National Security Council (Turkey)
Per article 118 of the Turkish Constitution, the National Security Council (Turkish: Milli Guvenlik Kurulu (MGK)) is set up as an advisory organ, composed of the Chief of General Staff and the four main Commanders of the Turkish Armed Forces and select members of the Council of Ministers, and is chaired by the President of the Republic. Like the national security councils of other countries, it develops the national security policy of the state of the Turkish Republic.
The role of the military in Turkish politics
The MGK is widely perceived as the institutionalisation of the Turkish militarys influence over politics. Since Mustafa Kemal Ataturk founded the modern secular republic of Turkey in 1923, the Turkish military has perceived itself as guardian of Kemalism, the official state ideology, even though Ataturk himself insisted separating the military from politics.
Though the attitude of the military may have remained constant, the attitude of the successive civilian governments toward the military has fluctuated, according to Metin Heper: "In Turkey, for a long time, there have been two notable behavioral patterns on the part of civilian governments in their relations with the military: they have either tried to relegate the military to the sidelines or they have granted it too much autonomy." When the civilian government was successful in solving economic problems and internal disputes and "had the upper hand," sometimes as in the 1950s, the civilian government "tried to divest the military of all authority" and the government and military officers became "hostile adversaries."
As a result of these fluctuations in the relationship, there have been two direct coups detats in 1960 and 1980, the 1971 coup by memorandum, and what later has been labelled a post modern coup, when Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan from the pro-Islamic Welfare Party stepped down after mounting pressure from the military in 1997. Paradoxically, the military has both been an important force in Turkeys continuous Westernization but at the same time also represents an obstacle for Turkeys desire to join the EU. At the same time, the military enjoys a high degree of popular legitimacy, with continuous opinion polls suggesting that the military is the state institution that the Turkish people trust the most.
The chief of general staff, Yaar Buyukanit has asserted that certain EU and NATO-allied countries, have consciously allowed terrorist organizations acting against Turkey to base and run operations in their own territories, inconsistent with the philosophy of Turkeys international alliance with those countries. He accused these countries of failing to prosecute these terrorists, implicitly assisting them to escape justice or return safely to their organizations to continuing terror, and sometimes even openly taking sides with them under the banner of "freedom of speech". These allegations are the latest in a series of events that have led the Turkish authorities to doubt the good-will of certain allied countries, the latest example being Greece giving refuge to Ocalan, the leader of the Kurdish PKK, an organization that has been listed as terrorist by the EU and the US, and that aims to create a separate country in Turkey using violence, by aiding him with his transportation before his capture by Turkish forces in May, 1999 while leaving the Greek Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya.
History of the National Security Council
The creation of the MGK was an outcome of the military coup in 1960, and has been a part of the constitution since 1961. In this way the 1961 constitution created what the Turkish scholar Sakallioglu labels "a double headed political system: the civilian council of ministers coexisted with the national security council on the executive level, and the military system of justice continued to operate independently alongside the civilian justice system." The role of the MGK was further strengthened with the 1982 constitution, adopted by the military junta in the aftermath of the 1980 military coup, before transferring power to civilian politicians. From now on its recommendations would be given priority consideration by the council of ministers. Furthermore, the number and weight of senior commanders in MGK increased at the expense of its civilian members.Sakallioglu, Cizre. The Anatomy of the Turkish Military's Autonomy, Comparative Politics, vol. 29, no. 2, 1997, pp. 157-158. In 1992 then chief of general staff Gen. Dogan Gure proclaimed self-confidently that "Turkey is a military state".Ozcan, Gencer, "The Military and the Making of Foreign Policy in Turkey", In: Kirici, Kemal (red.) & Rubin, Barry (red.): Turkey in World Politics. An Emerging Multiregional Power, Lynne Rienner Publishers, London, 2001. pp. 16-20.
Recent reforms in the National Security Council
In order to meet EU's political demands for starting membership negotiations, the Copenhagen criteria, Turkey has passed a number of reforms aiming at strengthening civil control over the military. These reforms have mainly focussed on the MGK, its duties, functioning and composition. On 23 July, 2003 the Turkish Grand National Assembly passed the "seventh reform package", which aimed at limiting the role of the military, through reforms of the MGK. According to an editorial in the Financial Times the seventh reform package constitutes nothing less than a "quiet revolution"."A quiet revolution: Less power for Turkey's army is a triumph for the EU", Financial Times (editorial), July 31, 2003.
Firstly it is underlined that the MGK is a consultative body, now with a civilian majority. The 7th reform package made it possible to appoint a civilian Secretary General of the MGK, which happened for the first time in August 2004. The council has not anymore expanded executive and monitoring authorities, and has for instance not any more the authority on behalf of the president and the prime minister to follow up on the implementation of the MGKs recommendations. In addition, MGK has not anymore unlimited access to all civil institutions. The MGK no longer has a representative in the Supervision Board of Cinema, Video and Music. It was however still represented in civil institutions such as the High Board for Radio and TV (RTUK) and the Commission for Higher Education (YOK), but after critics in the 2003 European Commission report this representation was withdrawn from both institutions in 2004.
Criticisms from the European Union
Despite the impressive institutional changes, the 2004 European Commission report concludes that "Although the process of aligning civil-military relations with EU practice is underway, the Armed Forces in Turkey continue to exercise influence through a series of informal channels." In the Commission report of the following year it was stated that: "Reforms concerning civil-military relations have continued, but the armed forces still exert significant influence by issuing public statements on political developments and government policies."
Politics of Turkey
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