A New Beginning for Turkic world: Op-ed
Baghdad Amreyev- The Secretary General of Turkic Council
The Cooperation Council of Turkic Speaking States, known in short as the Turkic Council, is about to undergo a breakthrough in its journey. The Turkic Council Heads of State Summit will take place tomorrow in Istanbul and significant decisions for the future of the Turkic world are expected to be taken.
In the last two to three years, the Turkic Council has marked a remarkable milestone with a strong record of achievements. It has demonstrated the capacity to successfully fulfill its mandate, which was given to it more than a decade ago in Nakhchivan by the founding member states --Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkey.
Enlarged by granting observer status to Hungary in 2018 and the joining of Uzbekistan as a full member in 2019, the Turkic Council is looking forward to seeing Turkmenistan formally integrated into Turkic cooperation at the summit in Istanbul.
The Turkic world has gained more attention in regional and international politics in recent years. The clear indication of this interest is that around 15 countries have sought observer status at the Turkic Council. The role of Turkey is growing not only in regional politics but also in the international arena. The spectacular victory of Azerbaijan in the Karabakh war and the liberation of its occupied lands have changed world politics dramatically. Traditionally, Kazakhstan is playing a critical role in regional politics, while Uzbekistan is getting stronger with its population and economy. On the other hand, Kyrgyzstan is gaining stability with its new government, while Hungary is bringing the Turkic world to the West. In short, our countries achieved many successes in recent years.
The Turkic world is getting stronger in regional and international politics thanks to the active policy of the Turkic Council as an international organization. In the last three years, activities of the Turkic Council are well-organized, properly planned, significantly advanced and focused on targets. As a result, our organization became a more visible, respected and attractive organization. We convened four summits in the last two and a half years. Every summit was a turning point in the development of our multilateral approach. The last face-to-face Summit in Baku was a historical turning point for the Turkic World. It marked the completion of the first 10 years of the establishment process and the beginning of the integration period for our countries.
It is fair to emphasize that during the Karabakh war, the Turkic world went through a difficult test. The Turkic peoples closely followed the conflict and supported the Azerbaijani people in every possible way. The return of the territories of Karabakh and the restoration of historical justice turned Azerbaijan and Turkey into states whose opinion began to be reckoned within the region.
From day one, the Turkic Council has immediately reacted to the Karabakh war and supported Azerbaijan strongly. President Ilham Aliyev said the Turkic Council was the second power after Turkey that could strongly support Azerbaijan.
I had issued many statements in Istanbul, Baku, Tashkent, Budapest, Ganja as well as in the liberated territories of Karabakh in support of Azerbaijan.
The consequences of the support provided to Azerbaijan during the Karabakh War strengthened the Turkic world and caused an enormous advantage.
The Turkic states supported Azerbaijan in every possible way at regional and international levels, and new impetus appeared in the unification and strengthening of the Turkic world. Many observers have said that the Turkic world became considerably different after the Karabakh war.
Cooperation among the Turkic states expanded and enhanced after the Karabakh victory in fields such as economy, transportation, tourism, culture and new technologies.
We have taken important cooperation steps in various fields against the COVID-19 pandemic during these challenging times for the whole world. The intergovernmental institution that organized the first Heads of State Summit to combat the coronavirus was the Turkic Council. We held the Health Ministers' Meeting in an online format immediately after the summit and established a health coordination committee under the chairmanship of deputy health ministers. Within the scope of this committee, we set up the supply chain and health science committee and initiated sharing experiences among our countries.
We also took effective steps in the field of trade against coronavirus. Our trade ministers gathered in an online format and shared their experiences and measures they have applied to overcome the difficulties in domestic and foreign trade due to the pandemic, where they decided to increase trade under pandemic conditions and reduce the socio-economic effects of the COVID-19 crisis. Turkic Council countries also agreed to develop a more competitive common trade system and to increase e-commerce opportunities among themselves by cooperating on digital economy and e-commerce. Our member and observer countries agreed to establish a "green corridor" to make it easier for human and essential consumer goods, medicines and medical equipment to cross borders.
We have taken decisive steps in the field of transportation, which is one of our most important areas of cooperation in the fight against COVID-19. Our transport ministers, gathered through video conference, formed the "Transport Coordination Committee" in order to quickly solve the problems caused by the pandemic and to coordinate transport and logistics operations. They agreed to cooperate on issues such as transit permits, transit fees and driver visas among our countries.
Our member states aim to create a favorable environment for trade and investment by facilitating customs and transport processes and simplifying financial and banking transactions in order to gradually implement the free movement of goods, capital, services and technologies, taking into account the need for integration and development of national economies.
Turkic Council countries also enhance their multilateral cooperation in the fields of foreign policy, economy, science, culture, education, security, law, environment, energy, transportation, investment and finance.
Despite great achievements in the last two to three years, the Turkic Council Member states require a good deal of patient work to face the challenges of the 21st century. Looking at the period ahead of us, the Turkic Council intends to identify remaining challenges and keep the positive momentum that has been built over the years. For this reason, according to the decision of the heads of the states, as the secretariat, we prepared a comprehensive document titled “Turkic World Vision 2040 and Strategy 2021-2026.”
"The Turkic World Vision - 2040" (Vision 2040) offers the long-term context for development and integration efforts of the member states, which relies on developing political cohesion to act as one on a wide range of international issues; supporting more dynamic cooperation under the umbrella of the Turkic Council based on the convergence of economic policies and all relevant regulatory frameworks; achieving full trade integration; establishing Turkic single investment space; realizing digital integration; upgrading transport and energy connectivity; and enabling intra-regional mobility.
Together with the adoption of Vision 2040, activities of the Turkic Council will start to evolve from cooperation toward integration. The Turkic Council will be structured around the five-year strategy and work programs and facilitated with supportive action plans in order to achieve the long-term goals. As a first step, the "Turkic Council Strategy 2021-2026" (Strategy 2026) is prepared to set the context and identify clear targets of cooperation until 2026.
Vision 2040 and Strategy 2026, which will be adopted by our leaders, mark a new and more dynamic partnership among member states where they shift the member state relations from cooperation to gradual economic integration. The economy is the most important priority. Market integration is impossible without close political cooperation. In this regard, Vision 2040 and Strategy 2026 combine both elements. The goals and proposed actions in Vision 2040 and Strategy 2026 are realistic and achievable. They take into account the existing political, economic and social realities of the member states.
The Heads of State Summit in Istanbul will be instrumental in instituting a new way forward. Our heads of the state will mandate us with crucial new assignments. We have to work even harder in order to empower and improve the interconnection of our economies, to improve transport and energy communication between our countries, to expand cooperation in digitalization and ensure more efficient use of digital technologies, to promote and popularize common cultural and historical heritage as well as natural attractions to encourage tourism, to develop and invest in the health sector to ensure the good health and well-being of our citizens, and to increase interaction between our youth, diaspora and the media.
The Turkic Council has come a long way since its formation, but we are just starting a new journey. Our vision is clear, our work is plenty, and our time is short. We will work tirelessly to achieve the goals set by our leaders. I believe that the future of the Turkic world is bright and that the new era ahead of us will make our common future even more glorious.
*Baghdad Amreyev is the the Secretary General of Turkic Council