Events & News


Between Globalisation and Europeanisation – Turkey’s choice ?

Prof Riva Kastoryano, Research Director, CRNS, Professor, Sciences Po, Paris

19 Jan 2011

NUS Bukit Timah Campus, Law Faculty, Seminar Room 5-2, 469 Bukit Timah Road, Singapore 259756

11:30am – 1:00pm


Turkey’s application and candidature for accession to the EU have attracted controversy unlike any other case. On the one hand, it has been a question of geography. French President Nicholas Sarkozy once declared that Turkey is not in Europe but in ‘Asia Minor’, so where do the borders of the EU really end? This has prompted a more fundamental question – is the EU an economic bloc, a political union, or more vaguely a ‘civilization’? Many suspect the real reason that Turkey’s EU membership has been put on hold is due to fears that its Islamic heritage will alter the EU’s characteristics.

Despite these purported ambiguities in Turkey’s identity, Prof Kastoryano pointed out that Turkey’s foreign policy since its modern formation as a nation-state in 1923 has been consistently Western- and Europe-oriented. Since the reforms of Ataturk, Turkey has been a founding member of the Council of Europe (albeit an institution distinct from the EU) in 1949, has joined NATO in 1952, and was an associate member of the European Economic Community (EEC) – the EU’s predecessor institution – from 1963. On the social level, Turkish immigration into Europe has made Turkish people part of the ‘European space’.

Turkey can gain much from EU membership. Democratization and religious rights, both which the governing Justice and Development Party (or AKP in Turkish) is fighting for, are some examples. In fact, the Turkish armed forces’ control over politics have already been somewhat weakened – in the interest of democracy – in the AKP’s push for accession negotiations with the EU. Minority rights, particularly for Turkey’s Kurdish minority, also stand to be improved. There is much the EU can gain too from Turkey’s inclusion. The bloc can tap on Turkey’s increasing foreign policy leverage, since it has managed to win new friends in the region like Iran and has a new reputation for being a champion of the Palestinian cause, while maintaining old allies like the US. And not least against the backdrop of an ageing and declining population in Europe, Turkey’s relative young population could rejuvenate the demographics of the continent.

She concluded that Turkey needs ‘supranational normativity’ – the various beneficial forces which the EU can provide – for its democratization and to achieve globalization. This however does not mean that Turkey should be ‘obsessed’ with EU membership. It has won for itself new national pride with its entry into the developed world and into the G20. What is needed therefore is a more ‘bottom-up’ approach to Turkey’s EU’s accession issue. This is where the drive to create a more pluralistic civil society could play a more prominent role.

Perhaps the EU is ‘losing’ Turkey after the latter’s 23-year wait for membership, as some of the Western press are indicating. The EU does have an ambition of achieving greater globalization too, which Turkey’s inclusion could help realize more fully.