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EUROPEANISATION OF PUBLIC DEBATES AND CIVIL SOCIETY IN TURKEY

Final Report Summary - EUROCIV (EUROPEANISATION OF PUBLIC DEBATES AND CIVIL SOCIETY IN TURKEY)


The central aim of this research project (EUROCIV) was to explore the impact of the institutions (particularly the EU), norms and policies of European integration on the politically mobilized civil society organizations (CSOs) in Turkey. The task was achieved by introducing a novel conceptual framework to Europeanization approaches. EUROCIV focused on the CSOs that are actively involved in the debates concerning the rising political Islam and Kurdish identity claims in Turkey. These public debates can also be defined as Turkey’s core regime debates, since they are questioning the fundamental precepts of domestic political order which are secularism, nationalism and the territorial integrity of Turkish state. These two issues also constituted the major axis of civil society involvement in public debates in the country since the 1980s.

The empirical focus of EUROCIV was three-tiered. First, it investigated how and in what ways the EU-required legal and constitutional reforms (EU-ization) on the freedom of association and assembly changed the political/structural conditions in which politically mobilized CSOs operated in Turkey. Secondly, the research explored how the CSOs reacted to and made use of the EU/European context (Europeanization) to increase their influence and to promote their political agenda. It assessed how the reforms expanding the sphere of liberties and rights, various EU funds and increasing opportunities of making collaboration with European CSOs were beneficial to the civil society actors in re-organizing and developing their strategies, objectives and frames of actions. Another task of EUROCIV was to map out the variety of discourses concerning the EU and Turkey’s integration into Europe disseminated by the politically mobilized civil societal actors in Turkey. At the theoretical level, on the basis of critical engagement with the concept of Europeanization, the aim was to develop a new analytical framework to comprehend better how European integration affects societies. This project was also an attempt to re-define the scope and boundaries of Europeanization and to re-locate it within a broader sociological terrain.

The research project has yielded significant outputs in two years including publication of academic articles, research briefs targeting both the academic and non-academic and policy circles, papers presented at international conferences, an active website serving as an outlet of dissemination and a short documentary about civil society which is the audio-visual material envisaged in the work description of EUROCIV. Dr. Kaliber achieved to publish the outcomes of his research as articles in academic journals and edited volumes. To address the academic circles working on Turkey’s Europeanisation process and civil society in Turkey, Dr. Kaliber published an article entitled “Europeanization in Turkey: In Search of a New Paradigm of Modernization” in Journal of Balkan and Near Eastern Studies, a renown, peer-reviewed journal which is cited in several indices of social sciences. This article has already received numerous citations and has been listed as one of the most-read manuscripts of the journal for this year.

Another output of EUROCIV would be a special issue entitled "Encounters with Europe in an era of Domestic and International Turmoil: Is Turkey a De-Europeanising Candidate Country?" in South European Society and Politics (SESP), a renowned academic journal, indexed in SSCI with a considerable impact factor. The special issue which is expected to be published in late 2015 targets academics and policy circles working on Turkey and will contribute immensely to Europeanisation studies. Another forthcoming manuscript of Dr. Kaliber will appear in an edited volume entitled Bridging Divides: Rethinking Ideology And Protests In The Age Of Globalization to be published by Routledge in 2016.

Furthermore, the researcher published an online brief about the project which encompassed primary objectives and preliminary theoretical findings of the project with a brief literature review. The brief was included in the yearly newsletter of the European Institute at Istanbul Bilgi University, which was widely circulated among universities, research centres and think tanks, and NGOs across Turkey. It was also made available on the web page of EUROCIV to be able to reach out to the wider, non-academic public. The next two briefs will be published in November and December 2014 respectively while the last two briefs will be available in early 2015.

Dr. Kaliber participated in several academic conferences throughout the duration of the research project including the 7th General Conference of the European Consortium of Political Research which took place at Sciences Po Bordeaux in Bordeaux, France from 4 to 7 September 2013; the 2nd European Workshops in International Studies at Gediz University in Izmir/Turkey, which lasted from 21 to 24 May 2014; and gave a public seminar at the School of African and Oriental Studies (SOAS) at University of London on 4 July 2014.

One of the major outcomes of the research project has been a short documentary in DVD format to enhance the impact of this research project. The short documentary entitled “Voices Of The Unheard: View From Civil Society” has consisted of 5 interviews from 4 CSOs all based in Diyarbakir whose voice and visibility remain often obscure due to financial, technical and political reasons. The short documentary which is currently at the editing and translation stage will be available in DVD format in Turkish with English subtitles in December 2014. Subsequently, it will be circulated to the relevant CSOs, universities, national and international libraries, research centres, think tanks, and will be available on the website of the research project.

The public website of the project (http://eu.bilgi.edu.tr/en/programs/marie-curie-toplumsal-tartsmalarn-avrupallasmas-ve/) is active since the start of EUROCIV in September 2012 and includes a summary of the aims and objectives of the project, brief information about the researcher, the project outputs including research briefs, publications and information about the short documentary.

Alongside these publication and dissemination activities, the researcher, Dr. Alper Kaliber, had two concrete achievements in his academic career. First, he received Young Scientist Award by Turkey's Science Academy (BAGEP) in March 2014 due to his past record of research and achievements as well as his prospective research plans. This prestigious award is given every year in several disciplines to encourage successful scientists in social, physical and medical sciences. Second, he was recognised as an associate professor in International Relations by the Higher Education Council in Turkey on 18 April 2014 due to his contribution to the research and teaching in the relevant field. The integration period at Istanbul Bilgi University recognised the researcher the opportunity to utilise the expertise, experience and network provided by the host institution. His high-profile research and teaching in the duration of EUROCIV enabled him to attain a tenure track position as an Associate Professor of International Relations in Istanbul Kemerburgaz University since September 2014.

The research results have sought and will continue to seek different outlets to make a scientific as well as social impact and to effectively reach out to different audiences including academia, civil society and policy-making circles. EUROCIV presented a novel approach to the study of Europeanisation and of civil society by introducing a new theoretical and conceptual framework. It investigated the usage of EU-isation reforms and other instruments of Europeanisation by CSOs who are involved in the core debates of Turkish politics. The empirical and theoretical data gathered throughout this research have extensively contributed to the theory-building on civil society actions under the European impact. EUROCIV has aimed to contribute to the relevant conceptual literature by integrating sociological and critical approaches to an area dominated mostly by rational institutionalist analyses. Departing from the Turkish experience, Dr. Kaliber has addressed such questions as when, why and for what purposes civil society institutions support EU-ization reforms and consolidation of Europeanization as a political-normative context. He has also examined the political circumstances where CSOs either ignore or make negative references to European norms and institutions as well as the EU led reforms. Even if EUROCIV seems to shed light on a single-country case, its findings may also be conceptually relevant in the analyses of the impact of the EU on other candidate countries in the Western Balkans where similar processes may be at work.

Previous research on Europeanisation of civil society largely focused on lobbying activities of NGOs on such issues as democratic participation, economic liberalization, privatization and EU-led policy reforms in the member states. Not only does EUROCIV extend the remit of research on the issue to an EU candidate country but also it does present a comprehensive analysis of the civil society presence in seminal public debates. Through his academic publications, conference papers, briefs and a short documentary, the researcher has not only made an impact on the relevant literatures on Europeanisation and civil society but also contributed to the under-studied research areas in the literatures.

Since this research project is directly related to the civil society in Turkey, it has sought and will continue to seek to communicate its outputs to civil society organisations and to the society at large. Apart from articles in specialised journals and academic conferences, Dr. Kaliber has adopted a dissemination strategy to reach out to the Turkish civil society and the wider public. He will make the forthcoming briefs available online and also circulate among relevant bodies and institutions through his own network as well as that of the European Institute at the host institution. This dissemination strategy is expected to create awareness at the level of civil society as to the impacts of CSOs both on Turkey’s the most important contemporary debates and on her arduous way to Europe.


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