For 50 years now, Turkey has been associated to the EU, but the country is nowhere near membership despite of its 2005 candidate status. For years, Turkey has faced criticism on numerous areas and especially within the political framework of the Copenhagen Criteria: Human rights, minority rights and the issue on Cyprus. The potential accession has been widely debated in member states, and in the debates, several political leaders point to Turkey’s different culture as a reason not to admit the country, and remarks have also been made to the Muslim background of the country. Culture and religion are not a part of the official admission criteria, but still clearly remain topics. This raises the question of whether or not some unofficial criteria can be said to exist. This thesis examines the role of cultural arguments and the general perception of culture and religion in political argumentation for or against Turkish EU membership. It outlines the following research question: How does the culture, including religion, of Turkey play a role in selected MEP’s argumentation for or against Turkish EU membership, and to what extend can conformity or divergence be observed in relation to the ideologies and nationalities of the MEPs. In order to answer the research question, the method approach of the thesis is based on interpretive hermeneutics. As a consequence, the empirical data consists of qualitative interviews with 7 selected MEPs from Denmark, the UK and Germany. The theoretical understanding of the problem area is explored on the basis of the politicians’ ideologies and the theoretical work of Samuel Huntington, Francis Fukuyama and Thomas Pedersen who all shed light on the relationship between politics, culture and religion. The analysis shows that in the case of these specific MEPs, political ideology unites the politicians to a large extend in their views on Turkey and on the question of the role of culture and religion. Nationality is of no great matter. Among the social democratic and liberal politicians there seems to be a consensus that Turkey in due time will be capable of fulfilling the Copenhagen Criteria and adhering to the values of the EU. They support the membership because they view Turkey as economically, strategically and demographically important to the EU. The conservative politicians do not believe Turkey will ever fulfil the criteria and adhere to the values and therefore consider a privileged partnership as an appropriate alternative to membership. Whereas the social democratic and liberal politicians tend to agree with Fukuyama that democratic and human rights are universal, the opinions of the conservative politicians seem to suggest that they consider the opposite to be true – in agreement with Huntington. The politicians have very different views on why the Turkish reform process has been so slow and why the country still fails to respect various human rights but ideologies also somehow unite the politicians. One of the conservative politicians believes the slow reforms and noncompliance with human rights are the consequences of the lack of important historical developments in Turkey. This has lead to a people with a different culture that does not perceive values as ‘we’ do. Another conservative argues that Turkey is simply without democratic values and has no will to obtain these. The opinions generally reflect the conservative ideology, which considers traditions and historical experiences as crucial for human development. Islam is not explicitly mentioned as a reason, although the politicians’ argumentation suggests that religion might play a role after all. As a consequence of their ideology, the social democratic and liberal politicians deny that religion has anything to do with the lack of reforms. Only a liberal politician breaks with his ideology and say Islam might put up barriers but does not go as far as to deny compliance as the conservative politicians. In general, the thesis shows that religion is not considered to be a valid political argument in the debate. This thesis does not claim to provide conclusions on the role of culture in political argumentation in general. It does however, shed light on the considerations of these individual politicians and shows that ideology plays a role in the shaping of opinion.
|Educations||MA in International Business Communication (Intercultural Marketing), (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis|
|Number of pages||135|