Trio of ex-presidents: why did Václav Klaus, Abdullah Gul and Danilo Türk come to Astana

56 political scientists, diplomats, economists and public figures from more than 20 countries discussed a number of issues regarding the Eurasian development and peace at the third meeting of the Astana Club.

The international discussion platform gathered more than 60 participants from 27 countries, including prominent politicians, diplomats, distinguished political scientists, authoritative researchers and leading experts of the largest think tanks of the United States, Russia, China, India, Europe, the Middle East, Central and South-East Asia. For the first time, top-ranking politicians – ex-Heads of State Abdullah Gul (Turkey), Václav Klaus (Czech Republic), Danilo Türk (Slovenia) – joined the club's work.


The discussion was moderated by the popular TV journalist from the BBC channel, host of the "HARDtalk" program  Stephen Sackur. A man who was able to get such great political figures as George W. Bush, Hugo Chavez, Bill Clinton, etc. to reveal themselves. His harsh political interviews that make it impossible to evade direct questions beat all the records of popularity.

This time, the British presenter was in the midst of the conversation of the people who may be called trendsetters of world politics.


First of all, the most noticeable was the trio of ex-presidents who, after the end of their political career, actively joined scientific, expert and academic activities. They maintain the status of the headliners in matters of international relations.

Václav Klaus is one of the most influential Czech politicians. Before his presidency (2003-2013), he went the way of political ascent. Survived the “Prague Spring,” and after the Velvet Revolution of 1989 became one of the founders of the “Civic Forum” movement. Behind him were the key positions  in public administration (minister, speaker of parliament, chairman of the government). He is considered an ardent Eurosceptic. Recently, he has been paying special attention to the analysis of contemporary migration processes.


Abdullah Gul is known as the first Islamist president in Turkey. Being an adherent of Islamic values, in 2001, he founded the Justice and Development Party together with Recep Erdogan, which remains the governing party to this day. Gul is a staunch supporter of European integration. It was during his presidency (2007-2014) that Turkey held fast-paced negotiations regarding joining the EU.

Danilo Türk before his presidency of Slovenia (2007-2012) had worked for more than 20 years in the UN system. He not only represented the interests of his state but also actively participated in the internal processes of the UN administration. He mainly dealt with the protection of national minorities rights. Now he is positioned as a specialist in the field of international law and human rights.


Another participant in this dialogue was George Friedman, a man with an equally prominent name in geopolitics and security. The popularity of the founder of Stratfor is largely due to his strategic forecasts in the international geopolitical arena. It should be noted that the author of such bestsellers as “The Next 100 Years,” “The Next Decade,” managed, for example, to predict in advance the UK's withdrawal from the EU and the complication of relations between the US and Germany.

Kazakhstan was represented in a worthy manner by Speaker of the Senate of the Parliament Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev, who once again confirmed his reputation as a true diplomat, which he is not only by profession but also in spirit and by vocation.


Issues discussed

The first. The general scenario of the dialogue was the balance of interests of world and regional powers in Greater Eurasia. At the same time, the main rhetoric turned out to be that the EU is experiencing an internal development crisis. This is a series of financial, economic, political and migration challenges. In this regard, the countries of the European Union, concerned with their own problems (Brexit, Catalonia, the overall economic stagnation), will be in secondary positions as partners for the remaining subjects of Greater Eurasia.

The second. According to Václav Klaus, the inherent principles of the functioning of the EU are deformed and require a serious revision, and to save Europe from a permanent stagnation, Europe can return to free markets and reject protectionist policies.


The third. It is noteworthy that the defender of EU interests in this group of speakers was Abdullah Gul, who urged the European Union to realize its own power and influence provided they are losing the position of the global player. He also stressed that Turkey itself retains the desire to get into the European family in order to adopt its high standards while remaining a Muslim country. Gul also drew attention to the fact that the center of international politics is shifting to Asia and Turkey, one of the first countries to recognize these trends and strategically reorient to the East.

The fourth. Touching upon the prospects of cooperation between the EU and Central Asia, Danilo Türk noted the importance of understanding the value of partnership in the fight against international terrorism. It is important to increase the level of mutual trust in the exchange of confidential information.

The fifth. George Friedman, constantly speaking from the position of the consolidation the geopolitical interests of the United States, focused on the lack of clear views of America on the prospects for the development of the EU. However, his personal opinion was reduced to the fact that this is the Europe’s problem. The US is more interested in the future of the European-American free trade zone. As is well known, the US and Germany have not been able to reach compromise solutions on these issues for 4 years. Against  the long period of disagreements, the positive prospects of the Transatlantic partnership remain doubtful. According to Friedman, this also applies to NATO, which has exhausted its potential and does not fulfill its functions in its current form.


The sixth. During the discussion, Kasym-Zhomart Tokayev confirmed Kazakhstan's commitment to multi-vector principles, noting that Europe will continue to remain one of the key partners of Kazakhstan and Central Asia. However, in his opinion, the strategic role is currently assigned to the Chinese “Belt and Road” project, which transforms the balance of power in the region and around the world. This network of trade routes is designed to consolidate the ties between the EU and Central Asia, Kazakhstan being a link.

At the same time, Tokayev acknowledged certain problems in the work of the Eurasian Economic Union, which are connected with Western sanctions against Russia. Kazakhstan is trying to help the United States, Russia, and the EU to find common ground not only in trade issues but also in politics. To achieve this goal, it will certainly take a lot of time. However, it is difficult to talk about free trade in Greater Eurasia until it is done.

All this is only a fraction of the complex challenges touched upon during the discussion. In fact, there was a sound talk with direct questions and outspoken comments.