World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies

Barcelona, July 19th - 24th 2010



· NOT_DEFINED date: THU, 22 / 11.30 am - 1.30 pm

· NOT_DEFINED language: English

· NOT_DEFINED description:
Chair: Eva Ostergaard-Nielsen (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona)

Paper Presenter: Sebnem Yardimci (PhD Candidate, Bilkent University, Turkey), “The Transformation of Political Islam in Turkey: What Kind of a Role Has 'Europe' Played?”
In order to support the argument, first, starting from the Welfare Party (WP) which was the first party to garner significant electoral support with a plain Islamist identity, I will trace how Islamist political parties in Turkey have placed themselves in relation to the EU and the values it represents such as democracy, rule of law, human rights, and pluralism. Probing what kind of a shift has occurred from Welfare Party (WP) to the JDP, I will examine their official ideological and programmatic declarations, speeches by their elites and interviews that had done with party leaders in conjunction with certain important instances related to the EU. Moreover, I will delineate the factors that have brought about this change. Analyzing the very process of change and the factors caused a shift from anti-European to pro-European stance will demonstrate how the JDP’s stance in relation to the EU has provided a shelter for the party in secular politics. Today the key difference between the JDP and previous and current Islamist parties is the way the party has adopted the values of the EU such as respect for human rights, rule of law and democracy to the party programme and the discourses of party elites. In other words, distinct from its predecessors the JDP has incorporated the values of the Union to its identity. The fact that the JDP has rode high on the EU’s recognition in Turkey in characterizing the party, signifies the implicit but key role of the EU within the process of transformation of political Islam in Turkey.

Paper Presenter: Beken Saatcioglu (Post-doctoral Research Fellow, KFG Research College, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany), “Turkey's Justice and Development Party (AKP) on the Road to 'Europeanization'”

What explains Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP)’s compliance with the EU’s membership criteria? Since it came to power in 2002, AKP has launched legislative reforms in order to meet the European Union’s political membership conditions (i.e., democracy, rule of law, human rights and minority rights). These reforms are puzzling since they happened in the absence of credible conditionality which is theorized as a central mechanism for bringing governments in EU candidates to comply with the criteria. The link between democratic compliance and membership is least credible in the Turkish case due principally to the EU’s reservations about “absorbing” Turkey and European controversy about Turkish accession. It is argued that notwithstanding the low credibility of the membership perspective for the ruling actors, Turkish compliance (2002-2009) occurred because it promised political benefits to the government. The argument is supported with evidence gathered from original coding data for both conditionality and compliance as well as process-tracing.

Paper Presenter: Cigdem Bilezikci (Research Assistant, Canakkale Onsekiz Mart University, Turkey), “The EU Rffect: Democratization Rfforts in Turkey”
The aim of this paper is to analyze impact of the European Union as an external actor in Turkey’s Kurdish problem. The main question of this paper is how the EU’s ‘membership conditionality’ policy towards Turkey has affected Turkish internal political reform on Kurdish issue? Starting from historical overview of Turkey-EU relations with particular focus on post-Helsinki period of which Turkey gained the candidacy status for EU membership, Turkey’s efforts for fulfilling the Copenhagen criteria and harmonization of its laws within EU norm will be assessed. It will be argued that European Commission's Progress Reports and EU’s discourses towards Turkey not only forced Turkish statesmen to face with its longstanding conflict but also enabled people to recognize the evolution in perception of Kurdish problem from a terrorism/security issue to a human rights/cultural rights issue. Nowadays, in Turkey there seems to be a new ‘momentum’ in order to find a common solution to the Turkey’s Kurdish problem. Although the EU’s guidelines and suggestions, even it’s policy of ‘carrots and sticks’, has led to an important turning point for Turkish policy makers, there is still a long way to go for ‘the establishment of conditions for the full enjoyment of rights and freedoms by the Kurds’ as it has been stated in the EU’s recommendation report released in October 2004. Furthermore, it will be argued that the EU’s tendency to see Turkey’s full EU membership as an open-ended process and the strong opposition of some EU countries to Turkey’s accession to the EU can damage the effectiveness of the EU’s conditionality and weaken the potential incentives of Turkish governments for further reforms improving Turkey’s Kurds’ rights.

Paper presenter: Serhat Guvenc (Associate Professor, Istanbul Bilgi University), “Turkish Reception of Idea of European Integration in Historical Perspective”
The 2008 Transatlantic Trends Survey pointed to an interesting overlap between the European and Turkish views on Turkey being a part of the West. While, 57 % of Europeans did not think Turkey was part of the West, 55 % of Turkish respondents agreed that “Turkey had such different values that it is not really part of the West”. My paper argues that unwillingness or inability to identify with Europe and/or West may be a symptom that the Turks have had a problem relating to the “idea” of European integration or unity. However, this has not yet deterred them from seeking association and integration with the European institutions for political, strategic as well as pragmatic reasons. In short, the institutional aspects of European integration have made more sense than its ideational aspects in Turkey. There seems to be a continuity in Turkish reception (and perception) of the idea of European Union or integration. Evidence from history suggests that the Turkish (elite) conceptualized Europe mostly in terms of European states system and sought organic presence in it for survival. The ideas of integration or federalism were thus evaluated through a prism of their potential contribution to the country’s security or survival. This paper attempts to explore the roots of this understanding 1from historical perspective. It focuses on the official (and the elite) Turkish reception of various projects and proposals for European union or integration from the interwar years to the early Cold Period.

Paper Presenter: Ece Inan (Associate Professor, Marmara University Faculty of Communications, Turkey), “An Evaluation on Contemporary Political Communication in Turkey on the Edges of Middle East and EU”
It is undebatable that Turkey has a very significant and politically strategic location on the edge of Middle Eastern. Turkey has on one hand social and cultural responsibility to Middle East and on the other hand the aim of politically integration process for EU. Under these conditions not only the the Country’s international politics but also the political life within the Country has many important aspects. The multicultural structure of Turkey and political challenges such as EU integration have also great effects on Turkish political communication processes on various levels. Many different communicative tools and media for political life in the name of political campaigning are being used. For instance, the political party election manifesto which can be accepted as the most significant and effective communication tool of the party, contents the plans, strategies and tactics for the political thoughts and beliefs on governing the country. As a communicative tool or content, the party manifesto is prepared in order to both increase the percentage of votes and explain the programmes and aims of the party to all audiences. It is obvious that the political party has to develop a specific manifesto which is able to convey all the important thoughts, aims and political principles, and on the other hand it should be comprehensive and as dynamic as to keep up with the changing conditions which can affect the country’s domestic politics and international relations as well. In this study, the political party manifestos are accepted as one of the most distinctive communicative tools for politics. For this reason, the political party manifestos have a power to reflect the country’s current political environment and contemporary political perception of the county. Thus, in this paper, it is aimed that to examine, make comparison and analyze the content of the manifestos of six Turkish political party which took part in above the 1% in 22nd July 2007 General Elections. Although there are many criteria in each area itself, in this content analysis method, the study is limited and arranged according to the top five criteria of political communications of the parties. Various factors and political premises that can be stated in political party manifestos can indicate the current approaches of Turkey between EU and Middle East.