Ioannis N. Grigoriadis, Trials of Europeanization, Turkish Political Culture and the European Union.
The concept of 'Europeanization' has gained a wide currency among the students of Turkey-European Union [EU] relations with much of the focus devoted to Turkey's membership process and the EU's influence on Turkey. Regarding the latter, scholars have utilized this concept to explain Turkish democratization reforms, which the incumbent Turkish foreign minister described as the "silent revolution," (3) and Turkey's reliance on soft power tools such as diplomacy and negotiations in foreign policy under the current government. Yet, as Erguder points out in his foreword to this book, although it has the potential to undermine the permanency and deeper internationalization of such reforms, how Turkish political culture has been evolving has remained understudied. Hence, Grigoriadis' book seeks out to fill this gap. Taking Europeanization as the "goodness of fit" allows the author to clarify that, even though the EU is not the sole factor for the transformation that has taken place in Turkey, the EU has been a crucial pillar in the liberalization of Turkish political culture.
Grigoriadis carries out this task by elaborating on the continuity and change in four core areas where political culture exists: civil society, the state, the secularism debate and national identity in Turkey. With regards to the proliferation of civil society groups for the past few decades in Turkey, Grigoriadis acknowledges the impact of systemic factors such as the end of the bipolar international system and globalization. He also admits that the corrosion of the Turkish state icon, which he delineates as the "demystification of the state" due to domestic events such as the Susurlukincident and the deep economic crisis in 2000-2001, and the Kurdish issue, also facilitated the growth of civil society. The EU further enabled the expansion of the realm for civil society groups and associations to operate freely and more effectively by providing them with not only with financial assistance but also by pushing for legislative reform.
Turkey's 'strong state' tradition is a legacy of the Ottoman Empire: in a nutshell, citizens live to serve the state rather than the other way around. Griogoriadis demonstrates how this conception of the Turkish state, though arguably still held by the state elite, might be gradually but painfully evolving. While the influence, positive or negative, of other factors such as the United States after the 1990s, the armed conflict with the PKK [Partiya Karkaren Kurdistan] and the systemic change are all recognized, the EU helped change state-society relations by supporting radical reforms in civil-military relations to curb the interference of Turkish military in civilian politics. The EU has played a vital role in the reorganization and recomposition of the National Security Council to that end and in the closure of the State Security Courts.
If revolutionary transformation has occurred in other areas, the least development has arguably taken place in terms of the secularism debate. Even though the EU defended the rights of religious minorities in Turkey and exerted pressure on Turkey, which favored the Hanafi school over others with its policies, to introduce reforms to improve these rights, the actual outcome has not gone much beyond encouraging the government to instigate a societal debate on the issue. At the same time, the EU had been far less interested in urging reform to resolve the headscarf issue although the defense of the headscarf freedom in Turkish universities made constant references to the 'right of education', 'the principle of nondiscrimination', and the 'freedom of religion' being protected by the European Convention of Human Rights and other international human rights treaties (p.114).
With the end of the Cold War, the Turkish state's ability to keep the lid it had long and firmly clamped on rival national identity interpretations and expressions waned. The official, allegedly-homogenous, and secular Turkish national identity faced serious challenge by its own Kurdish, Alawite, and Islamic identity claims. The EU membership process further fanned the healthy yet sterile debate on how to render Turkish national identity more inclusive to incorporate its minorities, such as the Kurds and the Alawites. The pressure that the EU exerted on Turkey through reports such as "the working group on minority and cultural rights" materialized as the state channel started incremental broadcasts in Kurdish and some other minority languages.
At first glance, the EU's contribution to Turkey's democratization reforms seems to be indubitable. Grigoriadis adds to that the deeper and perhaps less visible change the EU has wrought in Turkish political culture. Yet, as the author deservedly notes, the EU's impact is not exclusive of other rival and equally valid explanations. Because "transformation may occur on the basis of "a multitude of coevolving, parallel and not necessarily tightly coupled processes" (4) the author's balanced take on the sway of the EU stands as a merit to be applauded. Besides, the clear general structure of the book, which makes it very convenient for the reader to follow the author's arguments, is surely praiseworthy.
Nonetheless, the book suffers from a contradiction. The author purportedly claims that the ECHR decision [to uphold the Turkish Constitutional Court's decision to close down former Refah Partisi (Welfare Party) in 1998] demonstrated that "Islamic extremism could not be protected by European liberal democratic institutions.... Like terrorism, Islamic fundamentalism could not expect support from European courts" (p. 110). However, elsewhere in the book he suggests that the 'Just Order' program of the Refah Partisi merely meant a more moral, transparent and honest government; the claim that the Welfare Party posed an existential threat to the Republic was exaggerated because the party only paid lip service to their 'Just Order' program (p. 104). It then becomes the legitimate to ask whether this means that the ECHR affirmed the closure of a popularly elected political party in government, which was forced to resign after the 'soft coup' in 1997, with no persuasive grounds and whether ECHR's that decision contributed to the democratization of Turkey and the advance of "participant" elements in Turkish political culture. Given that Turkish constitutional court members looked to the ECHR decisions as supporting evidence to legitimize that party closure and ban on headscarves (5), which the author admits (p. 118), and that the Turkish constitutional court continued to be the stumbling block against further democratization and reforms on the area of secularism debate, the ECHR's seal of the closure of the Refah Partisi based on "sheer suspicion" (6) can hardly be conceived of as a positive encouragement by the EU for the liberalization of Turkish political culture.
In closing, in spite of the reservation noted above, Trials of Europeanization: Turkish Political Culture and the European Union proves to be a valuable reading thanks to the author's compelling knowledge of politics of the Turkish Republic since its founding as well as his astute utilization of the concept of 'Europeanization' to give the due credence to other possible explanations.
(3) Ahmet Davutoglu. "Europe Moet Beloften Jegens Turkije Nakomen" (Europe Needs to Make Good on Her Promises to Turkey), De Vokskrant available at http://www.mfa.gov.tr/article-by-h_e_-ahmet-davutoglu-published -in-de-volkskrantnewspaper-_netherlands_ -on-08_10_2009.en.nrfa.
(4) Olsen quoted in The Politics of Europeanization, ed. Kevin Featherstone and Claudio Radaelli (eds.) (Oxford & New York: Oxford University Press, 2003), 4.
(5) Cenap Cakmak, Limits of the Constitutional Court As a Political Actor Shaping Turkish Political Landscape, (Bilgesam: 2009); available at http://www.bilgesam.com/en/index.php?option=com_content&view=article& id=220:limitsof-the-constitutional-court-as-a-political-actor-shaping -turkish-political-landscape&catid=113:analizler-sosyo-kultur&Itemid=148
(6) Gunes MuratTezcur, "Constitutionalism, Judiciary, and Democracy in Islamic Societies," Polity39 (4) (October 2007): 479-501.
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Publication:||CEU Political Science Journal|
|Date:||Dec 1, 2011|
|Previous Article:||Richard H. Immerman, Empire for Liberty, A History of American Imperialism from Benjamin Franklin to Paul Wolfowitz.|
|Next Article:||Andreas Goldthau and Jan Martin Witte (eds.) Global Energy Governance. The New Rules of the Game.|