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Europeanization of Foreign Policy and World Culture: Turkey's Cyprus policy

Didem Buhari-Gulmez

Europeanization of national foreign policy has been a fertile ground for realists to claim that Europeanization - defined as cultural change- has its limits. The foreign policy domain is falsely described to be immune from exogenous pressures. Yet, the definition and redefinition of national interests is a dialectical process that involves not only internal dynamics and domestic interests but also explanatory factors that are beyond national level, such as the European-level and global-level stimuli. Hence, this study aims to demonstrate how individual perceptions of Turkey's national interests in Cyprus issue reflect the incongruence between the European-level stimuli and world cultural standards on conflict resolution. Although Cyprus question is a foreign policy problem between Turkey, Greece and Cypriot administrations (a sovereignty conflict between Turkish and Greek Cypriots dating back to 1960s), it has recently become a matter of Turkey-EU relations under the EU conditionality related to Customs Union. Accordingly, Turkey should halt all barriers to free movement of goods carried by Greek Cypriot vessels and aeroplanes in Turkey. However, there is a strong Turkish resistance in this domain, due to the perception of the Cyprus conflict as a 'national cause'. Nevertheless, Turkish government has been remarkably more compromising than previous governments over the issue since 2002 but expanding Turkish Customs Union to Greek Cyprus is still widely interpreted as de facto recognition of the Greek Cypriot administration, thus a substantial political concession. Finally, the EU decided to curtail accession negotiations with Turkey unless the latter lifts the restrictions towards Greek Cypriot vessels and aeroplanes on Turkish territories. The findings are derived from a web survey the author conducted with 261 Turkish experts on Turkey's foreign/EU affairs between January and April 2010. Accordingly, 71 % of the (117) Turkish public servants and 64 % of the private category (including academics, trade experts, NGO members, and lawyers) oppose the opening of Turkish harbours and aerospace to Greek Cypriot vessels and aeroplanes. It is notable that individual responses vary in terms of both the level and the logic of justification. Thus, the survey investigates whether the emphasis is upon world-level and/or European-level factors in determining national attitudes. Additionally, it studies whether domestic cost-benefit calculus (rationalist logic) or cultural logic (in/appropriateness and il/legitimacy of the reform) are strongly highlighted by Turkish experts. The survey findings are complemented by follow-up elite interviews with Turkish parliamentarians who are leading members of the Turkish Parliamentary committees on External Relations and Harmonization with the EU. Overall, the paper aims to highlight the significance of the global cultural structure that informs and legitimates Turkish responses towards EU's pressures on the Cyprus conflict. Rather than reform, EU conditionality on Cyprus provokes Turkish resistance because the EU seems to have been deviated from the global standardized approach to conflict resolution implying the primary role of the United Nations and international community's 'common sense'.

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