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Middle East Environmental Law


Turkey's 1982 Constitution states in Article 1 that: "The Turkish State is a Republic." Article 2 of the Constitution regulates the fundamental characteristics of the Republic defines it as a democratic, secular, social state governed by the rule of law and respectful of human rights. The first three articles of the Constitution elaborate on the political system, nationality, identity, and language of Turkey. Article 4 of the Constitution provides that the principles in the first three articles cannot be amended.

According to Article 7 of the Constitution, "Legislative power is vested in the Grand National Assembly of Turkey on behalf of the Turkish Nation. This power cannot be delegated." Article 8 states: "Executive power and function shall be exercised and carried out by the President of the Republic and the Council of Ministers in conformity with the Constitution and the law." Article 9 states: "Judicial power is exercised by independent courts on behalf of the Turkish Nation."

The Legislature

The legislative branch is regulated in the first chapter of the third part of the Constitution. According to Article 75, "The Grand National Assembly of Turkey is composed of five hundred and fifty deputies elected by universal suffrage." The legislative term of the Grand National assembly is five years. However, the Constitution allows the Assembly to anticipate elections and authorizes the President to call elections under the circumstances stated in Article 77. Article 87 regulates the powers and duties of the Grand National Assembly. According to Article 87, these powers include the ability to, "make, amend, and repeal laws; to supervise the Council of Ministers and ministers; to authorize the Council of Ministers to make law amending ordinances on certain matters; to deliberate and adopt the budgetary laws and the draft laws on final accounts; to decide upon printing money and declaration of war; to approve the ratification of international agreements, to make decision on declaration of general and private amnesty law by three-fifths majority of its full membership, and to exercise powers, and carry out duties which are stated in other articles of the Constitution."


The Executive

The Constitution of 1982 adopts all the basic characteristics of parliamentarism but strengthens the presidential office within the executive branch and the status of the Prime Minister within the Council of Ministers. Executive powers are exercised by the President and the Council of Ministers as stated in Article 8. The President is the impartial leader of the executive branch. The Council of Ministers is politically responsible and accountable for executive matters before the parliament.

The President of the Republic

According to article 101 of the Constitution the President is elected for a term of seven years by the Grand National Assembly of Turkey from among its members, or in some situations outside of the members of the Grand National Assembly. The president is limited to a single term of seven years. Election of the President requires the approval of a two thirds majority of the total membership of the Grand National Assembly. However, if it cannot be obtained in the first two ballots, in either the third and fourth ballots an absolute majority of the total members is sufficient. If this absolute majority is not obtained in the fourth ballot, the elections to the Grand National Assembly are immediately renewed.

Even though the President has broad power elaborated in article 104 of the Constitution, Article 105 provides that all presidential decisions are subject to the counter-signature of the Prime Minister and the minister concerned. The President can be impeached for cases such as high treason, which should be proposed by the one-third of the total number of the members of the Grand National Assembly and by the decision of the least three-fourths of the GNA.

The Council of Ministers

Under Article 109, the Council of Ministers consists of the Prime Minister and the ministers. The Prime Minister is appointed by the President of the Republic from among the members of the Grand National Assembly. The ministers are nominated by the Prime Minister and appointed by the President, or from among those eligible for election as deputies; and they can be dismissed by the President of the Republic, upon the proposal of the Prime Minister when deemed necessary."

The Council of Ministers is formed with the approval of the President, and then a vote of confidence in Parliament is taken in accordance with the procedure in Article 110. The Council of Ministers is collectively responsible before the parliament with respect to its general policies. Each minister is also individually responsible before the parliament on account of matters within his/her jurisdiction. Both collective and individual responsibilities of ministers are invoked through interpellations according to Article 99 of the Constitution.

The Judiciary

The 1982 Constitution guarantees judicial independence and prohibits any government agency or individual from interfering with the operations of the courts and judges. The high court system includes a Constitutional Court responsible for judicial review of legislation, a Court of Cassation (or Supreme Court of Appeals), a Council of State serving as the high administrative and appeals court, a Court of Accounts, and a Military Court of Appeals. The High Council of Judges and Prosecutors, appointed by the president, supervises the judiciary.

The Constitutional Court reviews the constitutionality of laws and decrees at the request of the President or of one-fifth of the members of the National Assembly. Its decisions on the constitutionality of legislation and government decrees are final. The eleven members of the Constitutional Court are appointed by the President from among candidates nominated by lower courts and the High Council of Judges and Public Prosecutors. Challenges to the constitutionality of a law must be made within sixty days of its promulgation. Decisions of the Constitutional Court require the votes of an absolute majority of all its members, with the exception of decisions to annul a constitutional amendment, which require a two-thirds majority.

The Court of Appeals (also known as the Court of Cassation) is the court of last result for review of decisions and verdicts of lower-level judicial courts, both civil and criminal. Its members are elected by secret ballot by senior judges and public prosecutors. Below the Court of Appeals are the ordinary civil and criminal courts. At the lowest level of the judicial system are justices of the peace, who have jurisdiction over minor civil complaints and offenses. Single-judge criminal courts have jurisdiction over misdemeanors and petty crimes, with penalties ranging from small fines to brief prison sentences. Every organized municipality (a community having a minimum population of 2,000) has at least one single-judge court, with the actual number of courts varying according to the total population. Three-judge courts of first instance have jurisdiction over major civil suits and serious crimes. Either of the parties in civil cases and defendants convicted in criminal cases can request that the Court of Appeals review the lower-court decision. The Turkish courts have no jury system; judges render decisions after establishing the facts in each case based on evidence presented by lawyers and prosecutors.

The administrative court system consists of the Council of State, appellate court, and various administrative courts of first instance. The Council of State reviews decisions of the lower administrative courts, considers original administrative disputes, and, if requested, gives its opinion on draft legislation submitted by the Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers. The President appoints 25 percent of the Council of State's judges, while the High Council of Judges and Public Prosecutors appoint the other 75 percent.

The military court system exercises jurisdiction over all military personnel. In areas under martial law, the military also has jurisdiction over all civilians accused of terrorism or "crimes against the state." The military court system consists of military and security courts of first instance, a Supreme Military Administrative Court, an appellate State Security Court, and the Military Court of Appeals, which reviews decisions and verdicts of the military courts. The decisions of the Military Court of Appeals are final and non reviewable.[1]

Environmental Laws

The Ministry of Environment and Forestry is responsible for environmental issues in Turkey. The activities of the Ministry cover issues such as: appropriate land use; protection of natural resources, plants and animal species; prevention and control of pollution; and raising public awareness about environmental concerns. Also, the Ministry is responsible for setting environmental policies and strategies; coordinating environmental activities at the local, national and international levels; issuing environmental licenses; collecting information; and organizing training activities. All these activities are conducted in close cooperation with other ministries, related institutions, and local governments and non-governmental organizations.

In order to advocate its application to join the European Union, Turkey began making significant progress with its most pressing environmental problems in 1991. Part of the progress came through updating environmental laws and regulations. Despite these reforms,, environmental concerns are not fully integrated into public decision-making and enforcement remains weak. Turkey faces a backlog of environmental problems, requiring enormous outlays of infrastructure. The most pressing needs are for water treatment plants, wastewater treatment facilities, solid waste management, and conservation of biodiversity.

The first overarching environmental legislation, the Turkey adopted the country's "Environmental Law." The National Ministry of the Environment was created in 1991 and reorganized in 2006 (Official Gazette No.2872, 24 Jun 2006) as Turkey aimed to harmonize its regulations with EU standards and improve enforcement. The "Environmental Law" outlines Turkey's environmental policy in general terms and includes the polluter pays principle.

Some of legislations and regulations that Turkey passed for protection of environment and sustainable development are as follows:

• Environmental Law N. 2872

• Fund for Prevention of Pollution (1985)

• Protection of Air Quality ( 1986)

• Fines to Be Imposed on Ships and Other Seagoing Vessels (1987)

• Control of Water Pollution (1988)

• Solid Wastes Control ( 1991)

•Environmental Impact Assessment (1993-revised 1997)

• Medical Wastes Control (1993)

• Hazardous Wastes Control and Management (1995)

• Control of Harmful Chemical Substances and Products

• Reduction of Ozone Depleting Substances (1999)

• Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora National Implementation Regulation (2001)

• Control of Soil Pollution (2001)

• Environmental Inspection (2002)

• Protection of Wetlands (2002)

The Five Year Development Plan is the basic instrument of government policy addressing efficient use of natural resources. The State Planning Organization (SPO) prepares the Five Year Plans. The SPO has included environmental issues in its developmental plans since the Third Five Year Development Plan (1973-1977). Also the concept of "sustainable development" has been included from the Sixth Five Year Development Plan (1990-1994). The National Environmental Action Plan (NEAP), included the Seventh Five Year Development Plan, was prepared by Ministry of Environment.

The NEAP covers topics such as: the significance of conducting certain activities for the development of an efficient environmental management system, the importance of environmental data and public awareness, new investment proposals in different thematic areas, and compliance with the international environmental standards and European Union standards and adoption of the related regulations thereof. The NEAP is basically designed to implement to further Agenda 21[2].

Turkey is a member of the OECD, the Council of Europe, and NATO. Turkey is a party to all OECD regulations on environmental issues, and is bound by decisions addressing of chemicals, hazardous waste and industrial accidents. During the 1990s, Turkey strengthened bilateral and regional environmental cooperation programs such as Mediterranean Action Plan and Black Sea Environment Program.

Turkey is a party to some of the most important international environmental treaties and conventions and multilateral environmental agreements such as:

•- Convention on Whale Hunting , 1931

•- International Convention for Protection of Birds (1967)

•- The Antarctic Treaty (1995)

•- Convention on Wetlands of International Importance Especially as Waterfowl Habitat, 1994

•- European Convention for Protection of Animals During International Transport, 1971

•- Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), 1996

•- Convention on Prevention of Pollution from Ships MARPOL (Annex III & IV not signed by Turkey), 1990

•- Convention on Biological Diversity, 1997

•- Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal, 1994

•- Convention on Combating Desertification

•- Protocol of the International Civil Liability Convention for the Damages Due to Petroleum Pollution, 1996

Environmental Problems in Turkey:

Taurus Mountains, Turkey

In the past decade Turkey has experienced vigorous economic growth, resulting in increased consumption of resources and a general degradation of Turkey's environment. Industrialization and urbanization over the past two decades has put pressure on Turkey's environment and resulted in higher levels of pollution. As energy consumption has increased, Turkey's dependency on oil and gas also has increased, resulting in greater oil tanker traffic in the Black Sea and Bosporus Straits. Increased shipping traffic through the narrow Bosporus Straits has heightened fears of a major accident that could have serious environmental consequences and endanger the health of the 12 million residents of Istanbul that live on either side of the Straits. Aside from marine pollution, Turkey must deal with high levels of air pollution, increased energy consumption and the resulting carbon emissions. [3]

Turkish cities, especially Istanbul, are suffering from high levels of smog and industrial pollutants. Part of this problem stems from increased use of personal automobiles. As Turkey's economy grows, the problem will only become worse.

The Turkish government has taken several measures to reduce pollution from energy sources. In order to meet EU environmental standards, Turkey is requiring flue gas desulfurization (FGD) units on all newly commissioned coal power plants and is retrofitting FGD onto older units. In addition, the planned "Blue Stream" natural gas pipeline from Russia should provide Turkey with cleaner burning gas.

Turkish energy consumption has risen dramatically over the past 20 years. From just 1.0 quadrillion Btu (quads) in 1980, Turkey's domestic energy consumption has nearly tripled, reaching a level of 2.9 quads in 1998. Of Turkey's total energy consumption, 50% is used by the industrial sector, with residential at 27%, transportation at 16.4%, and commercial at 6.7%. Oil accounts for 43.9% of this consumption, with coal at 26.7% and natural gas at 13.2%.

Turkey's carbon emissions have risen in line with the country's energy consumption. Since 1980, Turkey's energy-related carbon emissions have jumped from 18 million metric tons annually to 47.1 million metric tons in 1998. While this level of emissions is low compared to other IEA countries, the upward trend and the rate of increase is an obvious cause for country.

Turkey's rapid growth in hydroelectric generation in the water-starved Middle East has provoked disputes with neighboring countries. Both Syria and Iraq have opposed Turkey's planned construction of dams on the Euphrates (Syria) and Tigris Rivers (Iraq) that threaten to choke off water supply to these countries. The $1.6-billion Ilusu hydroelectric dam project on the Tigris River, part of the wide-ranging Southeast Anatolia Project for economic development in the region, has the financial backing of a consortium made up of the United Kingdom, the United States, Switzerland, and Germany.

While renewable energy sources have made great inroads in Turkey's energy supply mix, there is a need for more research and development of renewable energy. Extensive use of wood in households contributes greatly to urban air pollution and deforestation. Turkey needs to create a level playing field for renewables by allowing prices of conventional fuels to rise to market levels. This would help diversify and increase the use of alternative energy technologies to power transport, such as natural gas-operated municipal buses and electricity-operated railway systems.

As Turkey steers itself towards meeting EU membership criteria, it should see increased energy efficiency. The growth in energy consumption should wane as state subsidies are eliminated and prices more accurately reflect costs. Yet, there will still be much room for improvement, and Turkey's vigilance in safeguarding its environment will be key to the continuance of its economic development.



1. Turkey Ministry of Foreign Affairs :

2. Prof.Dr. A.Can TUNCAY, The Three Most Important Features of Turkey's Legal System That Others Should Know, available at:

3. Turkey Environmental Issues, United States Energy Information System,

4. TRENDS IN TURKISH ENVIRONMENTAL LEGISLATION, Turkey Ministry of Environment and Forestry, available at

5. United States Department of State: Background Note on Turkey:

6. Turkey's Energy Reforms Make Way for Renewable Future: available at


[2] Agenda 21 is a comprehensive plan of action to be taken globally, nationally and locally by organizations of the United Nations System, Governments, and Major Groups in every area in which human impacts on the environment.