Andrey Grozin: "The Caspian Convention expands opportunities for balanced economic development of the region"

By Vestnik Kavkaza
Andrey Grozin: "The Caspian Convention expands opportunities for balanced economic development of the region"

The Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea signed this summer was the main event of the year for the five Caspian littoral states. The head of the Department of Central Asia and Kazakhstan at the Institute of CIS Countries, Andrey Grozin spoke with Vestnik Kavkaza about the significance of the document.

- How will the Convention on the Status of the Caspian Sea affect the development of the region?

- This is a historically significant event, without any exaggeration, without any unnecessary one-sided praise. The problem that accumulated for several decades was solved. Now we see that even such a complex, serious, neglected question can be resolved with goodwill and active diplomacy.

The signing of the Convention expands the possibilities for a balanced economic development of the region, without a tilt in the direction of the national ‘egoism’. Over the past 20 years, each Caspian state solved its problems on its own, and now there is an opportunity for balanced approaches in implementing large projects, including those related to transport and logistics, hydrocarbon production, fuel and energy complexes of the Caspian states.

Since independence, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan have bound their most optimistic hopes with the Caspian Sea and its resources. This is the main thing that they got after the collapse of the USSR. 90% of all oil in Kazakhstan is produced in the western regions of the country, primarily in the Caspian regions. The same applies to Azerbaijan, the same can be said about Turkmenistan, albeit to a lesser extent.

Due to these resources, these three states planned their existence during the last decades of sovereign development, focusing on relations with foreign investors - initially with investors from the West, and in recent years with investors from the East. Now it is possible, based on the Convention, to work out a common set of rules, according to which it will be possible to build the joint economic development that does not contradict each of the states - build roads, lay pipelines, develop hydrocarbon fields, develop corridors, latitudinal, meridional, whatever.

- Are there any controversial issues?

- There are issues related to the controversial deposits, the passage of the border lines,  national sectors and division of the bottom. But they all have a purely working character. Such problems can already be solved within the framework of this general document, which was signed in August.

- Has the convention resolved security issues?

- The signing of the Convention, this was noted by all experts, first of all, closed the Caspian Sea for the non-regional military forces. That is, in fact, the activity of the non-regional military structures - bases, transit centers, training centers, centers of observation and protection of sturgeon using the foreign military, non-Caspian - is now very difficult. Therefore, the parties, having signed the Convention, once again confirmed and officially documented the thesis that the security of the Caspian region, the Caspian Sea is within the competence of only five Caspian states.

- How will the Convention on the Status of the Caspian Sea affect the development of tourism in the region?

- This is a very acute topic, and every year it becomes more and more relevant. We see that in Central Asia, the consolidation processes are gaining momentum within the framework of a possible Central Asian Schengen. Perhaps, in the future, a single tourist visa and a single tourist space on the eastern shore of the Caspian Sea will appear.

The same goes along the line of pairing the tourist potential of China with the countries of Central Asia, the South Caucasus and the Russian Federation. I do not exclude that experiments on the mutual facilitation of obtaining visas by tourist groups and individual tourists, which are conducted in some eastern regions of Russia and China, may be expanded to the interstate level.

It is clear that the Caspian Sea, possessing a serious, exclusive ecological, biological diversity, will enjoy the success of the same Chinese tourists, who have become the most attractive tourist mass, for which both Western and Eastern countries are fighting. The Caspian will attract them just as much as Baikal, perhaps even more so, since the Caspian is in many ways a unique biological site that deserves very serious tourist attention. Due to the good marketing work and tourism policy in coordination with all five Caspian states, very serious results can be achieved. The parties are already moving in this direction.