The European Union and Turkey: Transforming the European Periphery into European Borderlands

27 Pages Posted: 18 Feb 2016

See all articles by Meltem Müftüler-Baç

Meltem Müftüler-Baç

Sabanci University - Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

Date Written: February 2016


Turkey has always been one of the key players in the EU’s periphery, in terms of its economic capabilities, geographical position and political significance. While the EU’s stance towards Turkey has been ambivalent over recent decades, Turkey, nonetheless, plays an important role both regionally and globally: one that the EU cannot overlook. This paper looks at the evolution of the EU’s role in transforming Turkey into a European borderland with rule and norm transfers in multiple areas. It then proceeds to an analysis of the shifting dynamics of dependence and the resulting lack of a power asymmetry between the EU and Turkey, as factors that limited this rule transfer, especially after 2008. To do so, the paper analyses the historical evolution of this relationship, the EU’s role in Turkish political reforms, and the degree to which the EU’s role altered within the confines of the accession process. The paper addresses first the EU’s rule transfer to Turkey in political terms, and identifies the significant blocs in that process with regards to the declining attractiveness of the EU as an economic magnet. Second, the paper analyses the economic aspects of the EU’s rule transfer within the confines of the Turkish-EU association and the shifting dynamics of dependence. The paper provides empirical proof with regards to Turkish adaptation to the EU’s technical rules as part and parcel of the accession process. It takes note of the limits of the EU’s power to transfer its rules to its periphery, when there is no major asymmetry of power, as in the Turkish case, and when the credibility of the accession process is low. While the changing asymmetries of economic and military power and shifting dynamics of dependence feature in the paper as the main factors limiting the EU’s capacity for rule and norm transfer to Turkey, it is, nonetheless, important to note that the EU influenced significant political and economic transformation in the country. The paper, then, investigates the expansion of the EU’s functional, political and legal rules to Turkey on the one hand, and uncovers the role that power dynamics might play in Turkish adaptation to these norms on the other. As a result, this analysis of Turkish-EU relations provides a glimpse into the EU’s role in its periphery, and its ability to transform the periphery into a European borderland by means of the export of its rules and norms.

Keywords: Turkey, EU borderlands, the EU accession process, EU norms

Suggested Citation

Müftüler-Baç, Meltem, The European Union and Turkey: Transforming the European Periphery into European Borderlands (February 2016). Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies Research Paper No. RSCAS 2016/12, Available at SSRN: or

Meltem Müftüler-Baç (Contact Author)

Sabanci University - Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences ( email )

Orhanli-Tuzla, 34956 Istanbul

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