Princeton University Library Catalog

“Unity Amidst Diversity?” Analyzing Turkey’s Candidacy'' For European Union Membership

Thiel, Samantha [Browse]
Senior thesis
Müller, Jan-Werner [Browse]
Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs [Browse]
Class year:
133 pages
Summary note:
The Republic of Turkey sits at a crossroads between the East and the West, and has long been divided between two very different worlds. Relations between Turkey and the European Union are founded upon a complex history of both shared and divergent political and social values. Thus, the question of Turkish accession is complicated, mired in a maze of mutually important geopolitical, economic, cultural, and diplomatic issues. Numerous multi-faceted arguments are proposed both in support and in opposition of Turkey’s candidacy, significantly influenced by past perceptions and prejudices, as well as by salient national issues with European member states. This thesis presents and evaluates these arguments, in order to assess the compatibility of Turkey and the EU in light of the contemporary context. The analysis seeks to systematically examine the debate on Turkish accession, based upon the hypothesis that there is little tangible theoretical or analytical support for some of the arguments used to evaluate Turkey’s petition to join the Union. As such, Turkey should be granted status as a Member State, without the obstacles and hurdles that have been placed in its path due to some of! its! more controversial characteristics. Opponents of Turkish accession frequently rely upon the argument that Turkish culture and identity are entirely incompatible with European social norms and values. However, as this thesis highlights, Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations” thesis is an exaggerated approach to the differences between the two parties. The previous century of modernization and Westernization is evidence of Turkey’s ability to integrate within the EU, which lauds its own multicultural characteristics. Turkey’s candidacy is, from a cultural perspective, not the threat many assume it to be. In choosing to accept Turkey and assist its integration with the Western world, the EU would help Turkey overcome its own internal ideological dissonance, increasing its potential as a stabilizing regional influence. The other oft-cited argument against Turkey’s European candidacy revolves around the notion that Turkey is not a ‘liberal democracy,’ and thus does not meet the Copenhagen criteria. This thesis calls that assumption into question, evaluating Turkey’s democratic reform from the founding of the Republic to modern day. While there is evidence that Turkey has experienced an extensive democratization process, the political turmoil of late 2013 and early 2014 is evidence that there are significant deficits in the consolidation of Turkish democracy, and the EU is correct in being wary of this facet of the accession negotiations. Both the cultural and political arguments concerning Turkey’s candidacy are placed within the context of the accession process and the weaknesses of the EU’s enlargement strategy. As such, the future of Turkish accession is uncertain, and highly dependent upon both a clarification of European policy as well as further democratic reforms within Turkey. Steps should be taken by the governing bodies and institutions of the EU to frame the discourse of accession around integration.It remains a mutually important issue given the potential for benefits and disadvantages, and should therefore remain a priority on the political agenda.