Global Politics on the occasion of conference on “Energy Security of the Caspian Region” (20th November 2008, Brno), held by Azerbaijan and Caspian Studies Center under the International Institute of Political Science, brings an interview with Ambassador of the Republic of Turkey in the Czech Republic, His Excellency Mr. Koray Targay. We focused on issues concern EU energy policy in relation to Caspian region, position of Turkey in region, perspectives of regional cooperation in energetics, and Czech-Turkey relations. Why are Caspian energy resources so important for Europe? How should we solve situation in Georgia? What are the foreign policy priorities of Turkey? These and others questions have been answered by H. E. Mr. Koray Targay.
What is your understanding of the importance of the Caspian region for the EU energy policy?
The energy resources of the Caspian region are highly important for the European demand, because Europe overwhelmingly depends on imported oil and gas sources.
Russia provides a large part of this supply; there are also other countries as well, like Algeria, Nigeria, like – in terms of oil – Libya and Middle East countries.
However, all these sources, when considered individually, are not sufficient for future demand of the European industries. So, that is why Caspian energy resources, which geographically lie in Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, and maybe eastwards in Uzbekistan, are very important for Europe. Furthermore, we cannot leave aside the resources of Iran. Iran is both a Caspian and a Gulf country and possesses vast oil and gas resources.
So, altogether, fair and economic distribution of these resources is desperately needed for European continent in order that economic life could continue without disruptions and difficulties.
How would you define the position of European Union in the Caspian region? And, does EU – with its uncompleted common energy policy – have enough powerful tools and capacities to be more involved in this region. Or, is it only a matter of individual member states, and their will, to promote their exclusive interests via bilateral negotiations?
The EU Commission has been studying energy needs of the Union since a long time. The Commission and also, on individual basis, member countries elaborated valuable studies. Unfortunately, concrete results could not be achieved so far. It will probably take some more time.
Czech presidency should take the European energy policy studies further. However, experience shows that energy demands of the European countries do increase steadily. Non-member countries’ demand as well, increases rapidly.
In my personal view, I believe that EU should speed up its cooperation efforts and come up to the rest of the world with a concrete program, a concrete agenda.
We observe that individual countries are more active in the Caspian basin than the Commission itself. For that reason, there must be a continuous and concerted policy within the EU.
Therefore, one should expect more efficient EU energy policies in the next five-ten years, considering high demand in Europe towards more and sustainable energy.
Where are the contemporary weakest spots of region? Where do you expect possible outbreak of conflicts related to energy issues?
There are potential conflicts in the area indeed. Some of them are called ‘frozen conflicts’.
However, so far, such conflicts did not prevent regional countries from cooperating in the energy field, except of Armenia. It is a common wish of all related sides to resolve this conflict; it means the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan; and also Armenia-Turkey.
All parties seem to be willing to bring these disputes to an end; and as a result Armenia should be included within the network of cooperation in energy policy. Armenia deserves to be part of these projects since a long time.
On one side, there is the Nabucco project, which we believe could play good a role in meeting the increasing energy demands of Europe. On the other hand, we also know that Armenia itself is also highly dependent on the import of energy resources. Therefore, we intent develop a cooperation scheme among Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Turkey and Russia for the benefit of all parties.
This is why in recent Russian – Georgian armed conflict Turkey introduced a regional cooperation initiative. Georgia needs some time to study this project while Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan accepted it right away.
When the conditions in region improve, I think that this project, which was suggested by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, will prove to speed up recovery and economic development of the region.
Such projects have proved to be efficient in South-East European region in the past years. So, we pay a lot more attention to cooperation than to confrontation. With the success of cooperation projects, even ‘frozen conflicts’ would lose their importance and we will turn into more understanding points than conflicts.
Is it possible to say that Turkey – due to its unique geographical location – is in some sort of way predestined to have some kind of multi-vector or ‘all azimuths’ foreign policy? How would you characterize foreign policy priorities of Turkey?
Indeed, it’s a very important question. Turkey’s geographical location and its historical heritage give a lot of responsibility to any government, which comes to power in Turkey. Our main policy principles are “peace at home and peace in the world”. This policy could be achieved only, with zero or minimum conflicts in the region and also better cooperation in the Middle East, Caucasus and Europe. We are located in the so-called Eurasian region. We have very good relations with all of our neighbors. Beginning with Russia, going to the East, it means Georgia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Iraq and Syria; with all of them we maintain good-neighborly, close and balanced relations.
We also play a bridging role between Europe and Asia. If you look at Turkey from the Asian point of view, we are considered as a European country, but if you look at us from the European point of view, we are considered as an Asian country. So this is a delicate situation, but it gives us also a lot of flexibility as well as responsibility to maintain all these balanced relations, understanding, considering and respecting the interests of all parties.
What should NATO allies expect from Turkey vis-à-vis the Russia-Georgia conflict; especially in a sense of logistical support?
Well, first of all our aim should be to relieve Georgia of the aftermath of conflict. The reconstruction effort is desperately needed. A Donors Conference for Georgia was held last month in Brussels. We will undertake a real effort to foster reconstruction in Georgia with a view to remove the negative effects of the armed conflict.
NATO’s Georgia policy is clear; the western European countries policies are almost unified – they differ to a certain extent from each other, which is normal. I think it will take time to set off whole situation and improve conditions in the region.
As far as Turkey is concerned, our role should be to call for restraint to both to Georgia and Russia and take up all the issues with cool head and to make sure that no armed conflicts will reoccur there in the near future.
In what condition are relations between the Turkey and the Czech Republic and could you mention any joint projects?
In the political field, there are no bilateral conflicts, no bilateral problems. I don’t see any problems in political, economic, security and EU issues between Turkey and Czech Republic.
As for the economic field, I would say that our relations are not yet at a satisfactory level, considered our potential.
The trade volume will apparently reach almost 2 billion USD at the end of this year, which is still below the full potential of our two countries.
We are doing our best – on both sides – to promote Czech and Turkish business communities. Although the figures are not yet good enough, they in fact show a rapid increase. They increase about 35–40 %, which is satisfactory.
The picture is much better in the field of investments, which I put more emphasis, because in order to invest in each others’ country a good deal of trust is needed.
Investment relations go very well. Zentiva invested quite a large deal in Turkey’s pharmaceutical sector. ČEZ recently entered the Turkish energy market and obtained the electrical distribution network system of Sakarya region. ČEZ recently signed a partnership agreement with a leading Turkish energy company. Their cooperation is expected to amount to of billions of USD. Škoda has been on the Turkish market for the more than one hundred years.
A Turkish company, approximately one year ago, took over ČEDOK, the prestigious tourism company of the Czech Republic. Another Turkish company is active in a large development project in Slaný.
Turkish companies are also interested to take part in the transport sector in the Czech Republic. For example, they are interested in taking over the Ruzyně airport and also the Czech Airlines. Tourism relations are going well either. Last year Turkey hosted about 130.000 Czech tourists. This year we are expecting to reach a higher number. Likewise, the number of Turkish tourists to the Czech Republic increase as well.
In the cultural field, there is a steady increase in student exchanges, mainly via the European Union’s Erasmus and Comenius programs. Hundreds of Turkish students are coming to Czech Republic and vice versa.
Recently, we revived the Turkish Studies Center – “Turkish Chair” at the Charles University in Prague, which has a history of ca. 150 years. We value this Chair very much, because most of the Czech friends of Turkey received training at this institution.
Thank you for the interview.
Autor je studentem politologie a mezinárodních vztahů na
univerzitě a výkonným redaktorem Global Politics.