Ioannis N. Grigoriadis

Upsurge amidst Political Uncertainty

Nationalism in post-2004 Turkey

SWP Research Paper 2006/RP 11, October 2006, 20 Pages



Recurrent emanations of extreme nationalism continue to endanger Turkey's fulfilment of the political Copenhagen criteria for European Union membership and, consequently, its eventual accession to the EU. This applies especially to minority rights, freedom of expression and, more generally, embedding liberal-democratic norms in Turkey's state and society.


This paper addresses the status of nationalism in Turkey in the aftermath of the December 2004 Brussels European Council decision for the start of accession negotiations with Turkey. A growing feeling of insecurity, a defensive reaction to other nationalisms, a rising opposition to US policies in the Middle East and a silent policy change of the AKP government have contributed to a significant rise of nationalism in Turkey. Traditional foci of nationalist mobilisation, such as the Cyprus and the Kurdish issues, have been complemented by issues such as the US policies in the Middle East and EU-Turkey relations.


Nationalism maintains its popular appeal, which is not limited to parties of the political right but pervades across Turkey's political spectrum. This makes populist appeals to nationalist mobilisation particularly attractive when domestic political problems accumulate or on the eve of elections. A populist reversal of the AKP government towards more nationalist positions may pay off domestically in view of the upcoming parliamentary elections, but also have a disastrous impact on the course of Turkey's EU accession negotiations.


The paper concludes with recommendations on how the Turkish government and the EU could cooperate in order to lastingly overcome Turkey's nationalism.

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