Kazakhstan in Turkish foreign policy
June 06. Today’s Zaman
By Hasan Kanbolat
This year is the 20th anniversary of Kazakhstan’s independence. For this reason, the ruling Nur Otan party has held meetings to discuss the past and future of the country. The conference, titled “20 Years of Independence of the Republic of Kazakhstan: Freedom, Unity, Stability, Prosperity,” held in the capital city of Astana on May 31, 2011 was part of this series. I presented a paper on this conference on the place and future of Kazakhstan in Turkish foreign policy.
After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, many expected the partition of Kazakhstan and ethnic and religious conflicts in the country. However, contrary to these expectations, Kazakhstan, under the leadership of founding President Nursultan Nazarbayev, performed successfully in modernization while still relying on its customs and traditions. It managed to remain united without denying different religious and ethnic identities. In this way, it presented a Kazakh model to the world, the success of which was proven.
Turkey is the first country to recognize the independence of Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan is the primary partner of Turkey in Central Asia. During Nazarbayev’s visit to Turkey in October 2009, a Strategic Partnership Agreement was accorded between the two countries. The trade volume between the two countries was $3.28 billion in 2010. The total amount of Turkish investment in Kazakhstan is around $2 billion. There are more than 400 active companies with a Kazakh and Turkish partnership in the country. The number of companies with Turkish capital is only 130. The total amount of Kazakh investments in Turkey is $350 million. In terms of the amount of capital, Turkey ranks fourth in the total amount of investments in the country after the US, South Korea and Great Britain. In terms of the number of foreign companies, Turkey ranks first. A total of 31,000 students are registered at the Hoca Ahmet Yesevi International Turk-Kazakh University based in Turkistan and 175 scholarships have been allocated for Kazakh students studying in Turkey for the 2011-2012 academic year. Turkish courses are offered at the Astana Yunus Emre Cultural Center, launched in 2011.
There are two countries enjoying membership in the Council of Europe whose territories are partially outside Europe: Turkey and the Russian Federation. The territories of the South Caucasus member countries of the Council of Europe (Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan) are completely outside of the European continent. The third country whose territories are partly outside Europe is Kazakhstan. A total of 10 percent of its territories, larger than France, is part of the European continent. For this reason, Kazakhstan should be involved in European affairs and European institutions, including the Council of Europe. During this process, Turkey should share its EU experiences with Kazakhstan.
Bilateral relations between Turkey and Kazakhstan should have a different dimension than the one in bilateral relations between any two other countries. The existing linguistic, religious, ethnic, historical and cultural ties between the two countries constitute the infrastructure for rapprochement. To do this, cooperation based on legal institutions should be maintained instead of creating new institutions. Legal cooperation should be initiated between Turkey and Kazakhstan without being influenced by the EU. Measures should be taken to facilitate citizenship affairs, procurement, company creation and working permits as well as tourism. To achieve this, the legal ground should be prepared. Passports should be granted to the citizens of both countries if they will work in a given job for one year. To make sure that economic, cultural and political rapprochement between the two countries is permanent transportation of commodities as well as human should be made less expensive.