Kazakhstan - Building back better following a turbulent January
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In January this year, Kazakhstan experienced a series of large protests, sparked by the sudden increase of fuel prices, after the government had removed a previously enforced price cap.
The protestors first came out into the streets in the petroleum-producing city of Zhanaozen in western Kazakhstan but then spread rapidly across the country, first to other oil and mineral producing regions and then to other districts of Kazakhstan.
Protestors' demands and grievances varied widely. They included oil workers as well as liberal activists in Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest city. Young people throughout the country also joined in.
An array of related challenges were brought forward: inflation, inequality of opportunity, corruption, injustice, lack of benefits, fuel prices, low wages, and lack of labour bargaining power. According to Kazakh officials, peaceful demonstrations were hijacked by violent criminals.
Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev reacted by declaring a state of emergency and announced that the Collective Security Treaty Organization will step in to help the Kazakh forces to protect the strategic facilities. He also made radical changes to the country’s national security leadership. Former President Nazarbaev stepped down from the position of the chair of the National Security Council.
A few days after the protests swept across some city centres, the government declared that constitutional order had been mainly restored in all regions and promised ambitious economic reforms, aimed at reducing the state's deep involvement in the economy and bridging the gap between the wealthy minority and the majority of the population.
Join this EURACTIV Debate to discuss the recent unrest that shook Kazakhstan and the way forward in building back better. Will the recent internal strife prompt real change? How will president Tokayev move forward? How will the demands and needs of protesters be addressed?
WATCH THE RECORDING HERE
Brussels Network Office - International Press Centre
1 Bd Charlemagne // 2nd floor
Roman Vassilenko, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan
Luc Devigne, Deputy Managing Director, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, EEAS
Andris Ameriks MEP, Vice-Cair DCAS Committee, European Parliament
Dr. Christopher Primiano, Director, China and Central Asia Studies Center (CCASC)
Dr. Luca Anceschi, Professor of Eurasian Studies, University of Glasgow
Georgi Gotev, Senior Editor, EURACTIV
12:15 – 12:20 Welcome
12:20 – 12:35 Panellist statements
12:35 – 13:25 Discussion and Q&A
13:25 – 13:30 Closing statements
Meaningful investigations into January's unrest and genuine follow up on announced reforms will be crucial for Kazakhstan, EU representatives, and academics agreed at a recent EURACTIV event, though scholars remain sceptical about the authorities' resolve.