Call for Book Chapters: EU Conditionality in Turkey: When it works? When it fails?

Cenap Cakmak's picture
Call for Publications
September 30, 2020
Subject Fields: 
Diplomacy and International Relations, Human Rights, Political Science

EU Conditionality in Turkey: When it works? When it fails?

In Europe, conditionality works as a process in which the EU promises the candidate EU membership if candidate implements a wide range of reforms and transforms itself toward the EU model. The mechanism of conditionality involves the withdrawal of the benefits of accession and halting or slowing down the process, if candidate fails to implement the reforms. Since the conditionality works on a cost–benefit analysis, the benefit must be greater than the cost of transformation. It must be stressed that calculating the tangible and intangible costs and benefits of each accession wave is extremely difficult due to complexity of EU’s negotiation processes, of the negotiations themselves; the effects of the precedence created by past practices; and the spill-over from other negotiations (Schimmelfennig and Sedelmeier 2002). Thus, often there were cries of miscalculation and mistakes about many accessions.

Successive enlargements are the best proof of the strong attraction which the Union continues to exert on its neighbors. And they have also been an effective way of extending Pax Europea to more countries of the continent. The EU has reserved the probable membership as a potential reward for the candidates seeking full membership in the club, demonstrating its determination to secure visible transformation and change in the target country mainly in the field of human rights. This is actually a clear manifestation of the gradual transformation of the EU over the time from an institution focusing on the fair share of economic resources to a supranational body assuming a role to promote global norms across the continent (Manners 2002). This role has been particularly visible in respect to its relations with the candidates; however, the rules produced for such promotion have also been considered applicable to the member states. The basic idea in pursuance of this policy has been dissemination and promotion of human rights and democratization that would create a vast sphere of peace and stability. The EU often boasted to transcend the Westphalian norms, with a strong commitment to promotion of democracy and human rights across the globe.

How conditionality works?

Conditionality is most effective when its pressures from outside meet favorable domestic conditions which must include elites wanting the change and have a strong hold on power, and a public that has a positive response (Tasch 2010). A successful transformation that is aimed by the conditionality depends on many exogenous and endogenous factors. For example, the domestic elites in a candidate may be reluctant to do so, particularly if reforms such as democratization carry high ‘adaptation costs’ that could jeopardize their hold on power, their conception of identity, or the integrity of the state. It is often claimed that the Turkish political and bureaucratic (military or civilian) elite had not been sincere in attaining the EEC/EU membership; because they were apprehensive about full democracy that would accompany the membership, as it would end their privileged position within the society. Thus the pluralization of the elite as evidenced by the emergence of Islamist-conservative elite (Göle 1997) and also the Kurdish elite created a more competitive political system. This has played an important role in getting Turkey closer to the standards of full membership.

To implement the policy of promotion of human rights in candidate countries, the EU inserted several conditions that these countries have to meet before accession in its official documents. The most famous device that serves as an indicator to determine whether a candidate state is eligible for full membership is defined in the ‘Conclusions of the Presidency’ at the European Council in Copenhagen held in June 1993. The Copenhagen Criteria required the candidates to achieve “the stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of minorities (political criterion), and, the existence of a functioning market economy as well as the capacity to cope with competitive pressure and market forces within the European Union (economic criterion); capable of implementing the rules of the EU, that is, the ever expanding acquis communautaire.”

The EU has played a visible role in the transformation of Turkey in respect to promotion of human rights and democratization. For the EU, admission of Turkey has been dependent upon the latter’s ability to harmonize its legislation with the priorities and principles of the EU. Interestingly, the EU, in recognition of the usefulness of the EU membership bid, has extensively relied on the impact of conditionality upon Turkey. For instance, Rehn stated that the reasons which led the EU to decide to open accession negotiations with Turkey are unchanged: the EU needs a stable, democratic and prosperous Turkey, in peace with its neighbours, which takes over the EU values, policies and standards (Rehn 2005). Rehn also noted that throughout Turkey’s negotiations to join the EU, the accession perspective “serves as the anchor for reforms that help Turkey to transform itself into a more open, democratic and thus self-confident society, committed to the values shared by all Europeans” (Rehn 2007).

It appears that Turkey’s reaction to the EU conditionality is sometimes driven by how Turkish governing elites see the process. In cases where the EU bid was viewed as contributing to their agenda, they have seemed eager to support the process. To this end, launch of democratization efforts could be attributed to the EU membership bid; but the betterment of the people was not what they took into account. In other words, “as paradoxical as it may seem, Turkey’s democratization is an issue of realpolitik; that is why implementation remains a problem, and why one cannot expect institutions to internalize norms and values that have so far been mere instruments of foreign policy” (Türkmen 2008: 162). In other words, Turkey becomes willing to respond constructively to the EU requests “when it accords with national policy objectives” (Rumford 2002). This view hence suggests that the change in Turkey in the field of democratization could be attributed to endogenous factors (Tocci 2005).

Aim and scope:

This edited volume seeks to address several interconnected questions on the terms, circumstances and factors that make the dynamics of conditionality work or fail in the case of the EU-Turkey relationship. Analyzing the areas of disputes and of agreements, the contributions are to be focused on exploring the strengths and weaknesses of what the conditionality offers or stipulates, and of what Turkey as a candidate state is capable or incapable of performing in response. Through this analysis for each separate case underlined by the parties in process of Turkey’s accession to the EU, the editors and the contributors will thus identify the conditions under which conditionality works and the impediments under which it fails. Findings based on such an analysis will shed light on the nature and practical use of the conditionality itself, adding analytical value to the political engagement between the EU and the candidate states.

The contributors are expected to write a chapter focusing on one of the cases that can be associated with one or more chapters of the accession negotiations between Turkey and the EU. The analysis should be mainly based on primary sources and should be empirically and/or theoretically supported. There is no specific length requirement but anything in the 7-9,000-word range should be sufficient to provide a convincing argument. Those who are interested should first send a 300-word abstract to the editor Dr. Cenap Çakmak (



Göle, Nilüfer, “Secularism and Islamism in Turkey: The making of Elites and  Counter-Elites,” Middle East Journal, v. 51, n. 1 (1997): 46-58.

Manners, Ian, “Normative power Europe: a contradiction in terms?” Journal of Common Market Studies, v. 40, n. 2, (2002): 235–58.

Rehn, Olli, “What’s the future for EU enlargement?” German Marshall Fund of the United States, Washington DC, 25 September 2007.

Rehn, Olli, “Accession Negotiations with Turkey: the Journey is as Important as the Final Destination,” European Parliament Plenary Session, Strasbourg, 28 September 2005 (SPEECH/05/556).

Rumford, Chris, “Failing the EU test? Turkey’s national programme, EU candidature and the complexities of democratic reform,” Mediterranean Politics, v. 7, n. 1 (2002): 51-68.

Schimmelfennig, Frank and Sedelmeier, Ulrich, “Theorizing EU enlargement: research focus, hypotheses, and the state of research,” Journal of European Public Policy, v. 9, n. 4 (2002): 500-528.

Tasch, Laman, “The EU Enlargement Policy and National Majority-Minority Dynamics in Potential European Union Members: The Example of Turkey,” Mediterranean Quarterly, v. 21, n. 2 (2010): 18-46.

Tocci, Nathalie, “Europeanization in Turkey: Trigger or anchor for reform?” South European Society and Politics, v. 10, n. 1 (2005): 73-83.

Türkmen, Füsun, “The European Union and democratization in Turkey: The role of the elites,” Human Rights Quarterly, v. 30, n. 1 (2008): 146-163.


Contact Info: 

Cenap Cakmak, Professor of Internatioal Law and Politics

Anadolu University, Department of International Relations, Eskisehir Turkey


Contact Email: