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Fostering Unity Among Turkic Nations

Fostering Unity Among Turkic Nations
Фото: Organization of Turkic States 31.05.2024 18:15 2237

The Turkic Council, officially known as the Organization of Turkic States (OTS), is an international organization comprising countries that share Turkic languages and cultural heritage. Founded in 2009, the Turkic Council aims to promote comprehensive cooperation among its member states and to foster a sense of unity and shared identity.

This year, the Organization of Turkic States, which aims to unite the Turkic peoples and increase cultural and economic cooperation, will hold another summit. After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the independence of several Turkic-speaking states, relations among these nations gained new momentum. The pace of communication increased. At the initiative of the then-President of Turkey, Turgut Özal, the leaders of the brotherly countries held the first summit of Turkic nations. Later, in 2009, the foundation of the current Organization of Turkic States was laid in Nakhchivan, Azerbaijan, establishing the Cooperation Council of Turkic-Speaking States.

The Turkic Council was established on October 3, 2009, in Nakhchivan, Azerbaijan, with the signing of the Nakhchivan Agreement by Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Turkey. This agreement laid the foundation for the council's objectives, which include promoting political dialogue, economic collaboration, education, science, and cultural ties among member states.

The Main Goal is Economic Development

The Turkic Council focuses on several key areas to enhance cooperation and solidarity among its member states. The council seeks to harmonize the foreign policies of member states and to support each other in international forums. By promoting trade, investment, and economic integration, the Turkic Council aims to create a more interconnected and prosperous region. Initiatives include the establishment of a common market and collaboration in various sectors such as energy, transportation, and tourism.

Recognizing the importance of shared heritage, the council fosters cultural exchange programs, joint research projects, and academic partnerships. The establishment of the Turkic University Union is a significant step in this direction, facilitating cooperation between universities in member states. The Turkic Council works on enhancing regional security through collaborative efforts in combating terrorism, organized crime, and other transnational threats. Joint military exercises and intelligence sharing are also part of the council's security strategy.

From the beginning, the Organization of Turkic States was founded with the aim of strengthening economic and cultural relations. This objective remains unchanged, as evidenced by the statements of state leaders at the summits and the documents adopted.

The organization demonstrates its vitality and importance in the current geopolitical climate. The coronavirus pandemic, followed by the war in Ukraine, significantly disrupted global supply chains. Additionally, instability in the Middle East and Afghanistan impacts countries in the heart of Eurasia.

Economic sanctions have made it difficult for goods from the East to reach the West, primarily due to routes passing through Russia. The Organization of Turkic States has long promoted the development of the "Middle Corridor" route as an alternative. Due to sanctions on the Trans-Siberian route, the "Transcaspian" international transport route has gained increased importance.

Turkic-speaking countries also play a significant role in mitigating conflicts in the Middle East. For example, the "Astana process" has been taking place in Kazakhstan’s capital for several years. Apart from Iran and Russia, Turkey is a guarantor for the negotiations aimed at improving the situation in Syria. Furthermore, the peace and stability of Afghanistan are concerns shared by the Turkic nations.

 

Unity Among Turkic States

Individually, each member has not achieved the economic prominence of China or the USA, but collectively, the Turkic states have significant influence in the global market. The combined population of the Organization of Turkic States is about 150 million people, approximately 2% of the world's population. Their gross domestic product (GDP) reaches $1.6 trillion, ranking 13th globally and accounting for 1.8% of the world's GDP.

These states are rich in mineral resources. For example, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan (an observer state) have oil reserves totaling 38.2 billion barrels, equating to 2.2% of the world's oil reserves. Additionally, these countries have gas reserves of 19.2 trillion cubic meters, more than 10% of the world's natural gas reserves.

What distinguishes the Turkic Council is its member states’ membership in various economic organizations. Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan are part of the Eurasian Economic Union. Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan are members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Turkey benefit from the World Trade Organization. Besides Turkey, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan are members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. Turkey has been pursuing European Union membership for many years, while Hungary is a member of both the EU and the Schengen Area.

Therefore, there is ample reason to promote the economy of these brotherly states and strengthen trade. Last year, trade turnover among the members exceeded $22 billion, with potential to increase by 1.5 times. At the 10th summit held in the capital, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev proposed systematizing the standards and terminology of member countries to achieve this goal. This initiative paves the way for the free export of goods to a common market, and uniform standards could increase GDP by about 1% annually.

Since its inception, the Turkic Council has achieved several milestones. The council has facilitated various economic projects, including infrastructure development and energy cooperation. The Trans-Caspian East-West Middle Corridor, which aims to enhance connectivity between Europe and Asia, is a notable example.

The Turkic Council has successfully organized numerous cultural events, festivals, and exhibitions that celebrate the rich cultural heritage of Turkic nations. Scholarship programs and student exchanges have been established, promoting academic collaboration and mutual understanding among the youth of member states.

However, the Turkic Council also faces challenges, including geopolitical tensions, economic disparities, and varying levels of political stability among member states. Balancing national interests with collective goals requires careful diplomacy and continuous dialogue.

Agricultural Development is Necessary

Unfortunately, the agricultural sector in OTS member states has significantly declined over the past thirty years. Food security has not been a primary agenda item. Currently, a large portion of the population in member states depends on agriculture: 63% in Kyrgyzstan, 50% in Uzbekistan, 47% in Turkmenistan, 42% in Azerbaijan, 37% in Kazakhstan, 23% in Turkey, and 27% in Hungary.

Agriculture significantly contributes to Uzbekistan’s GDP, accounting for 26.1%. In Kyrgyzstan, this figure is 15.3%. In developed countries, the share of agriculture in GDP is less than 5%, as their populations primarily live in urban areas and the industry is highly automated. Although fewer people work in agriculture, they produce enough food for the population, and these economies are diversified.

The Organization of Turkic States has much to do in this sector. First, agriculture needs to be developed with modern technologies and automation. Secondly, agriculture should not remain the sole economic focus but should also be integrated into production. Most importantly, the water problem needs to be addressed. Central Asian glaciers are melting rapidly due to global warming, leading to less snow in the mountains in winter and water shortages in summer, adversely affecting farmers and food production.

 

Beginning of Cultural Communication

The Organization of Turkic States also aims to strengthen cultural and humanitarian ties. Several institutions have been established to promote relations among the brotherly nations, spanning from Altai to Anatolia. For example, the TurkPA organization, established in 2008, fosters active inter-parliamentary relations among member countries. The Parliamentary Assembly of Turkic States adheres to principles of independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity, inviolability of state borders, equality, and non-interference in each other's internal affairs. By developing parliamentary diplomacy, it strengthens relations in all fields.

Founded in 1993, TURKSOY promotes cultural and humanitarian relations and introduces Turkic culture to the world. It plays a pivotal role in the mutual development of cultural and spiritual relations among Turkic-speaking countries. TURKSOY translates works of cultural figures into member countries' languages and organizes diverse cultural events. Acting akin to a UNESCO for Turkic peoples, TURKSOY enhances the preservation and dissemination of Turkic heritage on a global scale

The International Turkic Academy, known as TWESCO, was founded at the 2009 Nakhchivan summit as an international scientific center for studying the Turkic world. TWESCO uncovers data from archives, educates the younger generation about their shared heritage, and contributes to understanding the place of Turks in civilization through projects like "Common Turkic History," "Common Turkic Literature," and "Common Turkic Geography."

 

Future Prospects

The Turkic Council has the potential to play a significant role in shaping the geopolitical landscape of Central Asia and beyond. As member states continue to deepen their cooperation, the council can contribute to regional stability, economic growth, and cultural preservation. In the future, the Turkic Council aims to expand its membership and strengthen its institutional framework. Enhancing cooperation with other international organizations and countries with shared interests is also a strategic priority.

The VIII Summit of the Cooperation Council of Turkic-speaking States in Istanbul in 2021 saw the council renamed the Organization of Turkic States. A document titled "Future of the Turkish World - 2040" was also developed and approved at the 10th anniversary summit in Astana last year. It aims to raise political, economic, social, and cultural standards among member states, prioritize mutual cooperation, strengthen economic ties, increase trade, develop digital technologies, and jointly advance the energy sector. Free circulation of goods, services, and capital is a key priority. If these goals are realized, the Organization of Turkic States could become the Asian equivalent of the European Union.

The OTS countries aim to develop in several areas, including the promotion of the Trans-Caspian international transport corridor, which directly connects West and East, North and South through Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, and Turkey. Significant investments are being made in this route. On October 30, 2017, the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway section was opened for cargo transportation. The new Zangezur transport corridor will further expedite goods transportation. Last year, 1.7 million tons of cargo were transported through the Transcaspian route in just eight months, double the amount from the previous year.

The initiative to create a Turkic Investment Fund was supported by member states, with an agreement signed at the extraordinary summit in March 2023. This fund aims to develop trade and investment relations, finance small and medium-sized businesses, and support infrastructure projects and domestic trade. The fund’s authorized capital includes $350 million in paid-up shares and $150 million in additional callable shares, with each member state contributing $70 million in paid-up shares and holding equal voting rights. The document is currently being ratified by the member states’ parliaments.

Other initiatives include creating a modern technopark center, developing a "road map" for studying the common written heritage of Turkic peoples, establishing a network of Turkic universities, and cooperating in "green energy." In short, there are many plans in motion.

10th Anniversary Summit

When discussing the Organization of Turkic States, the idea of creating a Turanian Union often arises, raising questions about the potential for a military union. However, this issue has not been considered within the OTS framework, which focuses on strengthening economic, cultural, and humanitarian ties. If such a military alliance were considered, it would necessitate a reevaluation of the geopolitical situation, given that Turkey is a NATO member, and Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan are members of the Collective Security Treaty Organization. Thus, this topic is unlikely to be addressed in the near future.

Nevertheless, the Organization of Turkic States emphasizes security cooperation. At the summit in Astana, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev highlighted the importance of unity among Turkic people in the current unstable international climate. Therefore, strengthening cooperation in security to combat arms and drug trafficking, terrorism, extremism, and migration is essential.

The 10th Anniversary Summit of the Organization of Turkic States (OTS) concluded in Astana under the chairmanship of Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, President of Kazakhstan. Gathering the heads of member states in Kazakhstan, the birthplace of Turkic nations, the summit marked a significant milestone as the Cooperation Council of Turkic-speaking States, initiated by Kazakhstan, has evolved into a full-fledged international organization.

Addressing the summit, President Tokayev highlighted the adoption of the "Turkic World Vision 2040," emphasizing the strengthened unity among brotherly nations and the organization's commitment to common values. He stressed the importance of maintaining unity based on mutual trust and solidarity to pass it on to future generations, asserting the growing influence of the Turkic world on the global stage.

The President outlined eight main priorities for Kazakhstan's Chairmanship under the motto "TURKTIME," focusing on Traditions, Unity, Reforms, Knowledge, Trust, Investment, Mediation, and Energy. Each pillar received special emphasis in his address.

Underlining the significance of promoting Turkish unity, President Tokayev called for uniformity in the flags and emblems of the OTS and its structures, aiming to reinforce the shared history, culture, language, and mentality of Turkic peoples. He proposed collaborative efforts to explore common archives, research unexplored historical sources, and promote mutual understanding through cultural exchange, including TV series and animated films.

The President urged the systematization of standards and terminology among member states to facilitate free export and ensure annual GDP growth. He proposed the establishment of the OTS Reference Centre to ensure mutual recognition of product testing results and enhance cooperation in chemical and food industries.

Further, President Tokayev emphasized the need for reform to optimize the organization's activities and international integration. He proposed the appointment of permanent representatives to the OTS, strengthening the Secretary General's Office, and enhancing cooperation in electoral matters.

The President highlighted the importance of cooperation in education, science, and technology, suggesting the opening of branches of top universities, joint scientific events, and the development of artificial intelligence and aerospace industries.

Addressing security concerns, President Tokayev underscored the imperative of collective security against threats such as arms and drug trafficking, terrorism, extremism, and migration. He proposed the establishment of a collaborative effort against crime and information exchange between financial investigative bodies of member states.

President Tokayev identified investment as a key priority, calling for the expansion of interregional trade and investment in the economy. He highlighted the role of the Turkic Investment Fund and proposed the establishment of a Council of Turkic Green Finance.

Finally, President Tokayev outlined Kazakhstan's initiatives in the energy sector, emphasizing the importance of sustainable energy and the modernization of transportation routes. He proposed hosting the International Energy Forum and a regional climate change summit in Kazakhstan.

In conclusion, President Tokayev urged Turkic states to unite, emphasizing mutual support and joint effective actions for the prosperity and unity of the Turkic world. The 10th Anniversary Summit concluded with a renewed commitment to realizing the vision of a strong, prosperous, and unified Turkic world.

The Turkic Council represents a unique platform for Turkic-speaking countries to collaborate and promote their shared heritage and interests. By fostering unity and cooperation, the council contributes to the development and prosperity of its member states, while also playing a pivotal role in regional and global affairs. As it continues to evolve, the Turkic Council will undoubtedly have a lasting impact on the political, economic, and cultural landscape of the Turkic world.

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