Article

Europeanization of minority rights: discourse, practice, and change in Turkey. EDAP Paper 01/2010

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Abstract

In the ethnically fragmented countries, it is almost taken for granted that the EU has a positive impact on minority rights protection. Those states made important legislative changes improving the protection level granted to minorities, which without the EU’s conditionality would have been impossible. In response to the perspective of membership and the pressure accompanying it, they have adopted legislative changes in the course of the accession process. However, such domestic changes can be misleading in two aspects. Firstly, formal changes may not be followed by behavioral ones and usually a gap between legislative changes and their implementation can be observed. While for the former only rationally induced factors would be sufficient enough to instigate change, for the latter, a certain level of change in attitudes is also necessary. Secondly, the EU’s impact cannot be confined to the formal changes. It has an impact on the emergence of new attitudes, identities, and beliefs. These socialization-based changes might not be parallel with formal changes, which in time might lead to opposite behavioral shifts. The main argument of this paper is that Europeanization of minority rights in Turkey goes hand in hand with these two nexus. On the one hand, there is a top-to-bottom policy-Europeanization with respect to minority rights without parallel internalization at the governmental level. This means policy changes are not necessarily internalized in a way culminating in normative and behavioral shifts. There can be modest changes; however, the “core” of the minority protection system remains untouched at the institutional and legislative level. However, in general sense, the direction of domestic change is positive compared to the previous status quo. On the other hand, new patterns of recognition-exclusion nexus have emerged due to the EU’s involvement, underlying antagonism between majority-minority groups. Policy changes and their limited implementation have resulted in the recognition of the separate identities of the minorities, whose existence has long been questioned by the state. However, it has also underlined the “otherness” of those groups with regard to the public perception. While the EU’s involvement has made those minority groups more apparent, they became more exposed to discrimination and hostility. Therefore, Europeanization of policies does not lead automatically to Europeanization of national identities and beliefs on minorities, giving rise to harmonious coexistence. It rather becomes a pretext of sharpened nationalist discourse both in majority and minority groups in candidate countries. That is why policy and identity/belief Europeanization might go in opposite directions.

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