or birdwatchers.
By the way, there is a state reserve in Central Kazakhstan, part of the UNESCO’s world natural heritage list, which is the northernmost point of pink flamingo migration.
The best time to visit the country is May-October. In winter, Kazakhstan can also offer good slopes for fans of alpine skiing and snowboarding. There are multiple ways of reaching our country, for example via Paris, Frankfurt, Warsaw, Istanbul and other European cities.
As the saying goes, it is better to see once than to hear a hundred times. Therefore, I invite all Belgians to visit Kazakhstan, the country of the Great Steppe, located in the heart of Eurasia. By the way, I would like to take this opportunity to invite all of your readers to visit our Embassy on September 17 and 18 for an open door days that is hosted jointly with Brussels mayor’s office. There it will be possible to taste national Kazakh dishes/snacks, take a look at some parts of a yurt and its furnishings, try on national Kazakh costumes, and receive as a gift a book of the most famous Kazakh poet and thinker Abay Kunanbaiuly in French and Dutch.