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The European Crisis and Turkey’s Unpredictable Role in the Balkans

This paper discusses Turkey’s role in the Balkans as part of the broader narrative of European integration. ‘Europeanization’ in the early 2000s was a political platform that was instrumental in allowing Turkey to forge a peace between the country’s established elite and moderate political Islam. In the context of Turkey’s alienation from the project of European integration, the relationship between Europe and Turkey is becoming narrowly transactional and there is no longer a ‘community building’ dynamic. Instead, the region emerges as a canvas of competing influences and mutually exclusive choices between Ankara and Brussels that ultimately contribute to ‘Balkanization.’

The European Crisis and Turkey s Unpredictable Role in the
 

Europe remains a normative superpower,1 setting standards and shaping political norms well beyond its member states. Even amid an undeniable crisis of the project of European integration, both within member states and in the regions around the EU, the functionalist premise still appears valid. Integration in one policy area creates a spill-over effect causing member states and associated partners to coordinate policy in another, paving the way for an ever-closer union. Association Agreements, Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreements (DCFTAs), and a Customs Union area create a space of free trade around Europe that has a profound effect in Europe, well beyond the EU. However, as the Brexit process suggests, functional interdependence does not determine political cohesion, especially in an increasingly multipolar world order. While Turkey is in many respects a European economy, the fact that Ankara’s prospects for EU membership are dimming –along with those of the Western Balkan states– changes the frame of political engagement, providing scope for colliding or even zero-sum encounters.

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