31st Mar 2023

Kazakhstan lobbies MEPs ahead of human rights vote

  • Nur-Sultan, the capital of Kazakhstan (Photo: Wikipedia)

Kazakhstan appears to be caving into public pressure on human rights, even as it intensifies lobbying of MEPs ahead of a vote on its record on the issue.

The emails from the Kazakh mission come ahead of a so-called urgency resolution on human rights set to be voted on in the plenary on Thursday (11 February).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • French far-right MEP Thierry Mariani observers elections in Kazakhstan (Photo: Thierry Mariani)

Its deputy head of mission in Brussels has been sending out emails, seen by this website, to political group advisors demanding they scupper the vote.

It claims such a resolution, if adopted, "would not be understood by Kazakh citizen" and may prevent the country from progressing on reforms.

"Such a measure might even discourage further progress," it said, noting that the country will also be celebrating 30 years of its independence.

The appeal comes amid a backdrop of human rights abuses in the country as it attempts to gain greater international standing.

Earlier this year, it invited far-right French MEP Thierry Mariani to monitor legislative elections. He then posted photos of himself at a voting booth.

Mariani has in the past made similar visits to the Russian annexed part of Ukraine, stoking outrage for his tacit support of the illegal takeover.

Italian centre-right MEP Fulvio Martusciello also went to Kazakhstan to observe elections in a three-day itinerary that included museum visits and a state dinner.

Martusciello chairs the EU parliament delegation to the region - noting that some 160 Italian companies operate in Kazakhstan.

"That's a shame. They are really undermining the other independent international observers," said German Green MEP Viola von Cramon-Taubadel of the election visits.

Von Cramon-Taubadel, who is drafting the resolution on behalf of the Greens, says all the main political groups remain intent on naming and shaming Kazakhstan.

"All bigger political groups are very much in favour of clear rhetoric of naming the victims of the regime, of naming at least some of the political prisoners," she said.

"We really tried to name [the] most prominent cases who died recently in prison. I mean, people got tortured and afterwards you have these fabricated stories about hooligans killing prisoners," she added.

She says the Kazakhs have also been spending lots of money on lobbying the European Parliament, including financing bogus studies on human rights.

The central Asian former Soviet state has also been currying relations with MEPs in one of the so-called "friendship groups" - an unregulated body used by foreign states to gain backdoor access to the European Parliament.

The chair of the group is Polish conservative MEP Ryszard Czarnecki, who was awarded a Kazakh Order of Friendship Award shortly after the elections.

"If you look a bit broader you can also see that there is no political opposition around," noted Philippe Dam, a researcher at Human Rights Watch.

Dam said Kazakhstan has jailed journalists, banned political opposition parties, and cracked down on civil society and NGOs.

He noted numerous pledges by the country's president to initiate reforms, but that a campaign of silencing state critics remains.

"Kazakhstan is trying to appear as a modern country, as a modern economy, but is still not respecting basic rights," he said.

The European Union appears to agree.

Earlier this month, it reprimanded Kazakhstan for suspending and imposing fines on NGOs.

It said such action limits internal reforms and damages the country's international reputation.

With the European Parliament now set to vote on a resolution on human rights in the country, Kazakhstan has since reversed its NGO crackdown.

But Dam remains sceptical of the recent overture, noting authorities can still use existing legislation to launch another crackdown anytime.

"The reality is that the suspension of the fines and sanctions on the NGOs should not be the end of the story," he said.


Far-right MEP resigns from EU Endowment for Democracy

French far-right MEP Thierry Mariani said he is resigning as a board member of the European Endowment for Democracy. His replacement may be Jerome Riviere - another far-right French MEP from the Identity and Democracy group.


EU needs to press for Kazakhstan reforms now

With several trade union leaders in jail, the EU has one last chance to push Kazakhstan to improve its human rights record before ratifying a new cooperation agreement.

EU defends Kazakh leader on human rights

The European Commission has said reforms in Kazakhstan are “promising” despite reports by NGOs that Astana has “stepped-up” its crackdown on opposition activists.


Is EU serious about human rights in Kazakhstan?

Kazakhstan has never had an election deemed free-and-fair by credible international observers. Kazakh authorities show unwavering intolerance towards any group, movement, or party critical of the government, and have arbitrarily applied abusive 'extremism' accusations against political opponents.


Aid agencies clam up in Congo sex-for-work scandal

The European Commission has 25 documents, including emails, in its possession that contains "information about potential crimes" involving aid agency staff in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. EUobserver received a partial disclosure of the documents.


Ukraine — what's been destroyed so far, and who pays?

More than 50 percent of Ukraine's energy infrastructure, large parts of its transport network and industrial capacity, around 150,000 residential buildings damaged or destroyed. The bill is between €378bn to €919bn.

Latest News

  1. EU to press South Korea on arming Ukraine
  2. Aid agencies clam up in Congo sex-for-work scandal
  3. Ukraine — what's been destroyed so far, and who pays?
  4. EU sending anti-coup mission to Moldova in May
  5. Firms will have to reveal and close gender pay-gap
  6. Why do 83% of Albanians want to leave Albania?
  7. Police violence in rural French water demos sparks protests
  8. Work insecurity: the high cost of ultra-fast grocery deliveries

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFBWWEFBWW calls for the EC to stop exploitation in subcontracting chains
  2. InformaConnecting Expert Industry-Leaders, Top Suppliers, and Inquiring Buyers all in one space - visit Battery Show Europe.
  3. EFBWWEFBWW and FIEC do not agree to any exemptions to mandatory prior notifications in construction
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ways to prevent gender-based violence
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCSW67: Economic gender equality now! Nordic ways to close the pension gap
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersCSW67: Pushing back the push-back - Nordic solutions to online gender-based violence

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us