The objective of the research project TRIANGLE is to map the developments in EU/German-Turkish relations and – if there are any – identify substantial turning points. Such a substantial turning point would be particularly noticeable-, first-, in the institutional framework of the relations. Second, a so-called 'Blickwechsel' would be discernable with regard to involved actors. This, again, implies an adaptation of dominant narratives within the triangle relationship between the EU/Germany and Turkey.
Narratives illustrate the way political actors make sense of the past, present, or future and how they justify their political actions. The analysis of narratives aims at pointing out the dynamics resulting from the narratives, deducing possible future scenarios for EU/German-Turkish relations and testing those with regard to their plausibility. TRIANGLE's analysis of narratives builds on findings in existing literature (See e.g. Hauge et.al. 2016). The following table exemplifies the three most prominent narrative pairings:
Table 1: Overview Narratives in EU-Turkey Relations
|EU Perspective||Turkey Perspective|
|Conflict||Turkey as "the Other"||Neo-Ottomanism|
Source: Hauge, Hanna Lisa: Mapping Milestones and Periods of Past EU-Turkey Relations. (with Atila Eralp, Wolfgang Wessels, Nurdan Selay) FEUTURE working paper, 2016.
The Europeanization narrative assumes that every state fulfilling the Copenhagen criteria is able to become a member of the European Union. This perspective sees the enlargement process as a strong power tool triggering transformation processes in applicant countries, as expressed by the phrase 'democratization through enlargement'. The decision of accession, however, remains with the EU itself.
The corresponding Turkish narrative is the Westernization narrative. It captures the perspective that Turkey's own modernization is and should be closely aligned with its 'European' and 'Western' partners. In line with this reasoning, it is only logical that Turkey should under all circumstances strive to become a member of the European Community/Union. This narrative was particularly prominent in the first decades after the foundation of the Turkish Republic under the country's founder, Atatürk. Both the Europeanization and the Westernization narrative would come down to a (re) energizing of the accession process.
The notion of EU-Turkish relations as a Partnership is based on a rather reluctant approach. It refers to the notion of a special form of partnership for Turkey beyond – or rather below – membership. An example would be Angela Merkel's notion of a "privileged partnership", which was met with disapproval in Turkey and therefore was avoided thereafter.
The identity-based, European narrative of Turkey as "The Other" focusses on the continental borders and questions Turkey's geographic, cultural, and political affiliation with Europe. The narrative emphasizes cultural differences and finds the Turkish political system incompatible with the European one. The narrative of Neo- Ottomanism follows a similarly negative logic. It represents a counter-narrative to the previous Westernization narrative, as it depicts Turkey as the inheritor of the Ottoman Empire and as a strong regional power. This narrative became more and more prominent in the context of the strong economic revival Turkey experienced after 2005, and also manifested in a changing Turkish foreign policy focus away from the West and towards the countries in its neighbourhood. Both narratives point to a scenario of conflict-ridden relationships between EU/Germany and Turkey.