Revising the Turkey-EU Narrative: A Historical Institutional Approach to Turkey’s EU Accession (1963-2017)
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Developments in Turkey from 2015 onwards and the subsequent EU decision making question dominant theoretical narratives that try to explain the Turkish EU accession process. Both rationalist and constructivist takes on the process fail to come with an all-encompassing explanation for the way in which Turkey-EU relations have progressed. The problem is that the historical relationship and the institutionalization of that relationship is insufficiently taken seriously. In this study, historical institutionalism is used to revise the Turkey-EU narrative in order to explain recent developments and EU decision making, based on exactly this history and institutionalization. The study examines international agreements between the EU and Turkey, as well as EU enlargement legislation and EU documents regarding Turkish accession. The research shows that the institutionalization has created a path dependent relationship between the EU and Turkey in which the EU is not always capable of judging Turkey on the basis of normative concerns, but is forced to decide in Turkey’s favour in case its geopolitical significance for the EU is suddenly inflated. This explains EU decision making, including the 1999 decision to grant Turkey membership and the 2017 decision not to suspend or end negotiations, both of which were puzzles in existing literature.