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Explaining the 'Change' in the Attitudes of Turkish Political Actors towards EU Membership

Seckin Baris Gulmez

This paper seeks to scrutinise the change in the attitudes of the main political actors in Turkey as regards the EU membership of their country. Accordingly, first a literature review on the contestations by political parties towards their country's EU membership will be introduced. The author argues that in the extant literature, the reluctance for EU membership has been studied under two dimensions: the extent and the content. In the extent dimensions, the scholars tend to define the phenomenon as euroscepticism and determine its boundaries through a variety of classifications. The content dimension on the other hand involves scholarly works on the main motivations behind reluctance or/and criticisms towards EU membership without attaching conceptual definitions. However, the author argues the existing bi-dimensional literature provides a limited account on how to explain differences in the phenomenon from one country to another, and more importantly change in such attitudes within a single country over time. In this respect, the author aims to introduce a third dimension: 'the context' whereby the author argues that different and/or changing contexts might spark differing and/or changing attitudes towards EU membership. After a brief scrutiny on the differing nature of negative attitudes towards EU membership among various candidate countries, the author then will discuss how a contextual analysis could explain the changing attitudes of the major political parties in Turkey towards EU membership. Overall, the paper argues that the current type of criticisms against the EU and the reluctance for EU membership visible in the main Turkish political parties reflect a reactive notion rather than a long established opposition. This reactive tendency, also to some extent visible in the Turkish public, mainly stems from the EU's Cyprus conditionality on Turkey and the emerging Turkey-scepticism within the EU.

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