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Tuesday, November 24, 2009     GET REAL

Turkish military rejects European Union's transparency standards

ANKARA — Turkey's military has deflected pressure to implement guidelines set by the European Union.   

Analysts said the Turkish military has refused to submit to EU transparency standards in numerous areas. They said the most obvious ones included information on programs, funding and recruitment.

The EU has deemed the lack of military reforms a leading obstacle to Turkey's request for membership.

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"What worries me is the wrong military spending made under the cover of secrecy," Lale Sariibrahimoglu, a leading Turkish defense analyst and journalist, said.

Ms. Sariibrahimoglu, who reports on Turkey for Western defense publications, told a seminar in Istanbul on Nov. 22 that neither the public nor parliament has been able to receive vital information on the military's procurement and other programs. She said this has frustrated any debate on the suitability of weapons purchases.

"You can see the military inventory from the Internet," Ms. Sariibrahimoglu told the seminar, organized by Germany's Heinrich Boll Stiftung. "Turkey is said to be fighting terror for the past 25 years in the southeast. Yet when you look at the arms purchased, they are rather conventional arms, not efficient for fighting terrorism. For example, Turkey recently signed an agreement to purchase submarines."

Few of Turkey's major procurement programs have been linked to the counter-insurgency campaign against Kurdish rebels in neighboring Iraq. Over the last three years, Ankara has ordered more than $6 billion worth of fighter-jets and upgrades, submarines, main battle tank upgrades and unmanned aerial vehicles.

At the seminar, a report was released on the Turkish military by the Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation. The foundation also appealed to the government to demand greater transparency from Turkey's military and security forces. The EU has deemed the lack of military reforms a leading obstacle to Turkey's request for membership.

"There is a need to create pressure from society in order for parliament to increase its authority in the area of control," the report, authored by Turkish analyst Hale Akay, said.

The report said parliament, including the National Defense Commission, maintains no control over the military. The commission has not been given access to the military budget, rather was limited to legal issues.

"Parliament should increase its control over military spending and especially follow up on where money that is outside of the military budget is spent," Ms. Sariibrahimoglu said.

But the seminar was told that the military was refusing to cooperate with parliament and other institutions. Several speakers reported of military officers being intimidated against working with Turkish institutions that were researching the armed forces.

"We need to take a picture of the fears in Turkey," Zeynep Sarlak, a Turkish defense researcher, said. "Who is afraid of whom?"


Cooperation with EU? The ones who have no respect or care for Turks, because of their religion and culture? The ones who refused to respond to a legitimate request for Patriot anti-misile defense during the first Gulf war? The EU ship sailed 15 years ago, wake up and smell the sweet scent of Middle East dollars.

OT      4:45 p.m. / Thursday, Nov. 26, 2009

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