Kazakhstan’s Energy Offer to EU Investors and Strikes by Oil Workers Raise Concerns in EU

Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan – The recent offer by Kazakhstan to European investors for the management of its Caspian Sea ports of Aktau and Kuryk, along with 22 airports, has drawn attention to the country’s strategic significance. These developments were discussed at the Global Gateway Investors Forum for the EU – Central Asia Transport Connectivity, where Kazakhstan and the European Union signed four memorandums worth over 800 million euros (US$865.7 million) in Brussels on January 29. This reflects a growing partnership aimed at further developing the Middle Corridor, also known as the Trans-Caspian International Transport Route (TITR), which serves as an alternative to existing East-West routes.

The significance of the Mangystau province, where the key ports of Aktau and Kuryk are located, goes beyond its potential as a transit hub. The province, along with Atyrau and West Kazakhstan provinces, is a major supplier of oil to the European Union and several other European countries outside the EU. Notably, about 85% of goods in transit from China to Europe pass through Kazakhstan, further highlighting its role in global trade and transportation.

Kazakhstan’s oil industry is a crucial component of its economy, accounting for approximately 1.8 million barrels a day and contributing significantly to the country’s export revenue. In 2023, the EU accounted for two-thirds of Kazakhstan’s total oil exports, emphasizing the country’s importance as an oil supplier to Europe.

However, recent strikes by oil workers in the Mangystau region have raised concerns about the stability of oil production and its impact on the country’s economy. The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has called for the dropping of sanctions against the striking workers and urged the Kazakh government to address the labor dispute through dialogue and respect for workers’ rights. The protests, which have been ongoing for over two months in some areas, have garnered attention both domestically and internationally.

Kazakhstan’s national oil company, KazMunayGas (KMG), has called on the striking workers to end their protests and engage in constructive dialogue to address their concerns. However, the long-term implications of the strikes on the region’s social and economic stability remain uncertain.

These developments raise questions about the future of Kazakhstan’s oil-producing region and the potential risks associated with ongoing labor disputes. As the country grapples with these challenges, the implications for its economy and stability remain a topic of concern for both domestic and international observers.