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Crises and Elections: What are the Consequences for Turkey's EU Bid?


The economic crisis in Europe and the political tension in Turkey are bad news for Turkey-EU relations. The EU crisis has weakened Turkey's traditional allies, made European public opinion more reluctant to enlarging the EU further, deteriorated the EU's image in Turkey and had an ambivalent effect for the prospects of conflict-resolution in the Eastern Mediterranean. More recently, Turkey has entered a zone of political turbulence that has created serious concerns in the EU. With these crises in the background, Turkey and the EU will hold crucial elections. The May 2014 European elections will offer a certain picture of the impact of the economic crisis on European citizens' views regarding the European project, which will have a significant influence on many EU policies, including enlargement. With the rise of anti-establishment and populist forces, the number of MEPs that vehemently oppose Turkey's membership in the EU will increase. This could have an unexpected effect: if they employ an aggressive Islamophobic discourse regarding Turkey, mainstream parties could be forced to reaffirm the need for a fair treatment of Turkey's candidacy. Yet, European politicians and EU institutions will think twice before making any gesture that could be interpreted as supporting or rewarding the Turkish government, unless there is a consistent effort to reduce domestic political polarisation and to bring the reform process back on track.

Paper produced within the framework of the project Turkey, Europe and the World. Publ. in IAI Research Paper 13.

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