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The European Union Dilemma of the Kurds: High Support for Membership despite Lack of Sufficient Trust

How people in member and candidate states are oriented toward the European Union –meaning, how well they know and how they evaluate the EU– is significant with regard to the sustainability of the EU. Because of the critical place of the Kurdish issue on the agenda of Turkey’s accession process to the EU, the orientation of the Kurds toward the union has been of particular importance. This article, therefore, analyzes the Kurdish orientation toward the EU on the basis of comprehensive fieldwork conducted in the southeast of Turkey, where the majority of the country’s Kurdish population is located.

The European Union Dilemma of the Kurds High Support for

Introduction

One of the most vital factors for the EU to achieve its desire to expand the integration process from its original field of economics to other areas, and ultimately to reach its ideal of a fully-fledged union, is sufficient support and loyalty from the populace of member and potential member states. Consequently, what people in member and candidate states think about EU-related issues, and how they position the EU in the context of their own world –that is to say their orientation toward the EU– is a critical matter. In the case of a country such as Turkey, which has been waiting at the EU’s door for quite some time, and has been the subject of perhaps the most discussions on whether or not it should be a member, the matter of the Kurds becomes one that specifically needs to be addressed. 

 

One of the most important priorities concerning EU membership at the national level in Turkey is the rights and freedoms of the Kurds living in Turkey. Since the Kurdish people are critically positioned both in terms of Turkey’s internal dynamics and its relationship with the EU, the Kurds own orientation toward the EU is a matter that needs to be assessed specifically and separately from that of the overall general public. 

 

Based on a comprehensive study carried out in Turkey’s southeast cities where the Kurdish populace mainly resides, this paper seeks to analyze the type and extent of Kurdish orientation toward the EU in that part of the country.1 It consists of three sections; the first section conveys how people’s orientation toward the EU, emerged as a necessity and how this was addressed theoretically. The second section offers information on Turkey’s EU accession process and the place of the Kurdish question within it, and describes both the relevant literature in Turkey and parameters of the present study. Finally, a detailed analysis of the Kurdish orientation toward the EU, based on the findings from our study, is presented in the final section.

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Call for Paper | Politics of the Balkans and Future Perspectives