Projects in Turkey

Turkey became a member of the European Council in 1949 and NATO in 1952. Its application for EEC-membership in 1963 was not accepted. Instead, a treaty of association was signed. In 1987, Turkey applied for full EC-membership but once again it was met with ambivalence. However, in 1995, Turkey joined the EC customs union.

Conference with the think-tank ALT in Ankara, February 2012

Population: 81.6 million
Area: 783 562 km2
GDP (PPP): 1,167 billion dollar (2013 estimate)
GDP per capita (PPP): 15 300 dollar (2013 estimate)
Rate of growth: 3,8 % (2013 estimate)
Head of state: Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Head of government: Ahmet Davutoglu


Public debate in Turkey revolves around the membership negotiations with the EU and the reforms that such a membership necessitates. Cyprus and freedom of opinion are two issues that disturb Turkey’s relations with Europe. The government has failed to maintain the rate of reform. Tensions with the Kurds have increased.

There is a great need for upholding a constructive and continuous dialogue with the Turkish parties. Were the dialogue with the West to cease, it is likely that Turkey would seek closer cooperation with its authoritarian neighbours. Successful integration of Turkey with Europe and the ensuing reforms would serve as an example for other countries.

The Jarl Hjalmarson Foundation has cooperated with the Association for Liberal Thinking, ALT, which is a political think-thank that aims to encourage the growth and development of liberal democracy in Turkey. In cooperation, regular conferences on ideology are held in different parts of Turkey, based on Nigel Ashford’s book Principles for a Free Society.

The democratic development is not unthreatened. Attempts at easing the strict Turkish laws that govern religion – by letting women wear head scarves at the university – have been branded, by the opposition, as Islamification of society. In 2008, the Prosecutor-General had the constitutional court try the ruling party. International observers termed this an attempted coup d’état by means of law. In the end, the AK Party was acquitted, although it lost half of its economic support. The legal process against the AK Party and the presidential election of 2007 meant that attention was given mainly to domestic issues. International policy, such as the admission into the EU, was neglected, but is currently growing in importance.

The relations between the EU and Turkey, however, remain problematic. Cyprus is blocking the possibility of initiating negotiations on certain areas and both France and Germany show great scepticism towards a future Turkish membership. The declined respect for human rights and freedoms in Turkey is one reason why the EU has expressed reservations, while analysts believe that the only way to deal with these issues is by opening the negotiating chapters on, among other fundamental rights.

The EU Commission, in its progress report from 2014, finds that Turkey plays an important regional and foreign policy role, not at least when it comes to handling the numerous refugees crossing the border from Syria. At the same time, Turkey has so far been reluctant to take a clear position against the IS and the peace negotiations with the Kurds in the eastern part of the country seems to have stranded. The fact that Russia simultaneously presses to try to sign a strategic agreement on construction of a new gas pipe-line, however, led the EU to act. In early December 2014, just after Putin had posted a visit, a high ranking delegation, led by the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs, visited Ankara with the aim of improving the relations.

Women are underrepresented in political life. There is implicit as well as explicit resistance to politically active females. Furthermore, existing organizational structures obstruct women from making their voices heard. Tradition, religion and culture are three factors in Turkish society that hamper female participation in politics. Similar problems also discourage the young from partaking in political life.


Interesting readings:

  • Sahin Alpay writes in Today’s Zaman about Prime Minister Erdogan’s ideological position

Read the article, published April 14, 2013

  • Mustafa Akyol writes in Al Monitor about the work on a new constitution and that the AKP might take its own draft to a referendum

Read the article, published January 31, 2013

  • EU welcomes Turkey’s decision to allow the use of other languages than Turkish in courts

Read the article, published January 29, 2013

  • President Abdullah Gül calls for EU reforms and new constitution in his opening address to the parliament

Read the article, published October 1, 2012

  • Taner Akcam writes in New York Times about Turkey’s role in the Middle East and the need to acknowledge your own history

Read the article, published July 19, 2012

  • Michael J. Koplow and Steven A. Cook writes in Foreign Affairs about “how the AKP simultaneously embraces and abuses democracy”

Read the article, published June 27, 2012

  • Sahin Alpay writes in Today’s Zaman about AKP and the current political situation in Turkey

Read the column, published June 3, 2012

  • Ishan Yilmaz writes in Today’s Zaman about AKP:s ideological background and its development

Read the column, published June 1, 2012

  • Sahin Alpay writes in Today’s Zaman about Turkey and the EU

Read the column, published April 29, 2012

  • Mustafa Akyol writes in Hürriyet Daily News about the Gülen movement

Read the column, published April 28, 2012

  • Mustafa Akyol writes in Hürriyet Daily News about Atatürk and the picture of him today

Read the column, published April 21, 2012


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