Academic journal article Journal of International and Global Studies

Impact of EU's Decisions on Euro-Skepticism of a Turkish Religious Peripheral Party, Felicity Party

Academic journal article Journal of International and Global Studies

Impact of EU's Decisions on Euro-Skepticism of a Turkish Religious Peripheral Party, Felicity Party

Article excerpt

Introduction

Turkey's prospective EU membership has captured significant attention and sparked a serious debate in Europe for the past several years. In spite of Turkey's large Muslim population, geographic size, level of economic development, and low per capita income (Grigoriadis, 2006) (none of which would appear to designate it as a prime candidate for EU membership), its unique geo-strategic position (at the crossroads of the Balkans, the wider Middle East, Southern Caucasus, Central Asia, and beyond); its importance to the security of Asia's energy supply; and its political, economic, and military leverage (Laciner, Ozcan, & Bal, 2005) have made Turkey a candidate country that is different from all the others.

Supporters and critics of Turkey's EU membership have both used Turkey's Islamic religious and cultural identity, geographical position, demographic size, and level of economic development as arguments for and against Turkey's EU membership. For example, the supporters of Turkey's EU membership believe that not only would the admission of a Muslim country into the EU constitute the most effective guarantee that the EU would retain a secular, inclusive, and multicultural character, they believe it would also send a powerful message to the rest of the world (Grigoriadis, 2006). On the other hand, in the Declaration of the "No Turkish Membership in the EU" campaign, the opponents of Turkey's EU membership argue that Turkey belongs to the East and Islam, not Europe. They assert, quite simply, that Turkey is not a European country, and, likewise, that the Orient and Islam are not part of Europe. These opponents go so far as to claim that most Europeans themselves do not want to have Turkish or Arab countries in the European Union, as the EU is not a union of all democracies, they say, nor is it only a union of values. They remind those who will listen that the EU is a European Union and that Turkey is culturally and historically not European. In their words, only the people of Europe can decide which countries are accepted as EU member nations, not politicians or foreigners ("Campaign against Turkish Membership"). Some of these opponents, however, do believe that a "special relationship" between Turkey and the EU would be desirable for strategic and economic reasons (Schauble, 2004). This "special relationship" might be defined as a sort of "privileged partnership" between Turkey and EU member nations, implying a close strategic, political, and economic relationship between Turkey and EU member nations but still falling short of full EU membership for Turkey. This possibility became very popular, especially among some political parties in Germany, Australia, and France that oppose full membership for Turkey. Underlying European fears, prejudices, and skepticism always seem to surface in the discussion of full EU membership for Turkey (Grigoriadis, 2006). This European rejectionism targeting Turkey can be observed among both elites and the common people of Europe (Yilmaz, 2004). After taking a glimpse at the European perception of Turkey's prospective EU membership, it is relevant to look at the perception of Turkey about its own membership in the EU.

Turkish public opinion is overwhelmingly in support of full EU membership, and enthusiasm among dominant groups is increasing. According to the Euro-barometer, Turkey is one of the highest-ranking countries in support of its own EU membership, with 65 percent in favor of the proposal (European Commission, 2002), and with 71 percent of this sample believing that the country will benefit from such membership. There are many different studies that measure the attitudes of the Turkish public toward Turkey's EU membership. For instance, drawing on pooled Eurobarometer data from 2001, 2002, and 2003, one recent study examined the extent to which attachment to Islam, utilitarian considerations, and national identity explain individual support for Turkey's accession to the EU in a possible membership referendum (Kentmen, 2008). …

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