Last week, the VI Summit of the Cooperation Council of Turkic-speaking States (CCTS) was held in the Kyrgyz resort town of Cholpon-Ata. It was attended by the presidents of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev, Kyrgyzstan Sooronbay Zheenbekov, Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev. President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirzieyev and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban were invited to the summit as honored guests.
Meeting after a quarrel
This interstate format manifested itself back in the nineties, when Turkey entered the post-Soviet space in order to fix its geopolitical interests. At that time, Ankara was striving to become the center of the Turkic world. Fortunately, the Turkish economy was booming and was a good example for the former republics of Soviet Central Asia, which fell into a deep crisis after the collapse of the USSR.
At the first stage, the cooperation proceeded mainly in the development of Turkic arts and languages. Later parliaments of Turkic-speaking countries joined interstate communication. They even created their own Assembly, where, however, they also discussed humanitarian issues.
After the financial crisis of 2008, at the next meeting in the Azerbaijani city of Nakhichevan, the country’s communication experience (Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkey), initiated by Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, created the Cooperation Council of Turkic-speaking States (CCTS) with headquarters in Istanbul.
It is noteworthy that the agenda of the first summit was devoted to issues of economic and trade cooperation. The calculation was based on how to unite around Turkey to solve their immediate problems. However, it was not possible to advance far in this direction. The contradictions between the interests of the Turkic-speaking states and the weakness of the Turkish economy, which emerged from the world crisis pretty shabby, have affected.
It is not by chance that all subsequent summits were again devoted to issues of humanitarian cooperation. So the main topic of the current meeting was “National sport and cooperation in the youth sphere”. The summit was timed to the Third World Nomad Games held in Kyrgyzstan.
It should be noted that the heads of countries of the Turkic Council gathered in Cholpon-Ata after a three-year break. It was caused by serious disagreements between Ankara and its new partners in Central Asia. The crisis arose because of the Turkish educational programs of Fethullah Gülen, which became widespread in the post-1990s in the post-Soviet Turkic republics.
For example, in Kyrgyzstan, the Gülen network owned 16 lyceums, two international schools, Silk Road and Cambridge, and Atatürk-Alatoo International University. They annually produced 10 thousands of students. According to expert estimates, up to 40-50% of the representatives of the current ruling class of Kyrgyzstan received education in Gulenovsky schools.
For the time being, this “soft power” suited the Turkish authorities until Fethullah Gulen quarreled with President Recep Erdogan. After the attempted coup in Turkey, Erdogan demanded that the leaders of the Turkic-speaking countries close Gulen’s schools, but he encountered obvious opposition, especially in Kyrgyzstan. As a result, Istanbul has ceased to convene the summits of the Turkic Council.
Now interstate communication continued. He was joined by Uzbekistan, which officially joined the CCNT 30 in April of this year. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban appeared among the Turkic leaders. He explained the visit to the ignorant public: “Hungarians consider themselves descendants of Atilla, the governor of the Huns, which gives them reason to call themselves European Turks ... We Hungarians speak Hungarian, this is a unique and peculiar language that is related to the Turkic language. We took Christianity. We are Christians, but we stand on the Kypchak-Turkic basis. ”
Integration of economies with weak currencies
The Turkic leaders of Viktor Orban accepted and even assigned Hungary observer status in the CCTS. It is unlikely that the Hungarian Prime Minister came to Kyrgyzstan to promote Turkic arts and culture. In Cholpon-Ata, they again started talking about economic cooperation.
In the conditions when the world came into motion and reformatted its financial and economic relations, leaders of many countries are looking for support in new interstate associations. In addition, after the first summit of the Turkic Council, local analysts called it with an obvious pretense - “the Turkic European Union”.
The controversial comparison walked through the pages of the media, but was quickly forgotten against the background of the discussion of secondary topics - cooperation in tourism, media and information, education, science and culture. Fundamental issues at the meetings of the Turkic Council, if discussed, then beyond the main agenda. Most often this happened in the format of bilateral negotiations on the margins of the summit.
This time, among the final documents of the meeting in Cholpon-Ata, the “Draft Concept on the Integration of Turkic-speaking States” is highlighted. This is the second edition of the Turkic EU. Experts immediately questioned the possibility of deep integration of the member countries of the Turkic Council.
There are several reasons for this. For example, Turkey is in the North Atlantic military alliance, and Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan - in the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) of post-Soviet countries. In Cholpon-Ata, Erdogan appealed to them with a request to support the leader of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, in the conflict with Armenia (also a member of the CSTO) around Nagorno-Karabakh.
It turned out that the Turkish leader called on Nursultan Nazarbayev and Sooronbai Jeenbekov to ignore the existing interstate treaties. Among other things, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan belong to the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), with which Ankara has no relations.
No less important is the fact that Turkey has lost the role of a strong leader of the Turkic countries. (And, as you know, effective integration takes place around a strong center). The currency has settled down (at thirty percent since the beginning of the year) and the economy. Today, for example, Kazakhstan feels more confident.
He has higher GDP per capita, more gold reserves. Astana, following the example of Moscow, is increasing its reserves of physical gold and has already bypassed Britain by this indicator, having come close to Saudi Arabia and is well ahead of Turkey.
At the summit in Kyrgyzstan, Turkish President Recep Erdogan returned to his favorite subject - the transition to settlements in local currencies, because "dependence on the US dollar creates obstacles in mutual trade." However, an even greater obstacle is the weakness and volatility of the Turkic currencies themselves.
For this reason, by the way, the negotiations between Russia and Turkey on the transition to settlements in rubles and liras, which have been going on since 2016, have not yet yielded results. It will be even more difficult for states with weaker economies. They even agree on a tariff policy and simplify administrative procedures (as suggested by Nursultan Nazarbayev) will be difficult, since such decisions may affect the interests of third countries.
Not only a weak economy impedes the integration of the Turkic world. The neo-Ottoman policy of Ankara, which is becoming more and more obvious religious forms, is in contradiction with the secular character of the countries of Central Asia. Erdogan’s departure from the principles of state structure laid down by Mustafa Ataturk has already alerted the elite in the countries of the Turkic Council. They understand that they can only become material for strengthening Turkey’s geopolitical ambitions. Not everyone is satisfied with such an infamous role.
In light of these controversies, the future of the CCTS seems rather uncertain. That has not yet been felt by local observers, who hastened to assess the summit in Kyrgyzstan as a renaissance of the Turkic Council.
Will the summit at the Kyrgyz resort be a renaissance of the Turkic Council?
- Gennady Granovsky
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