Understanding the Euroscepticism in Turkish Politics

Baris Gulmez

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This PhD project scrutinizes why Turkish mainstream politics turned against EU membership. By taking into account three mainstream parties (AKP, CHP and MHP) in comparison with the views of the BDP, a pro-Kurdish party, this study seeks to explain the main determinants of the rising scepticism against EU accession engulfing Turkish politics since 2002. Accordingly, the study applies the term Euroscepticism to candidate countries and Turkey in particular by (i) categorizing domestic political reactions based on the complex nature of EU conditionality involving both formal issue-specific and additional country-specific pressures; (ii) focusing on both domestic and external factors behind domestic resistance to accession process; and (iii) comparing the Turkish case with other candidate countries focusing on the negotiation process.The study argues that Euroscepticism in Turkey and candidate countries in general develops as a response to the complex nature of EU conditionality comprising both issue-specific and country-specific accession conditions. Euroscepticism in reaction to issue-specific conditions involves an opposition to particular reforms deriving from the EU’s formal membership conditionality. Euroscepticism in response to country-specific conditionality, however, involves broader political resistance against the EU’s extra conditionality which targets a particular candidate. To grasp Turkish Euroscepticism, two reform areas under the EU’s issue-specific conditionality (minority rights and foreign land ownership) and two cases of country-specific pressures (the EU’s Cyprus conditionality and the rising Turkish suspicion that the EU won’t accept Turkey’s membership) are studied. Outlining six hypotheses regarding the effects of party ideology, strategy, and EU-driven factors on the development of Eurosceptic politics in Turkey, the study overall reveals that until 2006, ideology explains the opposition’s attitudes while the governmental approach follows strategy. Since the partial suspension of negotiations in 2006, both opposition and government reflect similar scepticism towards the EU irrespective of their ideology and competition strategies. Instead, they provide a case for strong Euroscepticism by emphasizing the role of EU-driven factors –especially, the rising uncertainty of membership and the EU’s ‘perceived’ reluctance to accept Turkish accession–in complicating Turkey-EU relations.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Sloam, James, Supervisor
Award date1 Oct 2014
Publication statusUnpublished - 2014

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