Can Hungary and TRNC Become Members of the Organization of Turkic States?

01.09.2023

The Cooperation Council of Turkic Speaking States (Turkic Council), which was founded in 1992 with the Summit of Turkic Speaking States and became an organization in 2009 upon the proposal of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, was restructured and renamed the Organization of Turkic States during the 8th Meeting of the Council of Heads of State in Istanbul in 2021.  The change from the Turkic Council to the Organization of Turkic States (OTS) was considered by the international press as a step towards being more inclusive. In order to understand this name change, it is important to understand what is intended by the concept of organization. This name change expresses the desire to unite the member states around common goals with equal status, rather than to achieve uniformity by melting them into a melting pot. Since 2020, statements from high-level officials of the OTS member states also show that the OTS aims to expand. Many states with direct and indirect links to Turkish culture are seen as potential members of the Organization of Turkic States and are expected by the organization to join “naturally” in the future.

The founding members of the Organization of Turkic States are Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Türkiye. In 2019, Uzbekistan became a full member of the CIS. Observer members of the organization are currently Hungary, Turkmenistan and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC). At the 9th OTS Summit, Turkmenistan’s full membership was on the agenda, but the acceptance of full membership could not be realized as the concern of whether it does not comply with the Permanent Neutrality Statute was one of the issues discussed by the members. Afterwards, Turkmenistan expressed the hope that their full membership would be accepted in the future. At this point, it is important to clarify what observer membership means. Observer status is a privilege granted by some organizations to nonmembers to give them the right to participate in the activities of the organization. In other words, observer members are not full members, but potential candidates, and observer countries are generally expected to become full members in the future. In the light of this information, the full membership status of Hungary and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which are observer members of the OTS, will be evaluated and a general framework will be tried to be drawn on the subject.

When Hungary’s association with the Turkish states is evaluated, it is seen that this can be traced back to the Ottoman Empire in the late 19th century and is based on the idea of Turanism. Of course, this dynamic changed in 1945 when Hungary joined the Soviet bloc and was suspended for many years. In 2004, Hungary became an EU member as part of the largest expansion in the history of the European Union (EU). Since 2010, Hungary has been considered by the European Union to be in democratic decline due to the conservative policies of Viktor Orban and his right-wing Fidesz Party. According to a report by the European Parliament, Hungary is considered to be in a regime of electoral autocracy due to deficiencies in the functioning of constitutional processes and the electoral system, lack of full independence of the judiciary, increasing corruption, failure to guarantee freedom of speech, and violations and discrimination of fundamental human rights. Despite various warnings from Brussels, Budapest’s unchanging policies and political stance have started to strain relations between the EU and Hungary and this tension has continued to escalate with neither side backing down. Hungary’s current situation triggered the idea of “Eastern Opening” and Hungary and the Turkic World, which had already been winking at each other for some time, started to improve their relations. In 2018, the Hungarian Prime Minister was invited as a guest to the 6th Summit of the Turkic Council and Hungary was officially offered a membership. Hungary, which was looking for new cooperation after its problems with the EU, welcomed this offer and became an observer member in 2019. Especially during the Covid-19 Pandemic, Hungary and the Turkic World have developed their relations and the Turkic States have started to be called “true friends” by Hungary. Today, there are 19 areas of cooperation defined by the OTS, mainly political, economic and energy cooperation, and Hungary is active in many of these areas.

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