European Integration and the Transformation of Turkish Democracy

Senem Aydin & Fuat Keyman,CEPS & Koc Univ.

CEPS, August 2004
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This paper’s general argument is that the Copenhagen political criteria constitute the leverage that is making Turkish modernisation and democratisation more plural, multi-cultural and consolidated. In the first section, a historical overview of modern Turkey is undertaken from the perspective of political modernisation and democratic consolidation in order to assess Turkey’s ability to meet the requirements of the Copenhagen political criteria. The second section evaluates the impact of EU conditionality and the remaining problems and prospects in four major areas – the role of the military, human rights, protection of minorities and the judicial system. The paper concludes with the assessment that the dynamic process of change underway requires the continuation of efforts by Turkey to fully implement the Copenhagen political criteria and a credible policy of conditionality by the EU that respects the principle of fairness in relations between the two sides.
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Conclusion, the Principle of Fairness
It is a fact that the implementation of the Copenhagen political criteria is a never-ending process, as the very meaning of democracy would not allow any country in the world to suggest that its democracy reflects the full implementation of the criteria. Therefore, even if Turkey begins accession negotiations with the EU, both the EU and Turkey should continue their efforts to achieve a more democratic Turkey, mainly through a credible policy of conditionality on the part of EU and a more effective implementation of the Copenhagen political criteria on the part of Turkey. This combination has in recent years led to substantial improvements in Turkish democracy. The reforms that have so far been undertaken have addressed long-criticised aspects of Turkish democracy, particularly the role of the military in politics, respect for human rights, protection of minorities and the judicial system. In legislative and institutional terms, a lot has been achieved and few challenges remain, although there is still much to be done regarding implementation.
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In this sense, we have suggested that rather than the culturalist and essentialist discourses of Europe, which privilege religion and geography over the universal norms of democracy and a liberal economy, the principle of fairness and objectivity should be the basis of the EU’s decision about Turkey. Fairness and objectivity have the potential to create a reciprocal relationship between Turkey and the EU, in which both parties have mutual benefits. While accepting Turkey as a full member of the EU justifies the fact that the process of European integration and its enlargement operates on the basis of universal norms rather than religion or geography, the project of Europeanisation in Turkey makes a significant contribution to the process of democratic consolidation and societal modernisation. With its secular modernity and mostly Muslim identity, Turkey can contribute substantially to the reshaping of the political identity of the EU as a multicultural space governed by the universal norms of democracy and a liberal economy. With such a political identity, the EU can for its part reshape international relations as a democratic space of world governance, which our extremely dangerous post-September 11th world needs today.
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