Authors: Murat Coskun
There is a common tendency to see European Union (EU)-Turkey relationships from an external democracy promotion framework. From a rationalist perspective, academics focus on the conditional nature of the accession negotiations. As a result, democratic reforms made by Turkey are explained with a process in which Turkey experiences a democratic transformation forced by EU-Turkey relations through political conditionality strategy. This paper aims to test how accurate these arguments are. For this aim, depending on theories on conditionality, under what conditions this strategy might be expected to work will be evaluated. Regarding this, it will be suggested that a credible conditionality strategy that offers a clear membership prospect and favourable domestic conditions are necessary for the strategy to work. Based on this evaluation, two periods Turkey has experienced are believed to represent different levels of external pressure depending on the effectiveness of conditionality strategy. The first period covers the years between 1999, when Turkey was given a candidacy status, and 2005, when the accession negotiations began. The second will cover the period since 2005. Evaluating the two periods in the light of the prerequisites suggested by conditionality theories, it will be suggested that the second period represents a significantly lower level of external pressure. Therefore, quality and quantity of the reforms made in two periods are supposed to differ significantly. This paper will argue that a comparison of the two periods provides two important findings. Firstly, in terms of the quantity of political reforms actually made, there is a considerable difference between the two periods, which may be taken to support conditionality arguments. Secondly, however, the quality of reforms made such as in the areas of civil-military relations, freedom of expression and reform attempts regarding minority rights to solve Kurdish issue during the latter period can be claimed to be far from insignificant. Therefore, even if these cases do not completely invalidate conditionality arguments, they raise important questions on their explanatory power. Hence, it can be claimed that conditionality arguments cannot fully explain recent reform process in Turkey. Thus, alternative approaches to rationalist perspectives deserve more attention than they currently receive in studies of Europeanisation of candidate countries.
Keywords: Democratisation; Europeanisation; Conditionality; Turkey; EU