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Strategies of Secession and Counter-Secession

Europeanisation of Turkey: Does it Lead to a Multilevel Governance Model for Minority Rights?

Ceren Ak
Queen Mary, University of London
Ceren Ak
Queen Mary, University of London

The scholarly literature examining regime change in the second half of the 20th century frequently emphasizes the important role of civil society in democratization. The number of non‐governmental organizations in Turkey has visibly expanded since 2001 due in part to reform of the law governing civil society activity, and as a result of the EU accession process. The numbers of civil society organizations escalated from around 5000 to 50.000 between 2001 and 2004. The empowerment of non‐state actors is also arguably a consequence of the relative decline of the strong state. This paper investigates whether, and to what extent, Europeanization has empowered non‐state actors dealing with minority reforms. In particular, the paper considers how the empowerment of non‐state actors has enabled the ruling Justice and Development Party to maintain its distance from contested issues such as minority rights and thus allowed it to overcome the nationalist reactions. It is argued here that the differential empowerment of non‐state actors has had several ramifications especially with respect to informal transformation concerning minority rights. The questions addressed include how Europeanization has shifted the modes of governance in Turkey and to what extent can we explain the implementation of current reforms through the formation of a multilevel governance model. Using results from interviews with civil society representatives representing 18 different ethnic, religious and linguistic minority groups and other non-state actors including religious leaders, opinion leaders, and minority representatives, it is argued that state restrictions and nationalist reaction towards the minority question in Turkey required these issues to be channeled through unofficial mechanisms. The main driving force in this regard has been the European Union as it has led to the redistribution of power resources between different domestic actors in Turkey.
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