Academic journal article East European Quarterly

The Impact of the European Union on Turkish Politics

Academic journal article East European Quarterly

The Impact of the European Union on Turkish Politics

Article excerpt


Turkey is a puzzling sight to many foreign observers. One of its puzzling aspects is its political system, it is not an authoritarian country on the other hand, it would be far-fetched to claim that it is an established democracy. Another puzzling aspect is its identity; it is not a Middle Eastern country but neither can it be categorized as a European country. These two factors, Turkey's political system and its identity, complicate its relations with the European system of states, specifically with the European Union. This paper proposes that Turkey's future in the European Union will be determined along the interplay of these two factors; but mainly focuses on importance of political factors in determining Turkey's relations with the EU. A basic proposition of the paper is that the EU has been influential about bringing some restructuring in Turkish politics. There are basically two mechanisms that enable the European Union to play such a role; (1) Turkey's Association with the European Union and (2) the Turkish aspirations for full membership.

A well noted argument is that in countries aspiring for membership, the European Community/Union has acted as a powerful actor stimulating democracy. The European Union has various tools and leverages over its associate members, such as financial aid packages, the promise of membership that foster democratization. It is within this context that the EU has impacted Turkish politics. The long path of Association enabled the European Union to push for democratization in Turkey and that is one of the mechanisms it used to stimulate political change. The second is the reward of full membership. A related aspect of the importance of political factors in Turkey's relations with the EU is tied to the concept of Europeanness. The EU has an irrevocable place in determining what is European. One implicit proposition of the paper is that Turkey's future in Europe will be rocky partly because a new European identity is being reinvented into which Turkey's inclusion is becoming harder. There are basically two definitions of Europeanness; one aspect stresses common intellectual heritage, religion and ethnicity;(1) the other stresses sharing of common values such as democratic principles. In both of these definitions, Turkey has a problem; if Europe is redefined along ethnonationalism, then Turkey's exclusion would be inevitable. If Europe is redefined along notions of liberal democracy, then one can argue either for Turkey's exclusion or for Turkey's conditional inclusion with the requirements that Turkey must reform its political system, in this definition of Europeanness, Turkey encounters certain problems because its democracy is not perceived to be along the European standards, but there is more room for maneuver.

In its Agenda 2000, the Commission did not recommend accession negotiations with Turkey and when the Council of the European Union acted upon these recommendations in its December 1997 Luxembourg summit, it decided not to include Turkey among the list of candidate countries with which accession negotiations would begin. These decisions were based on the conclusion that Turkey does not fulfill the necessary political preconditions for membership.

This paper focuses on the Turkish case but it has broader implications for other candidate countries such as the Central and Eastern European countries. The paper provides a short account of Turkey's Association with the EU and then proceeds on to the analysis of the EU's impact on the Turkish political system, through the channels created by the association and through the carrot of full membership.


When the Turkish Republic was established in 1923 dismantling the Ottoman Empire, a major goal of its founders was to generate an acceptance of Turkey as a European state. In order to do so, the Sultanate was abolished in 1923, the Caliphate in 1924. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.