Professor, University San Pablo CEU
The First Caspian Economic Forum took place on 11 and 12 August in the city of Turkmenbashi, in the tourist area of Avaza. It was an occasion to show the good harmony between the five countries involved in solving a problem that had not been solved for decades.
Turkmenistan, a young country
Turkmenistan gained independence from the USSR in October 1991. Since then, Turkmenistan has remained on the sidelines of all regional disputes, always displaying the neutrality imposed by its first president, Saparmurat Niyazov (1991-2006). His successor and current Head of State, Gurbanguly Berdimujamedov, opted to maintain the same line, which has allowed him not to be involved in the problems caused by instability in Afghanistan (with which he shares a porous border of 744 km) or by interference attempts by powers outside the region (Russia, China, the USA, mainly). Due to this obsession with neutrality, it has hardly participated in regional meetings, something that has changed thanks to the new regional dynamics printed by the new Uzbek president, Shavkat Mirziyoyev.
On the political side, Turkmenistan is run in a personal way, like many countries whose economy depends on hydrocarbons.
Its relationship with Spain is very limited. In 2018, the product we imported the most from there was cotton (73.29% of imports, out of a total of 0.38 million euros), while the volume of bilateral trade between our countries amounted to only 4.25 million euros.
In addition, he is interested in our water management model and renewable energy, for which he has come into contact with Spanish companies of recognized international prestige. International financial institutions such as the Asian Development Bank, the World Bank or the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, finance projects to which Spanish companies can apply to win contracts worth millions to help develop the country.
It is the fourth largest gas reserve in the world (17.5 billion m3) and houses a proven crude oil reserve of some 600 million barrels, which contribute around 40% and 90% of annual export revenues to Turkmen GDP. The TAPI project (a 1680 km pipeline linking Turkmenistan and India through Afghanistan and Pakistan) can help you diversify your markets, until recently completely dependent on Russia (either as a final destination or as a transit country) and recently on China.
In Turkmenistan live about six million inhabitants, potential consumers, with a pc GDP of about 6500 €.
The resolution of the Caspian conflict
The distribution of resources from the Caspian Sea was not really a problem until the dissolution of the USSR since four of the current five coastal states – Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Russia – were then Soviet republics integrated into the USSR and its southern neighbour, Iran, the other coastal state, was de facto accepting that division into economic sectors. In 1996 an agreement was signed guaranteeing each state an exclusive economic zone of 45 miles (75 km), but Azerbaijan did not sign it because some of what it considered oil fields it owned were outside that zone.
In 2018, the five countries finally reached an agreement during the 5th Caspian Summit and solemnly signed the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea in the Kazakh oil town of Aktau. Although this convention must be endorsed by the different parliaments – something that will undoubtedly happen in a short period of time – and has to be developed through further negotiations, in practice it means the end of this contentious that has sometimes “heated” this lake of 370,886 km2.
During the Forum on 11 August last, the ministers of the sector met to look for practical ways of developing the Agreement on Economic and Commercial Cooperation and the Agreement on Cooperation in Transport. For its part, on the 12th the forum was divided into three parts: an International Conference to exchange experiences on legislation and the creation of special economic zones, together with a series of business forums and round tables; a showcase of technological innovations; and a legal part, which includes the signing of agreements.
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