Last week it was reported that there was a notion to abolish the Turkish Coast Guard. Instead of the coast guard a General Directorate of Border Guard will be established.
The law about this new structure has not been opened to discussion in the parliament but news about it already leaked out.
Before we shall go into the details of this new notion we shall examine the current status first. Currently the Coast Guard just like the Gendarmerie is under dual control. As an organization, Coast Guard Command is subordinated, into the staff and organization of the Turkish Armed Forces. But during the peace time Turkish Coast Command is responsible to Ministry of Internal Affairs in terms of assigned duties and operations along the Turkish coastline, and all maritime areas that are under Turkish sovereignty and control in accordance with the national and international laws.
In simpler terms, Turkish Coast Guard is a military organization that almost duplicates the structure of the Turkish Navy but acts as a law enforcement agency during peace times.
The biography of the current Commander shows the Navy connection clearly: Rear Admiral (UH) İzzet Artunç, 13th Commandant of the Turkish Coast Guard Command, was graduated from the Turkish Naval Academy in 1973 with the rank of Ensign. Later he attended the Submarine Officer Specialization Course become a submariner. His last assignment before being the Commander of Coast Guard was as Chief of Logistics in Turkish Naval Forces Command.
The proposal will change the structure of the Coast Guard from a military force to a policing force. The new Border Guard will only be subordinated to the Ministry of Internal Affairs just like the civilian police force. The existing personnel and infrastructure of the CG will be transferred to the new BG organization. The border outposts and frontier troop’s currently under the command of Turkish Army or Gendarmerie will be transferred to this new General Directorate of Border Guard too.
The personnel of the future Border Guard will be educated in police academies instead of the military schools. The names of ranks and the whole promotions and appointments structure will change to reflect to emphasize the civilian side of the new organization.
The new organization will have some powers that Coast Guard does not currently have. The Border Guard will have the right to monitor the communication of suspected without an approval of a judge. The new police force will have the right to obtain, bear and use heavy weapons that are not normally used as standard police weapons such as the 40mm guns on board of the most coast guard vessels.
The proposed a General Directorate of Border Guard will affect the Coast Guard fundamentally. Gendarmerie Command protects the land borders and ensures their security but forther more it is also responsible for the maintenance of the public order in areas that fall outside the jurisdiction of police forces. These areas cover the most of the rural Turkey. So when the new Border Guard comes into existence the Gendarmerie will give up only a part of its duties. On the other hand the whole 7200 km long sea border of Turkey and is only policed by the Turkish Coast Guard. The General Directorate of Border Guard will cease the existence of the Turkish Coast Guard as we know it.
So why is this change seemed to be necessary?
The main reason is to create a police rather than military force to protect the borders in accordance with the Schengen and EU acquis. The proposed structure of the Border Guard resembles the organisations already existing in Europe.
One other reason is to free the Land Force from border protection duties and focus it on more essential military missions.
It is not clear when the new law notion will be discussed and voted in the parliament. But a timeline for the change of responsibility on the borders has already been made. According to this scheduled the first change of duty will be in 2015 and the last one in 2018. The change of infrastructure and the facilities is planned for 2014. Thus Turkish Coast Guard has four more years left, as we know it.