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ECPR Journals Virtual Special Issue

Assessing the Impact of the EU Accession on Turkey’s Kurdish Minority

Bilge Azgin
University of Manchester
Bilge Azgin
University of Manchester

One can easily agree with the statement that “no region in the world has progressed so far as to establish a minority rights regime that seeks to prevent discrimination and establish empowerment.” Yet, and despite inserting the “respect for and protection of minorities” principle into the Copenhagen Criteria, the EU itself “lacks an internal consensus, a firm legal base and clear benchmarks” to enforce uniform universal minority right standards both across its members and candidate countries (Sasse, 2008:843; Hughes and Sasse, 2003). Hence, inquiring the extent of the EU’s success in establishing solid and uniform minority rights regime across its members and candidate countries is a quite noteworthy and controversial issue.
This paper will seek to contribute to the “National Minorities between Protection and Empowerment” Workshop by assessing the impact of the EU Accession process on Turkey’s minority rights record (mainly Kurdish ethnic minority). Accordingly, this paper will be divided into two sections. First section will assess the extent of the legislative reform that successive Turkish governments undertook while trying to comply with the EU conditionality on the cultural rights of ethnic minorities. The chronological narrative of the first section will cover the EU-led reform process until the year 2004 when the European Council decided to start accession negotiations with Turkey in October 2005.
Second section of the paper will assess the reformist performance of the Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi – hereafter AKP) on the EU-led Kurdish cultural rights during Turkey’s post-EU accession period (from 2005 to 2010). Despite the selective and limited reform measures undertaken by the AKP government towards the Kurdish cultural rights, the paper will conclude by highlighting the serious shortcomings of Turkey in complying with the minority rights standards set by the EU Commission.
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