Turkey proposes free movement of workers with Kazakhstan

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev (C-L) and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (C-R) arrive for the opening ceremony of the G20 Summit. Hangzhou, China, September 2016. [Pool/EPA]

Central Asian countries are exploring forms of integration resembling those of the European Union, the latest one being the establishment of free movement of people and workers between Turkey and Kazakhstan.

The Astana Times reported on Thursday (17 August) that Turkish Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci had proposed during a recent Kazakh-Turkish business forum “a visa-free regime for migrant workers” between the two countries.

Turkey and Kazakhstan already have a visa-free regime, but the proposed step is to remove obstacles for nationals of the two countries seeking employment on each other’s territory.

Zeybekci said both countries have been cooperating for a long time. Turkey has invested about $2 billion in the Kazakhstan economy and this could be increased to $10 billion, he said.

Trade between the two countries is mainly based on natural energy resources but Turkish companies are ready to supply textile products and some food products to Kazakhstan, the minister stressed. However, Kazakhstan and Turkey first need to review their trade agreement and remove some barriers, such as for the free movement of workers, he said.

High level visit

Zeybekci announced 9-10 September as the date of the official visit to Kazakhstan of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. It has also been reported that the Turkish president intends to take part in the upcoming Organisation for Islamic Cooperation Summit on Science and Technology as part of his visit to Astana.

Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, Turkey has been trying to implement comprehensive policies on the newly independent so-called ‘Turkic’ states of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

Regional cooperation

According to researcher Özge Nur Öğütcü from the Center for Eurasian Studies, Turkey has invested a lot in regional cooperation involving the Turkic states. The 1990s and early 2000s saw the emergence of new regional organisations such the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA), which was first proposed by Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev, and the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO).

Turkey’s initiative to include Turkic states in the ECO as one of the founding members and its participation in the CICA and SCO enabled Turkey to observe agendas of regional actors and engage with Turkic states under the umbrella of regional formations, Öğütcü wrote.

Other important institutions are the International Organization of Turkic Culture (TURKSOY) established in 1993, the Parliamentary Assembly of Turkic-Speaking Countries (TURKPA), set up in 2008, the International Turkic Academy established in 2010, the Turkic Culture and Heritage Foundation formed in 2012, and the Turkic Business Council, whose founding document was signed in 2011.

Today, Turkic states host Turkish universities such as Kyrgyz-Turkish Manas University in Kyrgyzstan and Akhmet Yassawi University in Kazakhstan. The Yunus Emre Institutes for Turkish language education in Astana and Baku have been providing learning opportunities to young people.

Askar Turganbayev, a representative of Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Culture and Sport at the International Organization of Turkic Culture (TURKSOY), said the Kazakh president is one of the most ardent supporters of the TURKSOY.

“Many initiatives of President Nazarbayev are related to the development of this organization,” Turganbayev said.

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