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July 15, 2009, Wednesday

Baykal knows better than Olli Rehn

Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Baykal has been alleging for a couple of days now that the European Union has not requested that Turkey modify its legislation that limits the authorities of military courts.In an extraordinary group meeting, he repeated this assertion: “All of the statements suggesting that the amendments were made at the EU's request are false.” Former Foreign Minister Deniz Baykal, who knows more than anybody else what is necessary as part of the EU bid, surely also knows that all EU documents are available at the click of a mouse through the Internet.

The EU's various institutions -- the European Commission, the European Parliament, the EU-Turkey Joint Council, the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Commission -- have published hundreds of documents to date concerning Turkey. It's possible for us to say that in nearly every one of these documents there is a reference to the necessity for Turkey's current military-civilian relations to be brought up to EU standards. In this brief analysis, let's take a closer look at documents from the European Commission, the most important of these EU institutions. The progress reports published in the autumn of every year since 1998 with no exception reference military-civilian relations. One of the foundational topics in each of the 11 progress reports published to date is a request that military-civilian relations be brought up to democratic standards. In the most recently published progress report, that of 2008, even a cursory glance at the document reveals that the EU's requests regarding military-civilian relations are abundant.

The progress report lists a number of issues that remain, from the 35th provision of the Domestic Services Law, to the fact that military officers continue to make their views public on a number of political topics, to the National Security Council's (MGK) continued exercise of great power despite its reform and the inability of the performance of a thorough audit of the military's budget. The report also draws attention to the case involving Şemdinli prosecutor Ferhat Sarıkaya, where the decision of a civilian court to sentence defendants to 39 years was overturned and those found guilty by the court set free by a military court.

In the 2005 progress report, which stands out for its rather extensive allocation of space to address military-civilian relations, also notes alongside a number of other topics that no progress had been made by Turkey on the topic of the trial of civilians by military courts and the laws relevant to military sentencing. In the Accession Partnership document first published by the commission on March 8, 2001 and last updated on Feb. 8, 2008, the fourth article of the section on military-civilian relations in the “short-term priorities” segment says, “Limit the jurisdiction of military courts to military duties of military personnel.”

Finally, if what Baykal says is true and the EU has no such demands to this end, why did Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn immediately issue a statement of support following President Abdullah Gül's approval of the aforementioned law? In his brief statement, Rehn called attention to three main points:

Full civilian control of the military is one of the most fundamental priorities in Turkey's EU bid.

The Accession Partnership says Turkey must limit the jurisdiction of its military courts in such a way that they only involve the military duties of military personnel.

The latest amendment is seen as a step in the right direction.

Either the EU doesn't know what it wants, or Baykal knows better than Rehn what the EU wants.