Turkic consolidation: Ever-closer union on horizon

17 November 2021 17:41 (UTC+04:00)

By Orkhan Amashov

The idea of Turkic unity, for a long time viewed as a mere fantasy and considered by most venerable political thinkers as the preserve of those fancying themselves to be the spiritual descendants of early 20th-century Turanist ideologues, is now too serious a project to be sneered at. Those essential fundamentals, centred upon common cultural, linguistic and ethnic ties, naturally remain of supreme importance and are destined to be immutable constants underpinning the Turkic unity in the long run, yet what is different now is that the nations comprising this world are in a better position to envisage a shared future, based on deeper economic and political integration.

Name changed, status enhanced

At the 8th Summit of the Cooperation Council of Turkic-speaking States, the decision was taken to rename the institution’s name into the Organisation of Turkic States (OTS). The name change is not a mere cosmetic issue initiated to impress those whose attention span is circumscribed to externalities. It is indicative of a real change in status. Previously, the Council was an advisory and consultative body, the decisions of which did not have a binding effect on its members, whereas it is now an international organisation, the members of which are obligated to fulfil jointly taken decisions.

It also means that Turkic states are now moving from cooperation to integration, in other words, if previously the Council’s main objective was to envisage fields in which member states could be brought together, now it will be aiming to achieve deeper consolidation by means of integrating the countries’ economic and political systems into one cohesive unit.

"The Turkic World Vision – 2040" envisages the aforementioned transition in a crystal-clear manner. It entails elements related to the convergence of economic policies and relevant regulatory frameworks, achievement of full trade integration, the establishment of a Turkic single investment space, realisation of digital integration, upgrading of transport and energy connectivity and intra-regional mobility. "Strategy – 2026", on the other hand, sets the context and identifies clear targets for 2026. A close examination of both documents adopted during the summit demonstrates that the long-term intention is to achieve market integration together with close political cooperation.

On the other hand, another dimension of the recent change is that, by virtue of having transformed into an international organisation, the OTS will be able to gain observer status in the UN and influence a wider scope of international politics in a more effective way, becoming a bigger voice and a force to be reckoned with globally.

Karabakh momentum

The Second Karabakh War was a critical moment for the revaluation of Turkic unity. It was an important test and by showing their unanimous and unequivocal support for Azerbaijan’s just position, the member countries rose to the occasion most majestically. Baku’s historic and monumental triumph fortified the Turkic spirit and gave it a sense of enhanced purpose. The Council’s decision to award Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev with the Supreme Order of the Turkic World was the moment that encapsulated this fundamental development.

Another implication of last year’s war is that, in light of Turkey’s moral and political support for Azerbaijan, the exemplary relations between the two countries are viewed as a possible model for the wider Turkic world. There is a school of thought that the spirit of the Shusha declaration, signed in June 2021, could possibly be projected into the full framework of the OTS. Such a surmise is perhaps a little far-fetched, given the present state of affairs, which indicates that long and arduous work is yet to be done but, as a noble intention, its value is unlikely to be doubted.

Expansion

What was an institution initially comprising four countries, namely, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, now has seven members. Uzbekistan joined the Turkic Council in 2019 as a full member. Hungary has been an observer since 2018, and it is thought that Budapest seeks to be a full member. One of the important conclusions of the last summit was that Turkmenistan, a country strongly committed to the principle of neutrality, decided to join the organisation as an observer, which now means that all independent Turkic states are under the same umbrella.

Although some may argue that the OTS, by definition, should be limited to Turkic states, it is not entirely unthinkable that other countries, with close ties to, or sharing the same strategic objectives with member nations, may consider joining it. In fact, as OTS Secretary-General Baghdad Amreyev wrote in his recent op-ed for Hurriyet Daily News, around 15 countries have sought observer status so far.

The Turkic Council has made a long journey since the time of the Nakhchivan agreement. What were declarative purposes are now practical and imminent objectives. If one attempts to read the minds of those driving this grand project and properly understand the importance of the developments that have taken place over the past 12 years, one will see that what is now the Organisation of Turkic States is meant to evolve into an ever-closer union.

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