German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier visited Kazakhstan from June 19th to 21st, 2023, upon the invitation of President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev. During the visit, the heads of state focused on enhancing cooperation in trade, economy, investment, transportation, logistics, and energy sectors, as well as deepening humanitarian ties, with the aim of strengthening the Kazakh-German strategic partnership. Additionally, President Steinmeier became the first European leader to visit the Mangystau Region to attend the inauguration ceremony of the Kazakh-German Engineering Institute. He also participated in the launch ceremony of a test drilling at the green hydrogen production facility of the Swedish-German company Svevind, and delivered a speech at the forum attended by Kazakh and German rectors.
During Steinmeier’s visit, the Kazakh-German Business Forum was also held. The forum focused on strengthening the Kazakh-German strategic partnership with an emphasis on expanding cooperation in the fields of economy, logistics, and energy. President Tokayev, in his speech at the forum, used the following statements regarding Kazakh-German cooperation:
“I have a vision of establishing a research center in Central Asia, with German universities being part of this center. I appreciate the active participation of German investment companies. Kazakhstan will maintain favorable conditions for the continued presence of German investments.”
President Tokayev also highlighted the increasing international importance of Central Asia and Kazakhstan. It is well known that Central Asia plays a significant geopolitical role in the Eurasian region. Moreover, this role has grown over time as part of the connectivity between China and Europe. The strategic connection provided by the Central Corridor under the Belt and Road Initiative has further contributed to the growing interest in the region by neighboring countries.
Indeed, starting from 2022, the volume of cargo transported to European Union (EU) member countries through the Central Corridor has doubled. In this regard, President Tokayev mentioned that efforts are being made to improve infrastructure and remove barriers to support the increasing trade volume between East and West.
During the forum, it was noted that German companies have invested approximately $6 billion in Kazakhstan, with about 90% of the total investments being in non-primary sectors. It is evident that economic relations between Astana and Berlin are gaining momentum. In 2022, the bilateral trade volume increased by 25% to reach $2.8 billion. The economic ties between the two countries are open to further development. Various platforms, such as business forums, are being utilized to strengthen partnerships.
Furthermore, Germany is the only EU member state with embassies in all five capital cities of Central Asia. Being one of the first countries to establish diplomatic relations with the newly independent republics after their independence in 1991, Germany rapidly opened embassies in the countries of the region. Moreover, Germany is the third largest trading partner of the region after Russia and China, which highlights Berlin’s importance to the region.
Another development that demonstrates Berlin’s ties with Astana is the presence of German companies in the country. More than 1,000 companies with German capital actively operate in Kazakhstan. As economic ties progress at a high level, energy-based cooperation between the parties is also being developed.
During Steinmeier’s visit, Kazakhstan announced that it would increase its crude oil exports to Germany by five times through land transportation in the second half of 2023. Kazakh Energy Minister Almasadam Satkaliyev stated that deliveries would be increased from approximately 150,000 barrels per day to around 733,000 barrels per day. Indeed, energy cooperation remains a fundamental pillar of Kazakh-German friendship. Berlin continues to seek alternatives to Russian oil resources, and energy security has therefore become a prominent issue in relations between Astana and Berlin.
Berlin’s policy towards the region indicates its desire for a closer relationship between the EU and Central Asia. Following the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, there has been a growing perception that Moscow’s influence in the region has diminished. However, China is also a strong actor in the region, with a significant presence and efforts to strengthen its relations with Central Asian states. In this context, the increasing influence of Europe in Central Asia, which is an important arena of competition, would be a favorable development for Berlin. The intensified visits and deepening ties are reflections of this effort. The multi-vector foreign policy approach of the regional countries also contributes to the deepening of relations with EU countries. It can be said that Astana is also moving in line with this trend.
The increased interest of Europe, particularly Germany, in Central Asia is influenced not only by the region’s strategic role in transportation between Europe and Asia but also by the growing concerns of EU countries regarding energy security following the Russia-Ukraine War. The search for source diversification has further fueled the tendency to enhance relations with Central Asian countries. The recent EU-Central Asia Summit held in Kyrgyzstan indicates that this trend is expected to continue in the future. In fact, President Steinmeier’s visit was not limited to Kazakhstan alone. He also conducted an official visit to Kyrgyzstan from 21st to 23rd June 2023. It is expected that the visit will contribute to the development of bilateral and multilateral cooperation between Kyrgyzstan and Germany, reaffirming Germany’s high level of interest in the region.
In summary, the Kazakh-German Business Forum is expected to take relations between Germany and Kazakhstan to a new level. The establishment of new agreements and strengthened partnerships also indicate that the relationship will continue on a positive trajectory.
 “President of Germany to Strengthen Ties with Kazakhstan During State Visit”, The Astana Times, https://astanatimes.com/2023/06/president-of-germany-to-strengthen-ties-with-kazakhstan-during-state-visit/, (Date of Accession: 22.06.2023).
 “Kazakh-German Business Forum has Become a Platform for Signing the Cooperation Agreement Between Satbayev University and Siemens”, Satbayev University, https://satbayev.university/en/news/kazakh-german-business-forum-has-become-a-platform-for-signing-the-cooperation-agreement-between-satbayev-university-and-siemens, (Date of Accession: 22.06.2023).
 “President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev Took Part in the Kazakh-German Business Forum”, Baiterek, https://baiterek.gov.kz/en/pr/news/president-kassym-jomart-tokayev-took-part-in-the-kazakh-german-business-forum, (Date of Accession: 22.06.2023).
 “Tokayev Attends Kazakhstan-Germany Business Forum”, Kazinform, https://www.inform.kz/en/tokayev-attends-kazakhstan-germany-business-forum_a4081317, (Date of Accession: 22.06.2023).
 “Germany and Central Asia”, Auswartiges Amt, https://www.auswaertiges-amt.de/blob/1496762/51488be16e2241241b09f76e156f5867/zentralasien-engl-data.pdf, (Date of Accession: 22.06.2023).
 “Kazakhstan to Deliver More Oil to Boost Germany’s Energy Security”, Upstream Online, https://www.upstreamonline.com/production/kazakhstan-to-deliver-more-oil-to-boost-germany-s-energy-security/2-1-1471094, (Date of Accession: 22.06.2023).