THE prospects of Turkey's membership of the European Union will not have been helped by this week's arrest of several former high-ranking military men and revelations of a plot to overthrow the elected government which has been in the making for almost ten years. France and Austria are strongly opposed to Turkey's accession and several other EU countries are uncertain about the validity of Turkey as a European-style democracy, despite the efforts that its current government has made to implement reforms in several key areas.

However the very stability of the Turkish nation is called into question when elected governments are at the mercy of the military. The Turkish army has got rid of four governments in the past 50 years, most recently about ten years ago, and to judge by the information that has come to light in the past few days it has lost none of its taste for further coups. Operation Sledgehammer, as the plot is known, is designed to create an atmosphere of chaos, nationalism and fear of Islamic fundamentalism in order to justify military intervention. The pre-emptive response of Justice and Development Party which forms the Islamic government has been to arrest 49 senior officers in a sweep covering eight cities; among those taken into custody were former commanders of the army, air force and navy.