Ihsan Dagi, "Democratic Transition in Turkey, 1980-83:  The Impact of European Diplomacy," Middle Eastern Studies, Vol. 32, no. 2 (April 1996)

Turkey has a history of military interventions and transitions to democracy. The recurrence of intervention and transition to democracy seems to justify the view that the Turkish military is committed to a democratic form of government. But this view ignores the constraining impact of the international environment on the decisions of the military leaders regarding the democratic transition following military interventions. This study explores the view that Turkey's long-standing military, political, economic and ideological-identificational engagement in the West made the military leaders vulnerable to Western influence and enabled the West to adopt a policy of pressure which was felt and responded to in the democratic transition of Turkey following the last military intervention in 1980. This study, while paying attention to the reactions of the Western governments to the military regime, puts the main emphasis on the institutional opposition and influence attempts of the European Community and the Council of Europe as an external stimulant of Turkey's transition to a civilian regime in 1983.

The Turkish military embodies two conflicting political traditions. Firstly, there is a deep-rooted tradition of intervention in politics which is largely brought about by the military's self-perception as `the guardian of the state' and its distrust of politicians. The self-ascribed guardian role of the military, which is legitimized by the role of military elites in forming the republic and a national security ideology, gives rise to interventionist and authoritarian tendencies. Secondly, there is the legacy of the military as a `modernizer'. As a modernizing force since the nineteenth century the military, especially after the Kemalist reforms, committed itself to a Western-style government which was bound to be a democratic one. The former tradition which regards democracy as leading to political instability and fragmentation, hence endangering security of the state, contradicts the military's long-term aspiration for a Western-style government. Their historical-aspirational desire for a Western model and their practical distrust of party-politics sets a dilemma for the military. While the latter leads to intervention in political life to safeguard the principles of the republic and to `clean up the mess' politicians make, the former forces the military to reassert its commitment to democracy and a rapid return to civilian rule after a military take-over.

Despite the difficulties in managing a Western-style civil-military relationship the Turkish military did not envisage a permanent military regime in the last three military take-overs, and remained as the `guardian', not the `ruler'.(2) The blame for the pre-1980 crisis, and therefore military intervention, was squarely placed on the political parties and their leaders as well as the constitutional framework. In the late 1970s, when the state bureaucracy was highly politicized and intellectuals divided along ideological lines, the military viewed itself as the only cohesive and uncorrupted state elite, the true vanguard or even owner of the state.(3)

The 1980 military regime had more far-reaching aims than those of 1960 and 1971 which went beyond the restructuring of the constitutional framework of the state. The last military regime tried to change the political attitude of people and to de-politicize the whole society in an attempt to prevent in future the political and ideological fragmentation and polarization which had characterized pre-coup Turkey. The aims of the coup were expressed in the first communique as `to preserve the integrity of the country, to restore national union and togetherness, to avert a possible civil war, to re-establish the authority of the state and to eliminate all the factors that prevent the normal functioning of the democratic order'.(4) In his first press conference General Evren, the Chairman of the National Security Council, reaffirmed these purposes by adding one more item to the list; `to establish a civilian government in a reasonable time after concluding the legal preparations'. The new government, it was announced, would be `a liberal, democratic, secular based on the rule of law, which would respect human rights and freedoms'.(5)

As expected, however, the September 1980 military intervention dramatically changed the domestic political scene, and as a military move had an enormous negative effect on civil and political rights. With the first decree of the National Security Council (NSC), the Parliament and the government were dissolved, all political activities were banned and the leaders of four major political parties were put under custody. Martial law was extended to the whole country, and the martial law authorities were empowered to monitor the press and to appoint or dismiss civil servants. Two trade union confederations were closed down and their leaders arrested. Legislative power was transferred to the NSC. The NSC also decided to remove all elected mayors and the members of city councils from their office because of their political affiliations. The first two executions since 1972 were carried out in October. By the end of the military regime the number of executions reached 48. The period of detention without trial was extended to 90 days.

Since priority was given to the restoration of `state authority' by eliminating political violence and suppressing political opposition, thousands of suspects were rounded up. Between September 1980 and February 1983 over 60,000 people suspected of terrorism and illegal political activities were arrested.(6) All lock-outs and strikes were declared illegal and freedom of the press was violated while many newspapers were banned and journalists imprisoned. Mass trials were held to prosecute trade unionists, political parties, and outlawed organizations, with many demands for the death penalty.

All these aimed first to suppress the domestic opposition against the military intervention and then to re-form the whole political structure. Yet Turkey's Western linkages and hence opposition of Western quarters to the military regime immediately emerged as a factor constraining the military's options. Hence this constraining factor for the military regime has to be evaluated in order to have a more comprehensive view of the transition to a civilian government.

In the Western world (West) Germany, after the United States, has always been the second biggest supplier of military and economic assistance to Turkey. Therefore, it was very important for the military regime not to allow a deterioration in relations with the West Germans. Following the coup, many political activists fled to West Germany and asked for political asylum. The extradition demands for these people by the Turkish government were refused on the grounds that they were `political refugees'. The immediate issue of `political refugees' soon turned into a permanent problem since the refugees mounted a strong campaign, not only in West Germany but in the whole of Europe, to force European states and organizations to take measures against the military regime in Turkey. They also became a source of information and misinformation for many torture allegations and other violations of human rights and significantly contributed to shaping European public opinion about the new regime. As a result a Bundestag committee blocked the delivery of the West German aid pledged under the 1981 OECD aid consortium.(7) This was an alarming development for Turkey since West Germany was the biggest contributor alongside the United States to the OECD aid package and the coordinator of the consortium. The German government also refused a Turkish request to co-ordinate another OECD loans package. The Germans were under constant pressure from different political parties, parliamentarians and pressure groups to reduce its aid to Turkey in response to no-progress in the process of a return to democracy.(8)

France's critical view of the military regime was displayed by its inter-state complaint to the Human Rights Commission against Turkey. Furthermore, when the trial of trade unionists (DISK) started the French government expressed its concern through diplomatic channels.(9) The issues of democracy and human rights were also taken up by the British government in bilateral talks with the military regime as a response to domestic pressure. They were also engaged in some quiet diplomacy to persuade the Generals to moderate their handling of issues that Turkey faced within the country and in its relations with Western Europe.(10) Scandinavian countries were particularly critical of the military regime in Ankara right from the beginning. As exemplified in their move to bring Turkey before the Human Rights Commission, they strongly condemned the coup when it took place in September 1980 and immediately took the issue to the European organizations and stayed uncompromising critics of the military regime.(11)

In short, democracy and human rights issues were repeatedly expressed publicly and privately by the West European states in their bilateral relations with Turkey. At the beginning they showed a rather mild reaction, but as time passed, without much progress, and as the generals took harsh policy decisions they became tougher.

Regarding the United States, right after the military take-over, the American ambassador in Turkey advised its government to cancel some official visits, continue military aid but meanwhile to express concern about the fate of parliamentary democracy.(12) Then the State Department announced that there would be no disruption of US aid to Turkey. The US government expressed its trust in the Turkish military and their promise to restore democracy.(13) Strategic imperatives were the basis of the US approach to Turkey in the post-coup period which prevailed over the concern about democracy and human rights. US high officials even criticized the European allies for failing to understand Turkey's problems and lobbied effectively in the Council of Europe to prevent Turkey's expulsion.(14)

As a result of this conflicting approach to the military regime Turkey's relations with Europe were tense and sometimes strained, and even deteriorating, while Turkish-American relations developed along a perfect line. A month after the coup, on 19 October 1980, the Americans persuaded the Generals to agree to the return of Greece to the military wing of NATO, and to ratify the Defence and Economic Cooperation Agreement. In return, the Americans helped to secure Turkey an IMF credit of $92 million in 1980 and postponed S350 million Turkish debts for the next year. American economic and military aid to Turkey increased significantly in this period. It amounted to $453 million in 1981, $704 million in 1982 and $688 million in 1983, and the level of grants in the aid package substantially increased.(15)

To ease public embarrassment caused by support given to a military regime and to justify the continuation of American aid, the most effectively used phrase by the Reagan administration was `transition to democracy'. This conceptualization enabled the administration to continue its support for `friendly authoritarian states'. It would be unfair, however, if we assume that the US administration did not have any concern about issues of democracy and human rights in Turkey. It believed that quiet encouragement of the generals to restore democracy and respect for human rights would be much more effective (and less harmful to American interests) than cutting the aid or resorting to public diplomacy.(16) Secretary of State Haig, for instance, raised the issue of human rights and the restoration of democracy in private talks and asked the American ambassador to Ankara to do the same without any indignation or resentment.(17) In this period there were only two incidents in which the US displayed public discontent with the regime. The first was open criticism by the newly appointed American ambassador to Ankara, J.S. Hupe, of an NSC decree that dissolved all political parties in November 1981; the second being the attendance of the US Councillor General in Istanbul at the trial of Nadir Nadi, publisher and editor-in-chief of the daily Cumhuriyet.(18)

While bilateral relations were not alarming for Turkey following the military coup, the relations with the European Community and the Council of Europe developed along a more problematic line raising questions about Turkey's place in a democratic Europe. Turkey's institutional, political and economic presence in Europe has been a deep-rooted idea of Turkish modernizers since the time of the Tanzimat (1839) whence the issue was Turkey's inclusion to the `Concert of Europe'. In the late twentieth century, the prospect of Turkey's admission to the European Community was considered a sign of the country's Westernization. However, the military regime seemed to be blocking the process of integration into the EC. After the military coup the issues of democracy and human rights in Turkey became a major item on Turkey's economic as well as political relations with EC. On the day the coup took place the Commission issued a statement indicating that `it is following with grave concern the course of events in Turkey'. The statement also expressed the Commission's `hope' that human rights would be respected and that democratic institutions would be quickly restored.(19) The Foreign Ministers of the Nine then issued a statement expressing their `concern' over the developments in Turkey.(20) The statement was perhaps the softest of its kind. The Foreign Ministers seemed convinced by the assurances given by the military leadership that a rapid re-establishment of democratic institutions would take place and that human rights would be respected. As a result, the Foreign Ministers of the nine decided that there was no need to suspend the association agreement or the recently agreed framework of the Fourth Financial Protocol.

The European Parliament, the representative body of the EC, had a debate on the situation in Turkey on 18 September and adopted a resolution that expressed its concern about political and civil rights and the physical safety of detainees. The most significant article of the resolution was the one in which Turkey was reminded that respect for internationally recognized human rights was an essential condition for dialogue with a state, like Turkey, that was associated with the Community.(21)

The EC's rather mild initial attitude can be attributed to uncertainties about the policies of the new regime in Ankara. Thus, the Community adopted a policy of wait and see. They also did not want to alienate the new regime immediately after the coup and push it away from the sphere of influence of the European Community. Very welcoming and positive reports despatched from the Ankara Embassies of the member states also contributed to the early reluctance of the Community to take a strong anti-military stance. This early `understanding' by the Community of the problems that led to the military take-over continued for a while, and it seemed that Turkey-Community relations would not be much affected by the internal developments in Turkey.

Throughout 1981, however, the Community reaffirmed the importance of restoring democracy and respect for human rights in its dealings with Turkey. The Parliament was moving towards a tougher stand against the new regime in Ankara, largely because of the initiative taken by the European socialists and liberals. Such a tough warning came in April 1981 with the adoption of a parliamentary resolution.(22) In the April session of parliament the `situation in Turkey' was debated as an emergency item. The mood among the European socialists was to suspend Turkey's association agreement with the Community, as had happened in the case of Greece in 1967 following the colonels' coup. Eventually the parliament approved a resolution calling on Turkey to restore democratic institutions in two months' time or face the consequences.

The April resolution was the first blow to Turkish-Community relations that put the association agreement in question. However, only a month after the row sparked by this resolution on democracy and human rights in Turkey, the association council agreed on the draft of the fourth EEC-Turkey financial protocol.(23) It seemed that despite the extremely critical attitude of the European Parliament, Turkish-Community relations at executive level were improving in such a way that the Turks spelled out their desire for full membership. In an association meeting at the beginning of June, the Turkish ambassador expressed his government's decision to accelerate and intensify preparations at home so that Turkey could apply for full membership as soon as parliamentary democracy was restored.(24) This was a move to reassure the Europeans that Turkey was determined to stay in the Western economic, political and military blocks. It also implied that Turkey understood that integration into Europe was conditional on the establishment of a fully democratic political system. But Turkey's declared intention to make an early application enabled the European Community to press more rigorously for the restoration of democracy as quickly as possible.

In this positive and optimistic mood negotiations on the fourth protocol were completed in mid-June.(25) The new protocol increased the Community's aid to Turkey by about 94 per cent over the previous one to 600 million ECU. It was an impressive increase in the amount of aid extended to Turkey amid the criticism over democracy and human rights. But it could he argued that concluding the negotiations on the protocol was a move to put economic pressure on Turkey. The release of aid was then made conditional on the developments in domestic politics. The Community, by threatening not to release the aid, used it to pressure Turkey over a rapid return to democracy and respect for human rights. Throughout the period aid remained as a policy instrument for the Community.

Towards the end of the year Turkey Community relations moved into crisis due to the continuing harsh policies of the military regime. For the Community's part Turkey was not moving towards the restoration of democracy as quickly as it had promised. A year after the coup there were no concrete steps taken by the military in this direction except the inauguration in October 1981 of a consultative assembly that was to prepare the new constitution. But even this very first move to restore democracy was overshadowed by a NSC decree abolishing all political parties which existed prior to 12 September 1980.

The Community strongly condemned the dissolution of political parties and the prison sentence given to Ecevit, the former premier, as a set-back to the process of restoring democracy by issuing a statement. A day after Ecevit's second conviction the Turkish ambassador to the EC was called in to convey the Community's message that the sentence raised doubts about a speedy return to democracy.(26) After consulting the Council of Foreign Ministers, particularly West German Foreign Minister Genscher who had recently been to Turkey and had talks with Turkish authorities including General Evren, the Commission concluded that under these circumstances it would not resume the discussions on the release of the fourth financial protocol.(27) By stopping the implementation of the fourth protocol the Community began to use concrete economic means to pressurize the Ankara government on the issues of democracy and human rights.

The tougher stand by the Community as a whole, not only the Parliament, meant the political isolation of Turkey in Europe with repercussions for its relations with the individual states. The change in the Community's policy can be attributed to three reasons. Firstly, they realized that, with the aid package at hand, they could affect the course of events in Turkey through putting economic as well as political pressure on Turkey. Secondly, they thought that the military regime was not taking enough steps to restore democracy and would not do so unless pressure was increased from outside. The Generals' decision to abolish political parties also led some groups of Turkish politicians, unlike their initial silence, to lobby against the military regime and ask their European colleagues to increase pressure on the Generals about the fate of democracy. Thirdly, the Community itself was under pressure from European public opinion.

To keep the pressure mounting, in early 1982 the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Ten decided to send a mission to Turkey to express their concern about the political situation and their expectation that Turkey would soon restore democratic institutions. The Belgian Foreign Minister L. Tindemans, visiting Turkey to convey the message of the Community, discussed the issues of the return to democracy and respect for human rights with Turkish authorities including the Head of State Evren. He was assured by the Turkish authorities of the country's return to democracy within two years at most.(28) The European Council believed that Tindemans' visit helped to achieve the Council's objectives in Turkey to accelerate the return of democracy.

Despite criticism over some of its provisions and the process of the campaign, after popular approval of the new constitution by a referendum in November 1982 and fixing the next general election date as November 1983, Turkey's political problems with the Community eased somewhat. But the request of the Turkish government in spring 1983 from the Community to review its position on the fourth protocol did not make any progress.(29)

It was always made known that political developments as well as the economic situation were behind the negative attitude and decisions of the Community. The Community tended to think that it had a `right' to interfere in the domestic restructuring of Turkish politics because as a state which was attached to the Community with an association agreement and which also revealed its intention for full membership in a short time, the restoration of democracy could not be left to the goodwill of the ruling generals. The Community was careful not to grant Turkey an `exceptional' status in Europe. Given the authoritarian tradition and legacy in Southern Europe `exceptionalism', it was thought, could lead to removal of `European restraints' on these elements in the South.

Another effective institutional opposition to the military regime came from the Council of Europe. Turkey's view of the Council of Europe can be best understood within the context of its two-hundred-year-old history of Westernization. Membership of the Council of Europe was a significant step taken in this direction and came when Turkey's `institutional integration' into the Western world began just after the Second World War. Membership in the Council has had great symbolic importance for Turkey. It signified the Europeanness of Turkey through political and institutional integration into Europe and somehow proved that Turkey's long held desire to be European had been approved by the Europeans themselves. Therefore this symbolic, even psychological, significance which Turkey attached to the Council of Europe was a means of influence for the Council of Europe.

It was no great surprise to see the Council reacting critically to a military coup that took place in a member state. As soon as the Parliamentary Assembly resumed sessions there were numerous moves that called for the suspension of Turkey's membership.(30) Some parliamentarians, particularly socialists, were pressing for the suspension of Turkey's membership on the grounds that the Council did so when the Colonels' coup took place in Greece in 1967. Parallels could easily be found between the two cases. Since a democratic form of government was the prerequisite of membership according to the statute, expulsion would be a straightforward measure until democratic rule were restored.

In the meeting of the Committee of Foreign Ministers, just a month after the coup, Turkish Foreign Minister emphasized `the government's determination to restore parliamentary democracy in the shortest possible time and reaffirmed that Turkish government in this transition period would `conform totally to the principles of the rule of law, and the respect for human rights'(31)

The Council's a way of putting constant pressure on Turkey was to send rapporteurs to Turkey to contact official and non-official people before almost each term of parliamentary meetings. These visits kept the issues of democracy and human rights on the agendas of both Turkey and Europe. Before the Winter session of the Assembly the rapporteur of the Council of Europe visited Turkey on a `fact-finding mission' and had talks with officials including Evren. The visit was closely covered by the Turkish press as well. Despite the moderate and `understanding' report, the Assembly reaffirmed the view in its January meeting that `only states respecting democratic principles can maintain their membership of the Council of Europe'.(32) The Assembly mobilized its organs to follow the developments in Turkey closely and exert pressure on the military regime.

In mid-April 1981 the president of the Parliamentary Assembly visited Turkey and discussed Turkish-Council relations. The report presented to the Assembly after this fact-finding mission stressed that there was no need to set into motion Article 8, which regulates expulsion of a country's membership.(33) The Assembly, as a way of maintaining pressure, decided to discuss the matter further in the next term. In the face of growing lobbying against Turkey's presidency of the Committee of Foreign Ministers, Turkey voluntarily proposed to postpone its turn to chair the Committee, which was due in November 1981, until the restoration of democracy. By this move Turkey intended to preempt a possible strike to block its presidency.(34)

In fact, towards the end of the year the Council of Europe-Turkey relations had reached a critical point where both sides were becoming impatient and intolerant. For the Council, Turkey did not show its commitment to restore democracy in any substantiated way. Despite the inauguration of the consultative assembly, the allegations of torture were spreading, mass trials were set up (the defendants including trade unionists) with demands for 52 death sentences, political parties were dissolved and former Premier Ecevit was again sentenced. On the Turkish side, European `concern' was turning into pressure and was reaching unacceptable proportions.

In this mood the Turkish Prime Minister Ulusu stated that Turkey would be prepared to withdraw from the Council of Europe if it became necessary.(35) The PM's remark illustrated the growing impatience of the Ankara government visa-vis European inducements. Nonetheless, it was rather an improbable counter-attack. Such a move would be a denial, or at least and worst a reversal of Turkish commitment, in symbolic terms, to Westernization that was the cornerstone of Kemalist state ideology, and a break with Western political and ideological linkages. It would thus affect Turkey's standing and credentials in other European organizations. Furthermore in domestic politics, Turkey's total estrangement from Europe would enhance the political and social arguments of `reactionary forces'. Partly due to these possible implications of the issue, the military regime was bound to come to terms with the presence of European concern', that is, pressure. The issue of Turkey's expulsion from the Council of Europe was taken by the Turks as a test of Turkey's Europeanness. It was a matter that determined Turkey's view of itself as a part of Europe.

As a further step to pressurize Turkey, a Parliamentary Assembly resolution called on the member states to use the Article 24 of the European Human Rights Convention, the mechanism of inter-state complaint, to `verify the extent to which the allegations of torture and other violations of human rights in Turkey are founded'.(36) Despite Turkey's diplomatic threat that the government would reconsider its relations with the countries involved in the intergovernmental complaint application, France, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway and Sweden followed the argument and each state individually lodged a complaint against Turkey in the European Commission of Human Rights in July 1982.(37) In Turkey the applications gave rise to another wave of resentment and disappointment with the European states and allies but it also put further constraints on Turkey's human rights policy at home and its foreign policy options.

While the preparation of the new constitution was under way, the Assembly also warned the government that it must conform with the statute of the Council of Europe and the European Convention on Human Rights.(38) The Council warned against a constitution that contravened the principles of the European Convention on Human Rights. In fact the first draft prepared by the committee was a broad `translation' of the Convention's relevant articles. But the later amendments that were made in the Consultative Assembly and the NSC changed the initial arrangement of the rights by the Constitution Committee. Even after the approval of the constitution the Council of Europe often expressed its concern about some provisions of the constitution which were thought to be restricting human rights, the process of the referendum and the use of a single vote for the election of the president and approval of the constitution.(39)

Despite a slight softening of relations between Turkey and the Council this did not stop the latter from asserting that the way in which political parties were set up and authorized to join the election was undemocratic. The Parliamentary Assembly decided by a resolution in September 1983 that any members of the new Turkish parliament would be barred from its sessions on the ground that most political parties were unable to stand in the elections and that, therefore, the results would be unrepresentative.(40)

As pointed out, the government regarded membership of the Council of Europe `as a matter of domestic as well as international prestige', even more as the confirmation of its European credentials. With this conviction the military regime was aware that in the case that Turkey was expelled or voluntarily withdrew from the Council of Europe the process of Turkey's returning to the Council would be much more troublesome. They were concerned that when Turkey restored democracy and asked for readmittance, the Council of Europe would put some preconditions over some articles of the constitution and the penal code.

As far as the Council of Europe's attitude is concerned there were two prevailing approaches within the Council; one which was basically promoted by Socialists, Communists and the Greeks pressed for the punishment of the military regime for suspension of democracy and suppression of political activists by expelling Turkey from the Council. There was also a concern that Turkish authoritarianism could set a successful contemporary example for similar tendencies in Southern Europe.(41) It was believed that the Council, by adopting an uncompromising policy against the Turkish military, could deter a come-back of Mediterranean authoritarianism which proved its existence by the attempted coup of 1981 in Spain.

On the other hand, there was another approach which advocated a policy of keeping Turkey within the Council of Europe on the ground that this would make easier the return of Turkey to parliamentary democracy and respect for human rights.(42) It was argued that the Council of Europe's influence would be more effective in bringing about change if Turkey's links with the Council were maintained. The extent to which the Turkish government attached importance to the membership in the Council was believed to present an `opportunity' for the Council to watch over and exercise a considerable influence on the political developments in Turkey.(43) At the end the prevailing view was that the Council should neither be too soft about the suspension of democracy and violation of human rights nor press too hard for the expulsion of Turkey. Therefore, Turkey's membership issue was kept on the agenda throughout the period.

The role of Amnesty International should also be underlined in mobilizing European institutions and public opinion. Amnesty International contributed to the Political Affairs and Legal Affairs Committees in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and to the European Parliament.(44) It was effective in keeping the human rights issues on the agenda of the European organizations. The Council of Europe and the European Community were receptive to the lobbying of Amnesty International in their dealings with Turkey. Hence, the pressure exerted on Turkey by these organizations partly originated from and was justified by the reports and lobbying of Amnesty International.

The period 1980-83 witnessed an intense international debate about the future of democracy and human rights in post-coup Turkey. The military regime came under fierce attack from European quarters, particularly the Council of Europe, the European Community, Amnesty International, trade unions, other human rights organizations and individual countries. The activities and interference of international organizations and individual countries encouraged the remaining elements of internal opposition, human rights activists and peace campaigners who were suppressed and far from organized. But the fact that world public opinion was aware of the human rights situation in Turkey gave them the courage to speak up.

As a result of external, mainly European, complaints about human rights conditions, the military regime was kept defensive in foreign policy, particularly in its affairs with Europe. The military regime was constantly forced to explain itself, explain the situation and justify the military take-over and its subsequent policies, which in turn led to an apologetic attitude in Turkish foreign affairs. The result was that the internal political situation became an issue in Turkey's relations with Europe, a position which the generals sought to reject. But in fact in almost all diplomatic exchanges with the Europeans, issues of democracy and human rights emerged as the central question. Despite their public defiance of `European interest' in Turkish domestic politics, the military regime's readiness to discuss internal problems with their foreign contacts demonstrates the true attitude of the government, its receptiveness and sensitivity to external criticism and the presence of some degree of interaction. The result was that not only did the internal political situation become an issue in foreign affairs; but also the latter turned into a dependent variable responding to internal developments. For instance, the Turkish Foreign Minister was in Europe just three days after the referendum on the new constitution had taken place to explain the new situation in Turkey and to ask for the suspension of the fourth protocol to be lifted.(45) If, to curry favour, a foreign minister discloses in a meeting with foreigners that a prison sentence given to a former politician has been reduced, he is not being sincere when he speaks out against `foreign interference in internal affairs' of the country.(46) This shows how internal issues, contrary to appearances, were internationalized and became the subject of international relations. Furthermore, if an official visit by a foreign minister to Turkey could be centred around issues of democracy and human rights, this reveals the amount of diplomatic pressure exerted on Turkey and Turkey's need for the understanding of its European partners.

The European interest in Turkish domestic politics meant pressure, economic as well as political, and it was denounced by the government as unwarranted interference in Turkey's own affairs. Such a political confrontation on some occasions led to frustration and isolation in Turkey's relations with Europe. To ease European pressure Turkey turned to the United States for military, economic and political support and to the Middle East for trade. During this period Turkish-American relations improved substantially leaving behind the mutual distrust which had culminated in the 1974 Turkish intervention in Cyprus.

The military regime's response in its foreign policy to strained relations with Europe over the issues of democracy and human rights can also be seen in Turkey's relations with the Middle Eastern and Islamic states. In the early 1980s Turkey's economic and political relations with the Middle Eastern countries began to improve. One reason for the sudden intensification of Turkey's economic and political relations with the Middle East was Turkey's response to the strained relations with Europe. With the military intervention the generals realized that they could not rely on European goodwill to recover the economy. In order to counter-balance European economic and political pressure, despite obvious difficulties in breaking with the Western linkages, the new regime attached great importance to improve its economic and political ties with the Middle Eastern and other Islamic countries.(47)

However, Turkey's links with European states and organizations alike could not be substituted by either the United States or the Middle East. Therefore, Turkey needed to reach a compromise to avoid a total breakdown in its relations with Europe. Within this context of Turkey's desire to stay in Europe, European diplomacy had an impact on political developments in post-1980 Turkey. As a nation historically committed to Westernization, which presupposes recognition by the West, and for decades established unbreakable political, economic, ideological and defence linkages with the West, the Turkish government had to take European criticisms very seriously. In this broader context the European factor contributed to the process of restoring democracy and respect for human rights.

It is impossible to say that European pressure forced the military regime to restore democratic institutions, however its significance and contribution to the process can not be denied either.(48) As far as the aims of the military regime were concerned there was not a significant disagreement between the Generals and the Europeans. As the Generals made clear from the beginning, their aim was to `restore democracy', and this aim did not change over time. But in shaping this general aim, the cumulative impact of the West was effective. Turkey's historical commitment to Westernization and its accompanying quest to integrate politically, economically and culturally into Europe determined the position of the military in the early 1980s on the Generals' plan to restore democracy, and made them more sensitive to European criticism. Turkey's membership in the Western political, economic and defence organizations constituted an international political setting which imposed its own principles and aspirations upon the desires and designs of the Turkish military.(49)

To prove this point might be difficult but the presence of a degree of influence can be illustrated. Towards the end of 1981 the Turkish government rejected a visit by a 25-member delegation from the Council of Europe feeling annoyed by the frequency of such visits. The Europeans read this as a sign of Turkey's reluctance to co-operate with the Europeans with regard to returning to democracy. The attempts of the Turkish ambassador in the Council to reverse the decision or to set a new date for the visit of the European Parliamentarians to avoid further confrontation with the Council were fruitless. But the Turkish government set a new date for the visit. The Permanent Turkish representative to the Council of Europe marked the occasion by saying `on the issue I proved unsuccessful at persuading the government. Instead, diplomatic pressures of Western states brought about the result.(50)

An example of the military regime's preoccupation with European concern over issues of democracy and human rights is General Evren's memoirs which had over 25 entries for each year referring to the European dimension of internal political situation.(51) Knowing the political principles and values of the West, even the Turkish Foreign Minister acknowledged that the concern of Europeans was legitimate as far as Turkey's membership in the European organizations was concerned.(52) In turn this attitude placed Turkey on the defensive in its relations with Europe and provided the background of the European influence.

A timetable for the return to democracy was the issue over which the military government was subjected to most pressure in the first year of this period. The issue was raised by the European rapporteurs, delegations and statesmen visiting Turkey or in the European organizations. When the timetable was adopted by the NSC, it was done to some extent to assure the Europeans about the generals' genuine intention to establish parliamentary democracy and to ease the pressures. It was also thought that such a public commitment would help to rebuild Turkey's image in the West. Evren's announcement of the timetable for the transition to democracy came at the end of 1981. At this time Turkey was having a hard time because of the NSC's decision to dissolve all political parties in November despite the establishment of a consultative assembly to prepare the new constitution, political parties and election laws. This last move produced a dramatic response from the West European states, political parties, the Council of Europe and the European Community. The military regime faced the most critical and threatening response from abroad which came close to isolate Turkey from the West. Furthermore, at the beginning of December the European Community decided to halt economic assistance in response to the lack of concrete steps towards democracy and the imprisonment of Ecevit, and West Germany signalled that it was considering a similar move. The announcement was also made just a week before the arrival of a delegation from the Council of Europe: the report they were to present to the Council would determine the presence of Turkey in the Council of Europe. Evren's announcement of an approximate date for the general elections therefore was a move to stop this rapid deterioration in Turkey's image and relations with Europe. It was intended to show the West the Generals' good will and commitment to restore democracy and had hardly anything to do with internal demands. The date for the elections was announced almost two years before they actually took place, an unusual length of time. Anyhow, it was ironic that the Generals had to announce the date for the next general elections just a month after they had dissolved all political parties.

Another issue which the European critics took up was the extension of detention period without trial to 90 days following the coup.(53) Just a year after the coup, partly due to significant pressure and criticism from the West, the NSC decided to reduce the period of detention without trial to 45 days. While the military courts were incapable of coping with the cases and thousands were detained, this was a legal gesture to Europe. However, Evren explains in his memoirs that the detention period was too long and that they had wanted to reduce it even earlier, but that they had postponed this in order not to be seen as submitting to European pressure.(54) The Council of Europe was also pressing to reduce the minimum conviction period which had to be served before an appeal could be lodged in the high court; it had been increased to three years. When advised to reduce the period from three years to six months by a representative of the Parliamentary Assembly, Evren said they would do so because the period was really too long but the Europeans should not think that they were doing this because of European pressure.(55)

As these cases show, Evren was anxious not to be seen as yielding to foreign pressure. Nonetheless, this over-sensitivity is also a sign that European pressure was there and influencing his decisions, or at least that he had the European response in mind when he made decisions. It is also interesting to note Evren's reactions to the debates in the Parliamentary Assembly on the situation in Turkey. When the Parliamentary Assembly postponed the decision about the expulsion of Turkey from its October to its January session, Evren wrote in his diary that `now we have gained three more months'.(56) On another occasion, when he heard the news that expulsion from the Council of Europe was unlikely, he noted: `the news relaxed me'.(57) The Generals were in a real dilemma. On the one hand they wanted to use their excessive power to restructure the whole system as they saw fit, but on the other they could not practically do this independent of Europe. They just could not ignore the `European dimension and linkages' of Turkish politics.

Apparently, transition to a civilian regime took three years. When compared to the transition to a civilian regime after the 1960 military intervention this was a longer period. But unlike the 1960 intervention, the leaders of the 1980 coup were determined to reform the whole political structure, as well as the political attitude and culture of the nation in a way that would prevent the recurrence of the pre-1980 political and security crisis in the system. In the first communique the NSC issued they blamed all basic constitutional institutions for failing to solve the pressing security problems of the country. Thus, it was not an easy job to reform those 'corrupt' institutions and `re-educate' people in a short time. Therefore, as General Evren admitted in his memoirs when they handed power to the Motherland Party in 1983, they thought the job was not finished yet.(58)

The question emerges, then, as to why they allowed the transition to a civilian regime to proceed in three years. First, there is no possibility that the generals wanted to set up a permanent military regime. They knew well that a permanent military regime was not feasible. They saw themselves not as the `rulers' but the `guardians' of Kemalist state ideology. The legacy of Turkish experience in democracy and the accompanying popular political culture would also undermine the legitimacy of a military regime and block any popular support in the long term. But throughout this period there was almost no popular political opposition to quicken the pace of democratization.

The argument, therefore, is that in the absence of any significant popular demand for a speedy return to civilian rule at the home front a very important factor was the international-European environment and pressures from it. Turkey's political, ideological and institutional engagement in the Western world and the present danger of losing the gains and the accumulations of two hundred years constituted the long-term thinking that was behind the Generals' decision to return to democracy from military rule in 1983. Evren knew that to be in Europe and accepted as European there was one precondition, that of re-establishing a democratic parliamentary system.(59)

Overall, it is hard to argue that the Generals were submissive to the European inducements. But it is quite possible to say that external concern, interest and pressure had an influence on the military regime, which the Generals would not admit, by limiting the foreign policy options of the military regime and encouraging internal political forces. The presence of Turkey's longestablished Western linkages and Turkey's need and determination to maintain them were the basis and channel for European influence.


(1.) T. Tachau and M. Heper, The State, Politics, and the Military in Turkey', Comparative Politics (October 1983), p.19. (2.) K. Karpat, `Military Interventions: Army Civilian Relations in Turkey Before and After 1980', in M. Heper and A. Evin, State, Democracy and the Military: Turkey in the 1980s (Berlin-New York, Walter de Gruyter, 1988); and Tachau and Heper, op. cit., p.28. (3.) See J. Brown, `The Military and Society: The Turkish Case', Middle Eastern Studies, Vol.25, No.3 (1989), p.400. For a quotation from Kemal Ataturk that portrays the army as the `true owner of the country' and the `guardian of its ideals', see Tachau and Heper, op. cit., p.20. (4.) The first communique of the National Security Council. in 12 September in Turkey: Before and After (Ankara: The General Secretariat of the National Security Council, 1982). p.221. (5.) Ibid., pp.224 and 230. (6.) L.W. Pevsner. Turkey's Political Crisis: Background, Perspectives, Prospects, The Washington Papers 110 (New York: Praeger, 1984). p.88. (7.) Briefing, 4 fan. 1982, p.8. (8.) The Tunes, 16 and 17 Jan. 1981. (9.) Briefing, 11 May 1981, p.11 and 4 Jan. 1982, p.7. (10.) The Times, 29 April 1981; and 21 March 1982; Briefing, 4 May 1981; K. Evren, Evren' in Anilari, Vol.2 (Istanbul, Milliyet Yayinlari), p.242. (11.) Briefing, 4 Jan. 1980, p.4; 20 April 1981. pp.34; The Times. 3 June 1982. (12.) See J.W. Spain and N. Ludington, `Dateline Turkey: The Case for Patience'. Foreign Policy. Vol.50 (1983), p.163. (13.) Briefing, 15 Sept. 1980. p.13. (14.) J.W. Spain was US ambassador in Turkey. See his American Diplomacy in Turkey: Memoirs of an Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotetiary (New York: Praeger, 1984), p.217; Spain and Ludington, op. cit., p.150. (15.) Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1982 (February 1882), Report by the US Department of States, p.1020; Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1983 (February 1983), p.1122. (16.) Spain and Ludington, op. cit., pp.151, 168. (17.) Spain, op. cit., pp.217, 234. (18.) Foreign Broadcast Information Service: Western Europe, 10 May 1983; A.G. Mower, Human Rights and American Foreign Policy (New York: Greenwood, 1987), p.97. (19.) Bulletin of the European Communities, 9 (1980), p.52. (20.) Ibid.; The Times, 16 Sept. 1980. (21.) For the text, see Official Journal of the European Communities: Information and Notices, C 265, 13 Oct. 1980. (22.) See Official Journal EC, C 101/110, 4 May 1981. (23.) Bulletin EC, 5 (1981), p.53. (24.) Bulletin EC, 6 (1981), p.60; The Times, 6 June 1981.. (25.) Bulletin EC, 6 (1981), p.60. (26.) The Times, 5 Nov. 1981. (27.) See Bulletin EC, 11 (1981), p.55; and Briefing. 16 Nov. 1981. p.11. (28.) Bulletin EC, 2 (1982). p.50 and 3 (1982). pp.21, 63. (29.) Bulletin EC, 3 (1983). p.63. (30.) See, for instance, Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Documents: Working Papers, Doc.4818, 29 Sept., 1980. (31.) Communication of the Committee of Ministers, 17 Nov. 1980, Doc.4645. Documents: Working Papers; also see S. Gunver, Kiznig Dam Uzerinde Diplomasi: Avrupali Olmanin Bedeli (Istanbul: Milliyet Yayinlari, 1989). (32.) Report on the Situation in Turkey. Doc.4657, Documents: Working Papers, 7 Jan. 1981; Order No.395 (1981), Texts Adopted by the Assembly, 32nd Session. (33.) Briefing, 20 April 1981. pp.34 and 4 May 1981; Gunver. op. cit. pp.144-5. (34.) Gunver, op.cit., pp.154-60. (35.) Briefing, 14 Dec. 1981. p.7. (36.) Resolution No.765 (1982) on the Situation in Turkey, Text Adopted by the Assembly, also see C. Dodd, The Crisis of Turkish Democracy, Second Edition (London: Eothen Press, 1990), p.61. (37.) European Human Rights Report, Vol.4, Part 4 (European Commission of Human Rights, October 1982); The Times, 2 July 1982. (38.) Resolution 795 (1982), Texts Adopted by the assembly. (39.) Resolution 794 (1982), On the Situation in Turkey, Text Adopted by the Assembly; The Times, 28 Jan. 1983. (40.) FBIS:WE, 24 Oct. 1983; Keesing's Contemporary Archive, Dec. 1983, p.32581. (41.) Official Report of Debates, 33rd Session, 13 May 1981. (42.) Barchd, Turkey and the West (London: Routledge, 1985), p.59. (43.) See Steiner report, On the Situation in Turkey, Documents: Working Papers, No.4841 (1982). (44.) See Report on the Situation in Turkey, Rap. L. Steiner, Documents: Working Papers, Doc.4965; and Opinion on the Legal Aspects of the Situation in Turkey, Rap. G. garden, Doc.4849. (45.) FBIS:WE, 12 Nov. 1982, T.I. (46.) Turkish Foreign Minister Ilter Turkmen, visiting the European Commission, passed the news that former prime Minester Ecevit would be freed soon as a result of the reduction in his prison sentence, see Bulletin EC, 1 (1982), p.42. (47.) See Evren, op. cit., Vol.2, p.224; and U. Steinbach, `Turkey's Third Republic', Aussen Politik, p.247. (48.) Steinbach, op. cit., p.248; W. Hale, `Transition to Civilian Governments in Turkey: The Military Perspective', in Heper and Evin, State, Democracy and the Military, p.162; G. Pridham `Politics of the European Community: Transnational Network and Democratic Transition in Southern Europe', in G. Pridham (ed.), Encouraging Democracy: The International Context of Regime Transition in Southern Europe (Leicester: Leicester University Press, 1991), p.222. (49.) Dodd, op. cit., p.64; Hale, op. cit., p.161; A. Karaosmanoglu, `The International Context of Democratic Transition in Turkey', in Pridham, Encouraging Democracy, pp.172-3. (50.) The Ambassador was Semih Gunver, see his book, op. cit., p.222. (51.) See the volumes of Evren's memoirs. (52.) See The Times, 13 Feb. 1981. (53.) Evren, op. cit.. Vol.2, p.299. (54.) Ibid.. p.380. (55.) Ibid., Vol.3, p.47. (56.) Ibid., Vol.2, p.408. (57.) Ibid., Vol.3, p.26. (58.) Kenan Evrentin Antlar', Milliyet, 9 Nov. 1990. (59.) Evren, op. cit., Vol.2, p.139.

COPYRIGHT 1996 Frank Cass & Company Ltd. (UK)

COPYRIGHT 1997 Information Access Company

Return to Vinnie's Home Page

Return to Central Asia Page