Oleksii Plotnikov, PhD, International Judiciary

An event that took place in Istanbul on 13 November went almost unnoticed both in Ukraine. It was the Eighth Summit of the Cooperation Council of Turkic-Speaking States, which announced that the name of this organization was changed, and itis now called the Organization of Turkic States. The Summit also approved the Turkic World Vision 2040 [1].

For Ukraine, these events are of interest in several aspects. First, it is home to at least three indigenous Turkic-speaking peoples (Crimean Tatars, Karaites, Krymchaks), one group that may in the future claim the status of an indigenous people (Urums), and one Turkic-speaking people exercising their right for self-determination within a neighboring state, but which ethnic territory is partially located in Ukraine (Gagauz). Secondly, Turkey is a neighbor of Ukraine and our partner in political, economic, and military fields. 

Thirdly, it is in the interests of Ukraine to maintain its influence in international politics, which is impossible without understanding the global integration processes, especially those taking place so close to the Ukrainian borders. Fourth, it is about developing economic opportunities from participation in some OTS projects in the present or in the future. For sure, integration with European structures remains a strategic priority, but the opportunities that open up thanks to cooperation with other integration associations should not go unnoticed either.

The roots of integration of the Turkic peoples can be traced back to the ideas of Pan-Turkism that arose in the intellectual environment in the 19th century as part of the liberal enlightenment movement of Jadidism. One of the main ideologists of this movement was the prominent Crimean Tatar public and political figure İsmail Gaspıralı [2]. These ideas retained some popularity during the twentieth century, although they could not be realized, since the Turkic peoples became part of large integration projects: some of them ended up in the USSR, while Turkey in 1949 became a member of the Council of Europe and applied for membership in other European associations, in particular the European Union (regarding the development of the ideas of Pan-Turkism, their interaction with other Turkic integration projects, such as Ottomanism, as well as the impact on modern Turkic integration, there are some complex expert researches [3]).

The collapse of the USSR opened up new opportunities for the rapprochement of the Turkic-speaking peoples. The first step was made in 1993 with the creation of the International Organization of Turkic Culture (TURKSOY), which brought together Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Turkey. Representatives of other Turkic-speaking regions, such as Tatarstan, Gagauzia, Northern Cyprus and others, participate as observers [4]. This organization is comparable to other global cultural and linguistic projects such as the International Organization of La Francophonie or the Organization of Ibero-American States.

The gravitation towards the cultural component of integration is also observed in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Turkic-speaking states (TurkPa), which was formed in Istanbul in 2009 [5]. This union of the parliaments of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkey (Turkmenistan and Hungary limited themselves to the role of observers) serves for consultations and development of common positions on the approximation of legislation, especially on cultural heritage, history and art, discusses political, social, economic and humanitarian issues, organizes exchange of information.

In the same 2009, the Nakhichevan Agreement was signed between Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkey on the establishment of the Cooperation Council for Turkic-speaking states [6]. Later, Uzbekistan joined this organization, and Turkmenistan and Hungary became observers [7].

The objectives of this agreement are formulated as broadly as possible. They include the establishment of cooperation on security issues, political, trade and economic, investment, customs, legal, scientific, cultural issues. Within the framework of the organization, mechanisms have been created for regular interaction of senior officials of states (Council of Heads of State, Council of Foreign Ministers, Senior Officials Committee), as well as permanent consultative and advisory institutions (Council of Elders of Turkic-speaking States, Secretariat).

The Council closely interacted with TURKSOY and TURKPA. A number of new organizations have been created under its auspices, in particular:

– Turkic Business Council, which deals with issues of economic cooperation by establishing interaction between the business circles of the member states;

– International Turkic Academy, coordinating and supporting scientific research in the linguistic, literary, cultural, historical and ethnographic field;

– Turkic Cultural Heritage Foundation, cooperating with TURKSOY and the International Turkic Academy for the protection of cultural heritage;

– Turkic Chamber of Commerce and Industry, contributing to the establishment of commercial relations between private sectors of the member-states [8].

It is therefore evident, that the Organization of Turkic States did not appear out of nowhere, and its activities, in addition to political declarations, have a completely practical dimension. Of course, the level of integration here is still shallow. The Cooperation Council of Turkic States is incomparable to either the EU, or even the much weaker Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The Turkic organization did not create its own legal regime, did not accept its own international treaties, did not ensure the existence of a free economic or customs area and, in fact, remained more a coordination than an integration association. However, it enabled creation of mechanisms to achieve these goals in the future.

The Eighth regular summit of the Cooperation Council of Turkic Stateswas held in Istanbul on November 12-13. It announced the adoption of two program documents – the Declaration [9] and the Turkic World Vision 2040 [10]. The former summarizes the results of the previous development; the latter is devoted to the general strategy for the coming years.

The Declaration recognizes the many successes of the Cooperation Council and related structures. Its main practical aspect is the change in the name of the organization and the adoption of the Vision 2040. The Declaration also notes the need to develop a roadmap for the development of the Organization of Turkic States for the period between 2022 and 2026.

The Vision 2040 pays great attention to the development and promotion of culture and common identity. However, it also addresses more practical directions of development of a political and economic nature. In particular, already the preamble emphasizes the movement towards the institutionalization of cooperation from a regional association to a regional organization. The adoption of a new name testifies to the achievement of this institutional goal and indicates the possibility of transition to cooperation in the format of an international organization.

It is noteworthy that the Concept-2040 defines a specific economic basis for further deeper cooperation. It notes that the member states of the Organization are striving to turn into an active regional economic group, and a territorial basis for trade corridors between East and West, North and South. Unlike political goals, which are formulated in more than general terms, economic goals are specified rather specifically. Among them:

– liberalization of the transport sector of the member states, in order to speed up transport operations and minimize logistics costs so as to achieve a fast, stable and unimpeded transport movement along the Trans-Caspian International East-West Middle Corridor;

– capitalization of existing and creation of new promising regional transport corridors and their integration with the Trans-Caspian International East-West Middle Corridor;

– work to create a regime of free movement of goods, capital, services, technologies and persons between the member states;

– transformation of the Trans-Caspian International East-West Middle Corridor into the shortest and safest transport route between East and West and the incorporation of member states into regional and global supply chains and an increase in the value of goods transported along the Corridor;

– simplification and harmonization of customs and transit procedures, transport policies, technical standards used in the operation of the Trans-Caspian International East-West Middle Corridor;

– increased investment to ensure inter-regional connectivity and the development of interconnected transport infrastructure;

– ensuring interaction in the implementation of international agreements in the field of transport, including through the creation of environmentally friendly conditions for transportation and stimulation of innovation;

– development of strategic infrastructure projects in the field of energy, such as gas corridors that meet the needs of the Member States and European countries in the field of global energy security.

This is not a complete list of the economic aspects of the development of Turkic cooperation, set out in the Vision 2040, but this is enough for two main conclusions.

Firstly, in the Organization of Turkic States is not just a cultural club. It has a solid material foundation that unites the economies of the member states – the new Silk Road between the most powerful economies of the world. The Turkic states strive to be not just passive intermediaries on this path, but to add their own contribution both by energy resources and by adding value to goods transferred via this path. An analogy can be drawn to the formation of the European Union, where ideological (European unity) and economic (creation of common economic space) reasons played leading roles.

Secondly, the presence of not only an ideological, but also an economic basis in the OTS speaks in favor of the fact that the project will be viable, long-term, and will lead to genuine integration. Harmonization of legislation, control of the free movement of capital, goods, persons, and technologies will require permanent intergovernmental bodies, as well as the creation of an array of international legal norms that will regulate the relevant activities. One can expect the emergence of the international legal regime of the OTS, which, in turn, as itself will stimulate further rapprochement of the member states.

Ukraine’s interest in the activities of the OTS is obvious. The territorial proximity and presence of Turkic-speaking indigenous peoples in Ukraine, first of all in the Crimea is complemented by the possibility and even inevitability of our state’s participation in the work of transcontinental transport routes and ensuring energy security by obtaining energy resources directly from the Turkic countries without the mediation of the aggressor state.

Specific political and economic benefits of cooperation with the OTS should be left to politicians and economists, but from a legal point of view, it should be underlined that Ukraine has the possibility of rapprochement with the Turkic organization through the mechanism of participation as an observer. There are no obstacles to the development of such cooperation, other than insufficient attention from decision-makers. As of now, it is only known that the First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Emine Ceppar said that discussions were under way on the possibility of Ukraine/s participation in the Turkic Council as an observer [11].

It seems that the transformation of the Council into the Organization of Turkic States is an excellent opportunity for a new round of such negotiations and the development of more concrete solutions that may be important for the de-occupation and reintegration of the Crimea.

1. https://www.turkkon.org/en/haberler/eighth-summit-of-the-organization-of-turkic-states-was-held-in-istanbul_2394

2. https://eppd13.cz/wp-content/uploads/2016/2016-3-3/06.pdf

3. https://shron1.chtyvo.org.ua/Buza_Kateryna/Zovnishnia_polityka_Turetskoi_Respubliky_u_konteksti_vnutrishnikh_ta_zovnishnikh_vzaiemovplyviv.pdf?PHPSESSID=m028qv5j6skreh8g2uu0b7g092

4. https://www.turksoy.org/ru/turksoy/about

5. https://www.turk-pa.org/en/content/docs/other_docs/236_the_istanbul_agreement_on_the_parliamentary_assembly_of_turkicspeaking_countries__21_november_2008

6. https://www.turkkon.org/assets/pdf/temel_belgeler/nakhchivan-agreement-on-the-establishment-of-the-copperation-council-of-turkic-speaking-states-1-en.pdf

7. https://www.turkkon.org/en/turk-konseyi-hakkinda

8. https://www.mfa.gov.tr/turk-konseyi-en.en.mfa

9. https://www.turkkon.org/assets/pdf/haberler/declaration-of-8th-summit-2395-95.pdf

10. https://www.turkkon.org/assets/pdf/haberler/turkic-world-vision-2040-2396-97.pdf

11. https://tyzhden.ua/Culture/251585