Friday, June 08, 2007


There are certain things in this world which simply cannot be improved – one of them being this report in Zaman today about the EU and the Turkish Army. The prose, to use the word in the advert, is priceless:

Turkish officials on Thursday revealed a disagreement with the European Union regarding modalities of a cooperation process for enhancing defense capacities of the union within the European Security and Defense Policy, although they said this should not be characterized as "a breakdown" in military relations between the bloc and Turkey.
Somehow, you just can’t quite see that making the front page of The Sun, even though it was the main item in yesterday's Sabah daily, which reported: "Turkey's withdrawal of its troops under the command of the EU after the union did not allow Turkey's special operation brigades to join in the command and decision making policies of the unit."

Any vision of Turkish troops lining up on the ramp to board their aircraft back to Turkey, however, can quickly be dispelled. Although Turkey's Special Operation brigades, supported by warplanes and ships, will not be sent to any of the operations under the EU's coordination, Defense minister Vecdi Gönül and foreign ministry officials have made it clear that the withdrawal was "on the paper", since commitments made by Turkey have not yet materialised.

This all stems from a commitment of a full brigade by Turkey to the infamous European Rapid Reaction Force, agreed in Helsinki in 1999, but the Turks are now miffed to find it listed in the reserve, rather than as part of the active forces.

As opposed to the "paper" forces so far offered by the "colleagues", however, Turkey actually prepared to put real soldiers in the pot, hence Gönül's indignation: "We told them that we can't be placed among reserve forces. Because this brigade is [precious] and is fully equipped," he told reporters yesterday. This was backed by a foreign ministry official who emphasised that the commitment made by Turkey was "not an automatic commitment", adding, "We demand upgrading of arrangements concerning command and control."

So, putting this all together, Turkey was offering real soldiers to bolster the EU's paper army, on the basis of which it was, not unreasonably, demanding participation in the command and control process. The "colleagues" responded by relegating the Turkish contribution to the reserve and excluded Turkey from that process, whence the Turks have decided to withdraw the contribution which they had not yet actually made.

As I said: priceless.


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