Kazakhstan’s deputy prime minister has visited Brussels, meeting with Britain’s Douglas Alexander, minister for European affairs, during a meeting of the EU-Kazakh co-operation council. He has heard a robust demand from Alexander that any OSCE member aspiring to the group’s presidency must satisfy civil and democratic values common to all members. “The cooperation council emphasized the need for increased efforts by the Kazakhstan authorities to comply fully with international norms and standards including those of the OSCE, in the fields of law, democracy and human rights, in particular as regards elections, freedom of the media, free operation of political parties and registration of non-governmental organisations with public authorities,” he said.Kazakhstan could play a crucial stabilising role in central Asia. Its vast land mass borders many troubled regions, but the country itself is criticised as a virtual dictatorship, despite the trappings of democracy. President Neersultan Nazarbaiev has run the place for the last 15 years, and will run again in elections the opposition wants in December, but which may take place a year later.