Religion and party positions towards Turkish EU accession

Abstract

The potential accession of Turkey to the European Union (EU) is a controversial issue. This article considers how national political parties in the EU view Turkish membership, with a focus on the role of religion in party politics, in particular the positions of Christian Democratic (CD) parties. Whereas this party family is traditionally considered to be outspokenly pro-European, it is argued that Turkish accession poses a challenge to Europhile CD parties. On the basis of the party manifesto coding from the 2009 European Election Study project, our results confirm a significantly more hesitant position of CD parties vis-à-vis Turkey accession compared to other parties. The study suggests that CD parties’ positions, although overall supportive of the EU, may turn into opposition when it comes to specific policies touching on religious questions.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    For a historical overview of Turkey EU relationships, see Hurd (2006), Kubicek (2005) and the introduction to this special issue (Minkenberg et al, 2012).

  2. 2.

    This was evident already before the first round of enlargement, when De Gaulle successfully vetoed United Kingdom membership in the ECC in 1963. Interestingly, with the United Kingdom and Denmark for the first time two purely Protestant countries joined the Community in 1973; two countries that remained critical member states ever since (see also Boomgaarden and Freire, 2009).

  3. 3.

    A full list of parties classified as Christian parties can be obtained from the authors.

  4. 4.

    An OLS regression for the position on Turkey's membership in the EU has also been computed. The coefficients for the dummy variable Christian party in that case is negative, but insignificant (P>0.1).

  5. 5.

    As the Poisson distribution is overdispersed, negative binomial regressions are preferred to Poisson regressions. However, except for the interaction effect, Poisson regressions provide the same substantive results as the negative binomial regression results shown.

  6. 6.

    Owing to the low number of Protestant parties, a multivariate test of Protestant and Catholic parties was not possible.

  7. 7.

    In intermediate analyses we also tested a party's position on immigration, but this variable did not contribute significantly to explaining our dependent variable.

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Acknowledgements

The authors would like to acknowledge the grant from NORFACE making this research possible.

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Correspondence to Hajo G Boomgaarden.

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Boomgaarden, H., Wüst, A. Religion and party positions towards Turkish EU accession. Comp Eur Polit 10, 180–197 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1057/cep.2011.25

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Keywords

  • religion
  • EU enlargement
  • Turkey
  • Christian democracy
  • party positions