What is Euroscepticism and its reasons in Turkey?

By Aslı Aydın | 26 September 2011

To quote this document: Aslı Aydın, “What is Euroscepticism and its reasons in Turkey?”, Nouvelle Europe [en ligne], Monday 26 September 2011, http://www.nouvelle-europe.eu/node/1257, displayed on 03 February 2023

In recent times, Euroscepticism has become a quite common attitude in member states. Some sensitives European issues like enlargement to Turkey still reflect it. But what about Euroscepticism from the other side – among Turkish people ?

Euroscepticism is referred to as the disbelief of European integration. The term expresses opposition either qualified or unqualified to the process of European integration, The term expresses opposition either qualified or unqualified to the process of European integration (as defined by Taggart in ‘A touchstone of dissent: Euroscepticism in contemporary Western European party systems’). Academics have divided Euroscepticism into two trends: Hard-Euroscepticism which means to oppose the European integration, and Soft-Euroscepticism meaning to be particularly opposed to integration, especially to some policies. Taggart and Szczerbiak describe Hard-Euroscepticism as a principled opposition to the EU and European integration and describe Soft-Euroscepticism as a concern to some policy areas or when there is a sense that national interest does not fit with the EU’s trajectory.

However in the Turkish case, in order to understand Euroscepticism, it is worth mentioning the westernization process. The process of Westernization begins with Tanzimat Fermanı in 1839 and mostly developed with the foundation of the Turkish Republic in 1923. The relations with European Economic Community (EEC) in the early years of its foundation were a start of a long process which is still continuing. The acceptance of Turkey’s official candidacy at the 1999 Helsinki Summit and with the fulfillment of the Copenhagen criteria, the European Union opened accession negotiations in October 2005. Since then, we can notice a shift in public opinion.

At the very beginning, the majority of the public tended to be more optimistic about integration and were more pro-EU. Those who believed that European integration will be beneficial for Turkey were a majority. However the process and the delays made Eurosceptics a majority of the public. The reasons for this can be listed as the West’s lack of respect and lack of friendship in its relations with Turkey.

With the opening of accession negotiations, the pressure of acknowledging the Armenian Genocide, the policies about the Kurds and Greek Cypriots has been paved the way forpublic opinion to be more sceptic about the EU (as showed by Yılmaz in its article ‘Euroscepticism in Turkey: Parties, Elites, and Public Opinion’).

When we specify the reasons of Euroscepticism in Turkey we see several anxieties. Feeling excluded, the Sèvres Syndrome, ‘the EU is a Christian Club’ thoughts are some of them. However the strongest anxieties concern the nationality. The fear of losing national independence and sovereignty, the fear of a breakdown of nationality and the erosion of traditional values are the most important concerns for the Turks. People with stronger engagement to nationality tend to be weaker by supporting the EU. Those people feeling strong loyalty to their nation feel a need to protect their nationality by refusing membership.

Consequently, the low belief of the EU being beneficial to Turkey, high attachment to nationality, the image of the EU and the low trust in the institutions as well as the demands from the EU that the public be made more aware of the Armenian and Cyprus issues make the public suspicious about the EU. Also the member states’ thoughts about the Turkish public and their discourses contribute to this too.


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To read

  • TAGGART, P. (1998) ‘A touchstone of dissent: Euroscepticism in contemporaryWestern European party systems’, European Journal of Political Research, vol. 33, pp. 363–388.
  • TAGGART, P. and A. Szczerbiak (2002), ‘Europeanization, Euroscepticism and party systems: party-based Euroscepticism and party systems: party-based Euroscepticism in the candidate states of Central and Eastern Europe’, Perspectives on European Politics and Society, 3.1, 23-41.
  • YILMAZ, H. (2011) ‘Euroscepticism in Turkey: Parties, Elites, and Public Opinion’, South European Society and Politics, First article, 2011, pp. 1-24.