Turkish mosque in Telfs, Tyrol. Photo: Gerhard Berger
European debates on Turkey
Two of the most important questions in European politics today concern Turkish EU accession. Will Turkey, now engaged in accession negotiations, actually succeed in meeting the standards set for EU members? And will governments, parliaments and public opinion in current EU member states welcome a Turkey that successfully completes accession negotiations?
As part of a large project ESI has been undertaking research on the structure and content of public debates on Turkey across the European Union. Beginning with Austria (the most sceptical EU member state) and the Netherlands (under whose EU presidency Turkey was given the green light in 2004), our goal was to provide a comprehensive view - and to introduce the main protagonists - of one of the most decisive policy debates in Europe today.
Especially the Austrian debate has been remarkably one-sided. No other European country has been as reluctant as Austria to open the door to negotiations with Turkey. No other European social democratic party has been as clearly opposed to the opening of negotiations as the Austrian SPÖ. In no other country has the population been as hostile to Turkish EU accession as in Austria. Opposition to Turkish EU membership is not a right-wing issue, but a phenomenon of the Austrian mainstream. In our report "A referendum on the unknown Turk?" (January 2008) we tried to explain the reasons for this Austrian exceptionalism. Two years before, we had already published a report on the Dutch debate on Turkish accession and the German Turkey debate under the grand coalition.