Assessing the political factors behind the progress in Turkey’s accession process into the European Union
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objective of this thesis was to explore the extent to which political factors have influenced Turkey’s accession process into the European Union. The thesis first discussed the Europeanization literature to frame Turkey’s integration with the EU. The theoretical basis for the role of the EU member states was then framed through the two-level game and the theory of liberal intergovernmentalism. The theoretical framework implied that the member states are central actors in the EU, as they forward their rational interests between the domestic and international levels. Furthermore, member states’ central role in the enlargement process is also apparent, as the condition of unanimity of all of the EU decisions reflects. The negotiation process between the EU and Turkey as the main part of the accession was the central subject of the present analysis. The first, essential part of the analysis sought to track Turkey’s progress based on the European Commission’s annual progress reports on Turkey in the years 2005-2015. Turkey’s progress in alignment with the EU acquis in the 33 chapters was measured using quali-quantitative methods; and the cases used for further analysis were selected following the logic of most similar system design. The resulting selection of chapters were found to share a similar pattern in their progression as they were all well advanced. However, the chapters differed in the status that they had achieved by 2015. Continuing with the analysis, it appeared that the negotiations have essentially reached a deadlock. Namely, three of the analyzed chapters were subject to a blockage from a member state or suspended by the EU Council, thus could not be opened to negotiations for political reasons. Somewhat surprisingly, political factors also affected chapters that were open and technically advanced enough to be provisionally closed. The stalling of negotiations based on the chapters assessed in the present work, in one way or another, stems from the ‘Cyprus question’. The key finding in this work was that the capabilities of the member states to influence the process may be essential in the EU enlargement, as is the case with Turkey’s membership application. Therefore, even with Turkey’s continuing progress in the negotiation areas, it is clear that there is a presence of strong political factors which determine the limited rate of the accession process.