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APPG for Kazakhstan visits Astana

Three members of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Kazakhstan visited the country’s twenty-year-old capital city from Tuesday 29 May until Saturday 2 June. The delegation comprised Stephen Hepburn (MP for Jarrow, Labour), Lord Rogan (Cross Bencher) and the Chairman of the APPG for Kazakhstan, Bob Stewart (MP for Beckenham; Conservative).

We were guests of the Kazakhstan Government which was generous enough to fly us to and from Astana and pay for us to stay in a hotel in Astana throughout our visit. The principal aim of the visit was to learn about Kazakhstan and to meet various sections of society there – especially parliamentarians.

We flew through the night aboard Air Astana and landed in Kazakhstan at 0615hrs on Wednesday 30 May. There we met His Excellency Erlan Idrissov, Kazakhstan Ambassador to London (briefly) before we were driven to the President Hotel (Rixos) in the centre of the city.  We discussed several issues which included Human Rights, the Astana International Financial Centre, Digitalisation, the Brain Drain from Kazakhstan and, of course, BREXIT and enhanced partnership with UK.

After a short stop at the hotel we then went to meet President Shigeo Katsu of Narabayev University which has now been functioning for 4 years, currently has 4,300 students and where all instruction is in English. It was an impressive place.  Directly from there we went on to have dinner with His Excellency Erlan Idrissov and Yerzhan Ashikbayev, the Deputy Foreign Minister of Kazakhstan. We spoke quite openly over dinner and were back in the hotel by just after 2200hrs.

On Thursday 31 May we started with a visit to the Astana EXPO Pavilion which was a huge glass and steel ball containing about 8 floors dedicated to energy and its production on Earth. Thereafter we went to the Astana Baiterek which had been a centrepiece of the Astana 2017 exhibition.  We then went to the Kazakhstan Parliament for the first time. There we were hosted by the Chairman of International Affairs, Defence and Security Committee of the Majlis (Lower Chamber of Parliament) His Excellency Muktar Erman, for lunch.

Thereafter we had a formal meeting with His Excellency Nurlan Nigmatullin the Chairman (Speaker) of the Majlis and we raised a number of subjects with him – including human rights and how Parliament worked.  Going upstairs in the Parliament building to a Committee Room we then met Azat Perushev, Chairman of the Ak Zhol Party which was a very small political group and one which represented business.  Next, we travelled to a building outside Parliament where we met Frakhad Kuangenov of the Nur Otan Party. He introduced us to staffers who worked with the Youth Wing of Nur Otan and we talked about how many young people were interested in politics.

Bob Stewart MP