Euroscepticism in Turkey

Power and Beyond

by Can Büyükbay (Author)
©2016 Monographs 268 Pages


This book examines the construction of Euroscepticism in civil society discourse, focusing on Turkey’s possible EU-membership, the ongoing political struggles between different political camps in Turkey and general Western discourse. Applying semi-structured qualitative interviews with Civil Society Organisation leaders and Critical Discourse Analysis, the study shows how civil society leaders evaluate Europe and the European Integration of Turkey. It appears that there are multiple Eurosceptical argumentation strategies in the discourses varying according to ideological background and pro-government and anti-government positioning.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • List of Illustrations
  • Tables
  • Figures
  • List of Acronyms
  • 1. Introduction
  • 2. Theoretical Framework
  • 2.1 Euroscepticism
  • 2.1.1 Literature Review
  • 2.1.2 Origins, Definitions and Types of Euroscepticism
  • 2.1.3 Explaining Euroscepticism
  • 2.1.4 Euroscepticism in Turkey
  • 2.2 Occidentalism: The Construction and Use of the West
  • 2.2.1 Origins and Definitions of Occidentalism
  • 2.2.2 Occidentalism in Turkey: A Dual Meaning of the West
  • 2.3 Civil Society
  • 2.3.1 The Gramscian Approach to Civil Society
  • 2.3.2 Civil Society in the Turkish EU Accession Process and Gramsci
  • 2.3.3 Categories of CSOs and Case Selection
  • 2.4 Towards a Theoretical Framework
  • 3. Research Design and Methodology
  • 3.1 Process of Data Collection and Case Selection
  • 3.2 Data analysis process
  • 3.2.1 Mayring’s Qualitative Content Analysis
  • 3.2.2 Critical Discourse Analysis
  • 3.2.3 Research Tradition of the Study
  • 4. Empirical Analysis
  • 4.1 Referential, Nomination and Predication Strategies
  • 4.2 Argumentation Strategies
  • 4.2.1 Occidentalism: Dual Perceptions of the West and Europe
  • 4.2.2 Strategic Use of the EU Accession Process and Euroscepticism Through Domestic Lenses
  • 4.2.3 Eurocynicism: Scepticism and Overconfidence
  • 4.2.4 The EU as a Neoliberal Project
  • 5. Classification of the Discourses
  • 6. Conclusion
  • Appendix A. List of Interviews
  • Appendix B. Topic Guide
  • Appendix C. Questionnaire
  • Bibliography

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List of Illustrations


Table 1: Fourfold model of elite-level Euroscepticism (Kopecky and Mudde 2002)
Table 2: Categorisations of Political Parties According to Different Models
Table 3: Words describing the image of the EU in Turkey and the EU-27
Table 4: Types of CSOs included in the study
Table 5: Multi-theoretical framework: Preliminary model for analysing Euroscepticism in Turkish civil society
Table 6: Discursive Strategies (Wodak 2001:73)
Table 7: Nominations and predications of the EU/Europe in the interview texts
Table 8: Nominations and predications of the West in interview texts
Table 9: Coding Guidelines (own considerations based on the typology of Kopecky and Mudde (2002))
Table 10: Classification of CSOs According to the Fourfold Model


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List of Acronyms

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1. Introduction

Turkey’s relationship with the European Union (EU) has a long history that reaches back to their application for associate membership in the European Economic Community (EEC) in July 1959 and the resulting Ankara Agreement in 1963. Accordingly, Turkey has been part of the European integration project from the very beginning of the process. Nevertheless, the process has been fiercely contested and slow, so that Turkey was only recognised by the EU as a candidate country at the Helsinki Summit on 11 December 1999.1 The recognition of Turkey’s candidacy at the Helsinki Summit and the beginning of accession negotiations on 3 October 2005 constitute important turning points for Turkey’s relations with the EU. EU membership has become a reality for the Turkish public and elites, and is seen as a means to further national democratisation, modernisation and economic development. These turning points accelerated both the socio-political transformation guided by the Copenhagen Criteria and also created critical attitudes towards the EU and European integration. Accordingly, the accession process has engendered both enthusiasm and criticism by domestic actors both at the state and civil society levels (Öniş 2003, Büyükbay 2010). Questions of loss of sovereignty, cultural and religious differences, past memories as well as the Cyprus and Armenian issues have emerged as important discussion points. The attitudes towards the EU and Europe have ranged in a continuum from happiness, consent, contentment and sober sentiments to rejection, denial and outright hatred. This is not surprising, as the Turkey-EU relationship is a story of up and downs, misunderstandings, prejudices and argumentative fallacies.

The perceived economic success during the AKP (Justice and Development Party) era have, from the party’s coming to power in 2002 until today, generated an increasing self-confidence among conservative and Islamic groups and, in consequence, the discourse “Turkey has no further need for the EU” has become more dominant, especially after the European economy fell into its deepest recession since the 1930s. Political and civil society leaders began voicing doubts about the direction in which Europe is moving. The so-called “Turco-scepticism” ← 11 | 12 → in Europe among political leaders2 and the public also created the impression that the EU would never accept Turkey as a member even if it fulfilled all the necessary criteria. Thus, Euroscepticism has grown, particularly in conservative and Islamist circles, due to a loss of trust in the EU, Turkey’s increasingly active role in her geographical neighbourhood and its economic success standing in contrast to the economic crisis in the EU. Furthermore, religious and cultural arguments dominated the discussions about Turkey’s possible EU membership on both sides of the process. Statements made by EU leaders along with their unwillingness to speed up the process along with the AKP’s tactics have been further complicated by the Cyprus problem, which has almost deadlocked the accession process. One major associated challenge was when the Republic of Cyprus took up the EU presidency in 2012. Turkey has refused to deal with the Cypriot president, and no chapters were opened during the second part of 2012. This slowed down the reform process, despite efforts such as the New Positive Agenda, which was launched in Ankara on 12 May 2012 by European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy Stefan Füle.

After a short introduction to EU-Turkey relations in recent years, I will explain the rationale of the study. This study examines the construction of European discourse within Turkish civil society and investigates which argumentation strategies contribute to the construction of Euroscepticism within the context of Turkey’s European Integration process. Existing literature on Euroscepticism has almost exclusively focused on examining public opinion and political parties and, as a result, theoretical approaches to understanding opposition to European integration have been strongly influenced by party-based literature.

At this point, it is necessary to discuss the worth of analysing civil-society-based Euroscepticism. First of all, the likelihood of EU-membership serves as a powerful engine for driving democratisation and economic change in candidate countries. Although the EU is a strong external factor that leads to internal political change, domestic political actors should provide the initial impetus for the necessary transformation (Tocci 2005:80). Hence, the enlargement of the research field of Euroscepticism by focusing on civil society is important for several reasons. The White Paper on European Governance (European Commission 2001:14) stresses the importance of civil society and states that it plays an important role in involving citizens in the achievement of the EU’s aims, and ← 12 | 13 → also that civil society sees Europe as providing a good arena to transform policy orientations and society.3 Unlike political parties, CSOs are not beholden to elections and are not responsible for the management of institutional European integration. These relatively independent positions of CSOs provides a greater opportunity to criticise the integration process, to use Europeanisation to further the interests of its membership base and improve its own situation with regard to other CSOs (Yankaya 2009:15). Moreover, the fact that the accession process is currently deadlocked should not mean the end of Turkey’s European integration. Turkey is already closely economically, politically and culturally connected with the EU, and a large part of civil society have greatly contributed to the association between the EU and Turkey by pressuring governmental actors to achieve EU norms and engage in projects with the EU. Accordingly, this study considers the argumentation of an important group of social scientists that a new social and political distribution of power has taken place due to the implementation of democratic norms and the diversification of political power centres (Ataç et al. 2008). Civil society actors gained more influence in this process and “the state has a legitimacy problem in maintaining its position as the primary context for politics, as a result of the shift towards civil society and culture as new reference points in the language and terms of politics,” (Keyman and İçduygu 2003:221). However, not all civil society actors have been supportive of the European Integration Process. For example, in contrast to business associations that triggered the accession process, most labour unions have been critical of European Integration.


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2015 (November)
Turkish politics Europe Occidentalism European Integration Turkish Civil Society
Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2015. 268 pp., 10 tables, 8 graphs

Biographical notes

Can Büyükbay (Author)

Can Büyükbay is an assistant professor of Political Science at the Turkish-German University in Istanbul. His research interests include comparative politics, World-system’s theory, European integration, Euroscepticism, civil society, Turkish-German relations and Turkish politics.


Title: Euroscepticism in Turkey
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270 pages