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Imperial Legacies and Neo-Ottomanism

This article examines whether the presence of imperial legacies in Central and South-eastern Europe affects their foreign policy stances and public opinion towards Turkish accession to the EU. It first discusses the boundaries of the ideational factors affecting the perception of Turkey, namely the historical legacy of the Ottoman Empire as a European power in Eastern Europe. Secondly, it looks at the ideational factors in how Turkish foreign policy, more specifically Turkey’s EU membership, is perceived by Eastern and South-eastern European political elite and public. The author finds that in places where the Ottoman Empire is perceived in more historically distant terms, the more positive or neutral views are of Turkish membership. It concludes with a juxtaposition of Eastern European stances with Turkey’s new foreign policy strategies. It recommends that Turkish foreign policy should not neglect advocacy in the western part of the old Ottoman sphere of influence where new EU members lie. These may indeed by transformed into new allies to support Turkey’s bid against the opponents among older EU members.

Imperial Legacies and Neo-Ottomanism
International amateur actors re-enact a scene from the battle for the fortress near the town of Shumen, some 350 km (217 miles) east from the Bulgarian capital Sofia. Bulgaria celebrates the anniversary of the battle, as part of the liberation struggle ag
 

From Hungary he’s soon away,

In Austria by the break of day,

Bavaria is just at hand,

From there, he will reach another land,

Soon the Rhine perhaps, he will come1

 

In this article, I will examine how the historical legacy of the Ottoman Empire in Central and South-eastern Europe2 affects the foreign policy stances and public opinion towards Turkish membership to the European Union (EU). My task is made difficult in that it needs to take into consideration questions of institutional and cultural legacy in such large historical swathes within the limited confines of this paper. However, I would argue that the Ottoman legacy does affect countries’ stances towards Turkish accession to the EU, in that the Ottoman legacy plays a role in their own identity constructions vis-à-vis the European project. I suggest that the new EU members, whose support Turkey may realistically lobby for in its EU bid, come equipped with significant historical memories of the Ottoman Empire with varying degrees of associations from their direct contact with Ottoman rule.3

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