By Polina Chernitsa
Turkey’s Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has said that his country is interested in joining the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). Mr. Erdogan added that he addressed Russia`s President Vladimir Putin on the issue.
As of today, Turkey has a dialogue partner status in the SCO. Experts say that Ankara`s decision to join the Eurasian integration is quite logical since this region has been playing an important part in global politics and economy.
Ankara has stepped up its efforts to join the SCO. First Turkey showed its interest in the organization in 2011 and issued a bid to boost its cooperation with the SCO. Turkey was granted a dialogue partner status during the SCO summit in early June. Now that nearly two months have passed since then and following his visit to Moscow earlier this month, Prime Minister Erdogan confirms his country`s intention to become a full member in the SCO amid growing differences with Europe. Turkey has done a lot for the good of the European integration but France and Germany have obstructed all the efforts. Now that the future of the EU remains unclear, Turkey has opted for the SCO, Mr. Erdogan explained. Political analyst Stanislav Tarasov thinks that a lack of understanding with Europe is not the only reason behind the decision.
“There are not just economic but also geopolitical reasons behind the decision to join the SCO. From the very start the Turkish economy has relied on exports. Its trade volume with Europe once stood at 65% but now it has reduced due to the crisis. Urgent measures are required to save both the economic and the geopolitical system. That is why Erdogan has decided to publicly announce his country`s intention to join the SCO. Opposing Cyprus`s presidency over the EU, Turkey has suspended ties with Europe. Now it is trying to win Mr. Putin`s approval of its SCO membership bid.”
While the EU institutions are being put to the test, integration process in Asia, where Russia appears to be the most influential player, is gaining pace. Being a regional leader, Turkey is now trying to join the process.
The SCO membership will offer Turkey an access to new markets worth billions of dollars. Ankara has been intensifying its energy cooperation with Moscow. Apart from the Blue Stream trans-Black Sea gas pipeline, which sends Russian gas to Turkey, Ankara has approved the construction of gas pipes in its territorial waters.
But intentions are not enough. Other countries in the region also would like to join the SCO. Turkey is facing a tough competition, says the director of the Institute of Oriental Studies Vitaly Naumkin.
“There is nothing unusual about Turkey`s decision to be a member of various organizations both in Europe and in Asia. But there are also some other countries with similar goals – India and Pakistan. So, it would be too early to speak about the SCO expansion.”
Established in the late 1990s, the SCO is no longer a regional organization. Today it plays an important part in ensuring the region`s security and stability. Membership in the SCO would open new horizons for Turkey. It is worth mentioning that Turkey is a NATO member, which could pose extra challenges in terms of the integration into the SCO. Experts agree, however, that the final decision is to be made by the SCO key member states – Russia and China.