Comparative European Politics

, Volume 17, Issue 5, pp 778–796 | Cite as

Europeanization without substance? EU–Turkey relations and gender equality in employment

  • Ayşe İdil AybarsEmail author
  • Paul Copeland
  • Dimitris Tsarouhas
Original Article


This paper focuses on EU–Turkey relations through gender-related employment policy practices. We argue that Turkey is undergoing a process of ‘Europeanization without substance’, in which vague commitments and policy initiatives to enhance female labour force participation coexist uneasily with a contravening political discourse. This is not merely the result of a stalemate in accession negotiations, nor does it stem from the diversity of employment practices across the Union. It rather results from the deliberative discourses used by Turkey’s political leadership to selectively appropriate certain aspects of Europeanization to further a politically motivated agenda that, in essence, negates gender equality altogether. This, we argue in turn, is reflected in a set of practices, policy initiatives, and public statements that make substantive progress in EU–Turkey relations harder. This process is facilitated by the diminishing emphasis placed by the EU on gender equality in employment as manifested by the evolution of gender equality practices at EU level and reinforced by austerity-led policies during the economic crisis.


EU–Turkey relations Gender equality Employment policy Europeanization Communicative discourse 



This paper stems from the 2015 Jean Monnet Workshop hosted by Dimitris Tsarouhas at Bilkent University and funded by the European Commission, Project No. 529070-LLP-1-2012-1-TR-AJM-CH.


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Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ayşe İdil Aybars
    • 1
    Email author
  • Paul Copeland
    • 2
  • Dimitris Tsarouhas
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of SociologyMiddle East Technical UniversityAnkaraTurkey
  2. 2.School of Politics and International RelationsQueen Mary University of LondonLondonUK
  3. 3.Department of International RelationsBilkent UniversityAnkaraTurkey

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