The convention regarding TÜRKPA was signed at the end of the Conference of the Azerbaijani, Kazakhstani, Kyrgyzstani, and Turkish Parliaments held at Dolmabahçe Hall, dubbed the “Istanbul Convention.” Taking rapid steps in the process of institutionalization, TÜRKPA held its first general meeting in Baku in September 2009 and its second in Astana on April 2010. The summit to be held in Bishkek bears importance both because it will welcome broad participation and because working reports from commissions operating as subsidiaries of the secretariat of TÜRKPA will be addressed.
The TÜRKPA presidency, currently in the hands of Kazakhstan, will be handed over to Kyrgyzstan at the summit in Bishkek. Kyrgyzstani Parliamentary Speaker Asılbek Jeenbekov will both host the meeting and lead the assembly in the general meeting. Asılbek Jeenbekov, who has been parliament speaker for seven months, had his first official interview with the Kyrgyzstan branch of the Zaman daily, which is among the newspapers published in Kyrgyzstan. Jeenbekov made striking remarks to Aydın Pazarcı, editor-in-chief of the Zaman daily in Kyrgyzstan, about the TÜRKPA meeting, the running of the parliamentary system and the agenda of the country.
Dear Mr. Speaker, you have been parliamentary speaker for around seven months. Could you please evaluate the previous system and parliamentary system?
We made a transition from presidential system to parliamentary system by expanding the authority of the Parliament of Kyrgyzstan with the new constitution, accepted as a result of the referendum held in 2010. Undergoing a challenging process in financial and political terms, Kyrgyzstan got rid of the tyranny of one-man rule, which I call “street democracy.” Now deputies are expressing their ideas freely on issues about which previously only one man used to decide, and sometimes we even find solutions in the general assembly through discussions. We now know that this is a requirement of democracy.
Previously the president would assign officials for all governmental departments, from local administrations to chief judges and even ombudsmen. The public wasn’t a part of the administration at all. Now the public elects local administrators and other appointments are done by the parliament, and today opposition parties can freely speak their minds in parliament.
If we desire a transparent society and if we want to make our people adopt the idea of democracy the best place to achieve this is in parliament. With regard to this, I think each and every kind of issue should be discussed transparently in parliamentary sessions, without hiding anything and without holding secret sessions.
When all this is taken into consideration, it is clear that we are taking safe and sound steps in the parliamentary system.
What are your thoughts about political, economic and social relations between Kyrgyzstan and Turkey?
We as Kyrgyzstan place particular importance on the relations between the two sibling countries that share the same historical roots. The first country to recognize us and to stand by us after we declared our independence was our sibling nation Turkey. Particularly due to the increase in mutual visits, especially in recent times, our relations with Turkey peaked. This year we celebrated the 20th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries. Turkey became the first nation to bestow help on Kyrgyzstan in its difficult days. The aid from Turkey over the recent period has been of particular importance for us. Turkey removed a $49 million Exim bank credit debt that remained unpaid for years. Through you, I would like to thank the officials for their help on this issue. The Kyrgyzstani people and government will never forget this aid.
It is difficult to say whether our commercial and economic relations are at the desired level. However, I think our relations, which have peaked in political terms, will affect our commercial and economic relations positively. For instance, the Turkish Confederation of Businessmen and Industrialists (TUSKON) came to Bishkek with a 150-businessman group and held a business forum in March. Mutual business connections were established. Besides this, Turkish companies operating in Kyrgyzstan organize the Fair of Turkish Products every year. At this fair many of our people have a chance to get to know Turkish products. When all these developments are taken into consideration, I foresee that we will achieve the $1 million commercial target that is set as a goal between the two countries.
What are your ideas about TÜRKPA and the third general meeting to be held in Bishkek?
Previously we would come together in the presence of both presidents and parliamentary speakers. Thanks to the establishment of TÜRKPA and the Cooperation Council of Turkic Speaking States (CCTS) this togetherness was shaped in flesh and bone and became institutionalized. With regard to this, I would like to describe it as a historical step in which two sibling countries, sharing the same culture and language and also living the same destiny, came together and established TÜRKPA.
I compare the Turkic world to a great plane tree that becomes strengthened by feeding through the same root. As for TÜRKPA, it is a concrete reflection of brotherhood with roots in historic and humanitarian ties. We have finalized our preparations for the general meeting, the third of which will be held in Bishkek. I am excited and happy about hosting such a meeting. My second excitement stems from the fact that we, as Kyrgyzstan, will take over TÜRKPA’s presidency at this year’s general meeting and that I will lead the assembly. Hosting TÜRKPA is a great honor for us.
Which issues will be discussed at this year’s TÜRKPA meeting?
First of all I would like to emphasize that we have very good relations with other TÜRKPA member countries (Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkey).
In general terms, it is aimed that the cooperation between assembly member nations will be developed. Also if there are any problems or issues, or suggestions for solving these, they will be discussed.
To this end, the agenda topics that are prepared by the secretariat of TÜRKPA and sent to member countries will take priority.
In specific terms, the meeting to be held in Bishkek is important as there will be broad participation. In addition to parliamentary speakers, the studies and reports that four commissions, working as subsidiaries of the secretariat of TÜRKPA, have done so far will be evaluated.
Besides that, in this meeting we will consider adding educational cooperation to the cooperation initiated between us in different fields.
Maybe another agenda topic that will make this meeting crucial is the common alphabet project. Creating a common Turkic alphabet for TÜRKPA member countries has been on the agenda of the secretariat of TÜRKPA for a long time. There are studies about this issue. It will be brought into question and discussed at this year’s meeting.
If we take all this into consideration, I believe the 3rd General Meeting will contribute to TÜRKPA’s development and the increase of TÜRKPA’s prestige on the international stage.
What do you think about the membership of Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan?
TÜRKPA is an open foundation. As can be inferred from its name, it is an international foundation that Turkic-speaking countries’ parliaments are affiliated with. There is no obstacle hindering Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan from being affiliated with TÜRKPA. The affiliation of these two sibling and fellow countries to TÜRKPA would make other member nations very happy. It brings power and strength to our assembly. I think Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan will be affiliated with TÜRKPA in the near future.
What are your thoughts about the future of TÜRKPA and its activities?
Thank you for asking this excellent question. We will take over the presidency of TÜRKPA from Kazakhstan at the summit to be held in Bishkek. We will undertake important responsibilities in the follow-up and implications the decisions from the Bishkek meeting, which I describe as the most important meeting to date. So far, TÜRKPA, a young foundation, has focused on establishment processes, such as foundation processes and establishing commissions. Henceforth we will put theory into practice. We will determine a road map and proceed in this way.
As a requirement of the İstanbul Convention, every Turkic-speaking and willing person, regardless of their home country, can attend TÜRKPA meetings as an observer. I think in time other Turkic-speaking countries will attend TÜRKPA, either as observers or by becoming a member of the assembly. Then we will truly be a great plane tree. I consider that we will make good progress on this issue in the course of our TÜRKPA presidency. We are ready to do what it takes to this end.
Our togetherness isn’t a benefit-based or a profit-based one. We are siblings, and the relationship between siblings isn’t benefit-based. We primarily need to bring dynamism to our relations by reviving our brotherhood-oriented ties.
Besides all this, we need to strengthen commercial and economic cooperation between Turkic-speaking countries. In order to raise a responsible generation to which we can hand over our country, it is a must that we rally our powers. We need to bind our peoples together well. If we can achieve this, maybe we, who have a thousand-year brotherhood and who share the same geography, will become a balancing force in the world. When I think of this I become hopeful about the future.