Transformation of Organization of Turkic States opens up new avenues for cooperation between East and West

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version
Send to friend: 

BAKU, Azerbaijan, March 31. The 3rd Meeting of Energy Ministers of the Member States of the Organization of Turkic States (OTS) in Budapest, Hungary, signaled the continuation of the transformation of the OTS into a crucial regional organization. Despite the common Turkic cultural heritage of the countries, each state in the Organization has a unique set of opportunities and challenges they face. After all, the issues in front of them are dictated by regional dynamics, which is highly specific in any given case.

Despite these set of issues and challenges, the OTS became a beacon that united Turkic states under the banner of their common Turkic heritage. Initially, most people regarded the organization merely as a cultural forum. However, as time passed by, it became evident that the Organization of Turkic States offers considerably more than being a simple cultural forum.

The perfect example of the above-mentioned argument is the 3rd Meeting of Energy Ministers and the avenues that it opens up to the participants, observers, other regional states, and economic blocs. The benefits that the Organization offers are numerous, and if used wisely, the OTS may become an important piece of the regional international relations system.

The platform with diverse representation

The diversity of member states and observer countries is one of the key strong points of the OTS. The presence of Türkiye, Hungary, Azerbaijan, and Central Asian states offers a unique opportunity for discussion in a multilateral format. Additionally, their joint discussions in an organization with a small number of states make reaching a consensus on issues of interest easier, compared to other regional organizations.

The Organization of Turkic States offers an interesting medium for communication between states and economic blocs with each other. Particularly, the OTS may serve as a bridge between the Turkic states and the European Union. The Turkic states may find it appealing to find a common framework for multilateral cooperation with their European partners, which will complement bilateral relations between the EU and any particular member of the OTS. Additionally, such cooperation will offer a unique dynamic to various fields of cooperation between the OTS member countries and the EU.

From the perspective of the EU, potential cooperation with the Organization of Turkic States will offer several highly specific benefits. First, the EU will find it very easy to build relations with the OTS due to the presence of Hungary. This will make the dialogue between the sides go smoother.

Systemic approach to cooperation

The second benefit is crucial, as it goes in line with the EU’s long-term strategic interests and vision. The OTS unites several important oil and gas exporting countries, such as Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan, in addition to having Türkiye, a major oil and gas transit country, onboard. The puzzle is being completed by Hungary, which is already working on fostering gas cooperation with Azerbaijan. Additionally, the OTS hydrocarbon exporting countries also started their transition to becoming energy exporters, which will introduce additional opportunities for cooperation in the future.

Consequently, the OTS offers a systemic approach to oil, gas and energy transit. This system, despite still being under development, offers a credible solution to the EU’s existing problem of energy security. In this context, the opportunities that the Organization presents for the EU can be very appealing, should the EU be willing to engage in dialogue with the OTS.

A similar approach can be taken regarding transport cooperation. Currently, it is impossible to use the trade route via Russia, due to the sanction imposed on Moscow. The trade route through Iran is inaccessible for a similar reason. Under these circumstances, the only possible way to link Western and Eastern countries is via the Trans-Caspian International Transport Route (TITR), also known as the Middle Corridor. As of today, this is the only route that bypasses Iran and Russia, thus making it possible to execute trade operations between Europe and Asia.

The access to this route lies through Türkiye, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan. The three countries serve as a gateway to tapping into the global trade potential. Being able to foster a relationship with the OTS may offer the EU in general, and its member states individually, a very beneficial partnership that will impact all involved economies positively.

Overall, the EU may find cooperation with the OTS highly beneficial in two strategic areas. Currently, Turkic states offer credible solutions to the critical issues that the EU seeks to address. Establishing close relations with the Organization may foster the EU’s image in the Turkic countries significantly.

OTS as a potential regional integration model

The development trajectory of the OTS suggests that the decision-makers opted to transform it from a cultural organization to an all-encompassing body, which offers a platform for dialogue on strategically important issues. As the Organization transformed to its current state, it became clear that energy is one of these issues, due to the demands dictated by the geopolitical shifts.

Despite the growing significance of the OTS, there is significant potential for further improvements to be made. Perhaps, it is somewhat early to make such a bold prediction, however, it is looking increasingly likely that, at least, some countries in the Organization will see an increase in the level of integration. This would be necessary to streamline their joint operations in the framework of the projects that they are involved in. For example, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan would benefit immensely from harmonizing existing customs procedures, as it would lead to a reduction of time that the goods spend in transit through the Middle Corridor. This is one of the examples of possibilities that OTS offers to its member states. The potential closer cooperation between the national institutions may lead to an even higher level of integration between the nations, which will, consequently, benefit all involved parties.

The possibilities for closer integration will present themselves in the process of implementation of major projects, but even now the potential is observable. This would be a very welcome development for all states involved because, in the existing political climate, there are limited regional organizations, which treated the participants as equals.

The transformation of the OTS is an interesting development for the participants of the organization and other political actors. The growing stature of the Organization will draw attention to it, which will turn it into a regional platform for communication between the East and West.

It would be particularly interesting to see whether the EU chooses to cooperate with the Organization of Turkic States, as the benefits to be had by this cooperation are too valuable to overlook. The EU can have tangible and intangible benefits from such cooperation.

Finally, the transformation of the Organization brings the member states closer. For example, during the 3rd Meeting of Energy Ministers Askhat Khasenov, Deputy Minister of Energy of Kazakhstan, invited the member countries to participate in the joint development of energy deposits in Kazakhstan. Such opportunities exist in other fields as well, and the countries will only benefit in the long run from the partnership.

In conclusion, the transformation of the OTS opens up several avenues for multilateral cooperation. These partnerships can be achieved internally between the member countries, and externally with other regional entities, such as the EU.