FEUTURE Online Paper No. 28: Narratives of a Contested Relationship – Unravelling the Debates in the EU and Turkey

This paper outlines how narratives on European Union (EU)-Turkey relations changed over time since the 1960s and until the present. Applying a narrative approach, the paper aims to deconstruct a debate, which has been characterized by a plurality or even cacophony of stories by different actors. It presents the most influential narratives of EU institutions and Turkish political actors and traces their change over time as well as the dynamics between them. Based on a qualitative coding of a vast set of official documents from EU and Turkey (ca. 280 documents), it draws the following main conclusions:

  • Different in nature: Turkish and European narratives vary considerably in their nature. Turkish narratives all share the same goal of full membership, while they have changing plots and different lines of argumentation. EU narratives differ both in their plot and in terms of the “finalité” of EU-Turkey relations.
  • Progressively divergent: Since the 1960s, the number of narratives in Turkey and the EU has gradually increased and the debates have become more divergent.
  • Growingly conflictual: While the study confirms that conflictual rhetoric is rather a recurring pattern and not new to the debates on EU-Turkey relations, the level of escalation on both sides in the last years has been considerably higher.

Overall, the research draws the conclusion that currently there is a combination of conflictual elements as well as arguments emphasizing the importance to cooperate with each other. Hence, the study’s results are in line with the main conclusion drawn by the FEUTURE project, namely, that the most likely scenario for the future is “conflictual cooperation”.

Authors: Hanna-Lisa Hauge, Ebru Ece Özbey, Atila Eralp, Wolfgang Wessels

Date: February 2019

Download the paper here.