Meanwhile in an EU Candidate State

From Lebanon’s Daily Star:

Turkey on Monday appointed a general who is expected to adopt a tougher line toward EU negotiations to replace the head the country’s powerful military, who was widely considered a moderate. The change in leadership, which was widely anticipated, comes as Turkey is insisting that Washington do more to crack down on Turkish Kurdish rebels operating out of bases in northern Iraq…

Buyukanit raised eyebrows this year by praising a soldier subsequently jailed for a bombing believed to be aimed at stirring up unrest in the mainly Kurdish southeast. The bombing triggered riots in the region and a parliamentary inquiry.

Analysts say Buyukanit’s no-nonsense views have been shaped by the time he spent in the southeast during the 1990s, heyday of the separatist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) which is now seen as weakened but far from defeated.

“Buyukanit is more pro-American, more security-minded than Ozkok. He is not against the Europeanization of Turkey but he is more influenced by nationalist tendencies,” said Hussein Bagci of Ankara’s Middle East Technical University.

“He will be much tougher in the fight against the PKK.”


Security-minded is what one would usually expect a general to be, but the key question will be how broadly he defines the interests of Turkish society. Has he kept up with changes, or will he try to turn the clock back?

I’m not at all sure that “no-nonsense” is the proper way to describe someone who advocates purely military solutions to Kurdish issues in Turkey. In fact, that view is full of nonsense, as much of the 1980s and 1990s demonstrate.

And just what a “tougher line toward the EU” means is another question. The EU line (and the NATO line, for that matter) is that civilian governments control the national military, full stop. The fact that the political views of a Turkish general are a matter of interest is itself a sign of the distance still to go for Turkey. Questions like this are a normal part of accession — Greece’s military junta ended its rule just seven years before that country joined the EC; there were worries early on about Poland’s military (a legacy of Col. Pilsudski in the inter-war era); Spain and Portugal probably had to address the issue as well, given Franco and Salazar.

Bears watching.

16 thoughts on “Meanwhile in an EU Candidate State

  1. every thing that can slowdown or stop the nonsense of Turkey in Europe is a good move and makes me happy.

    i enjoy that they will get tougher with Europe 😉

  2. This is interesting, too, especially as it bears on the Justice’n’Development mob’s relations with the Army

  3. Inclusiveness out. Divisiveness in. Result: war.
    War is good. Makes money. Lots. Kills people. Lots. Who cares?


  4. Tougher blasphemy laws maybe? Not recognizing Greece instead of just Cyprus? Turkey has already shown it is not part of NATO anymore time to drop this charade and disband it.

  5. Turkey’s a bit big to disband, don’t you think?

    Besides, that was tried in ca. 1920, and the results weren’t all that great.

  6. I think he means disband NATO. After all, he might have a point – at the moment, it is a bit like the old crack about male sexuality being similar to being chained to a lunatic.

  7. Nitpicking – Portugal’s problems with the military weren’t because of Salazar’s regime. That was a civilian regime (even if born of a military coup) and controled the top military officers prety well.

    The “problems” come from the post-74 revolution period, since the military (captains) did the said revolution, and kept a strong presence in politics until the early 80s.

  8. Amsterdamsky appears rather confused about this whole Turkey business! Turkey happily recognises Greece and has done for over eighty years. It does not recognise the Republic of Cyprus. Well, in fact it does. It just doesn’t recognise the current structure of the Republic, which has not included the Turkish Cypriots since 1964. Anyway, quite what this has do with NATO (Cyprus is not even a member of PfP) is beyond me.

    As for the new Chief of the General Staff, General Buyukanit is tougher on a range of issues than General Ozkok, the current CGS. However, I still think he is more moderate than most of the CGSs in recent history, such as General Kivrikoglu, the man before Ozkok. In fact, the problem is that Ozkok was exceptionally liberal by the standards of the post. He actually wanted the military take a step back in politics and did not try to prevent EU inspired reforms to limit the role of the military. Moreover, he made it clear that he also wanted a settlement of the Cyprus problem and spoke openly about wanting to improve Greek-Turkish relations. At the same time, he kept the more reactionary members of the armed forces in check, and introduced regular press conferences to make sure the military’s view on matters was publicly expressed, rather than simply presented to the politicians at the monthly meeting of the National Security Council, as was the usual practice. The fact that his tenure at the helm of the military also coincided with the appointment of a number of other reform minded individuals in other parts of the bureaucracy, and the fact that Erdogan and AKP had reformist zeal, means that 2003-2005 will probably be seen as a rather unique period of transformation in Turkey. Sadly, though, I think we are now witnessing a step back in the country.

    Anyway, looking ahead, it is worth noting that because of his age, Buyukanit will only serve two years – instead of the usual four. His successor will be General Ilker Basbug, who has just become the Commander of Land Forces (the head of the Army, in other words). He is much more like Ozkok. Indeed, during his stint as Deputy CGS, Basbug was the only other general Ozkok permitted to speak as the official voice of the military. So, things might well get on track again in 2008. By that time the elections (parliamentary and presidential) will be out of the way and the AKP might be willing to take more risks again.

  9. Thank you for that information, James. Those are important facts to know.

    It’s worth recognizing that it’s simply a strange, transitional time in Turkish history. For so many decades, the military had been loved by the people, and counted upon to keep religious fanaticism from emerging there. Now that is changing, and the spotlight that EU candidacy has placed on their handling of the PKK has placed a new urgency on the problem, and could, I believe, bring those matters to a head.

    As influential as the military has doubtless been there, I will find it a tragic shame if the wonderful Turkish people that I’ve known are forgotten, and if the military, or Turkey’s emerging religious quarter and its government representatives, become the _only_ elements of Turkish society that the EU thinks it’s treating with. The EU’s concerns about human rights revolve largely around the military, of course, and watch is kept on the Justice and Development Party’s religiosity. But I’ve found the Turks to be a marvelous people, and though it’s reasonable to treat a democratic republic’s _government_ as the people’s representative, it’s annoying to think that the general public must pay the price for the policies of the military. But Turkey’s military is a special case.

  10. But I’ve found the Turks to be a marvelous people, and though it’s reasonable to treat a democratic republic’s _government_ as the people’s representative, it’s annoying to think that the general public must pay the price for the policies of the military.

    The EU will have to deal with the Turkish government as it is, not as we would like it to be. The government would take the seat on the council and implement EU policies.

  11. The _government,_ certainly, and if they are flawed, then it can’t be helped that the Turkish people will pay the price. My only point was that it would be a shame if the people paid for the _military’s_ policies, which they didn’t choose.

  12. (And you may be tempted to think that the government directs all the military’s actions, but I tend to think that the tail wags the dog a bit there. Not that the military is under control, but they have a large degree of autonomy in Turkey.)

  13. If the military has that kind of power, it is part of the government. If Turkey is to be part of the EU, it has to adhere to all the EU’s standards and implement them with its current structure of government.
    Entry into the EU is not a question of merit, but of performance. We cannot make exceptions because they tried really hard. They have to meet the requirements.
    For those who try really hard but just don’t make it we have free trade agreements.

  14. it has to adhere to all the EU’s standards and implement them

    Or at least put on as good a show as the present members do of implementing them…

  15. Or at least put on as good a show as the present members

    They are muslim, numerous, poorer than the old EU, live in a very nasty area and have neighbors already in the EU who have reasons to dislike them.
    The scales are biased against them. They will have to show true 110% compliance. Even that may not be enough.

  16. >We cannot make exceptions because they tried really hard. They have to meet the requirements.

    Well, true enough. Though France and Germany, I’ve heard, are trying to make exceptions for themselves on the heretofore strict state finances requirements, Turkey should meet the requirements. I hope they do, though, and I hope they’re allowed in. The idea of rejecting them strikes me as having ramifications that many in the EU aren’t appreciating right now. It will be a hard slap in the face for a country that’s shown a lot of love for the lover spurning it, and for a country that’s spent a lot of time explaining that its lover is really a decent person who treats her well.

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