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.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
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).
A full list of parties classified as Christian parties can be obtained from the authors.
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).
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.
Owing to the low number of Protestant parties, a multivariate test of Protestant and Catholic parties was not possible.
In intermediate analyses we also tested a party's position on immigration, but this variable did not contribute significantly to explaining our dependent variable.
Azrout, R., van Spanje, J. and de Vreese, C.H. (2011) Talking Turkey: Anti-immigrant attitudes and their effect on support for Turkish membership of the EU. European Union Politics 12 (1): 3–19.
Beckford, J.A. (1994) Final reflections. In: J. Fulton and P. Gee (eds.) Religion in Contemporary Europe. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, pp. 160–168.
Binder, T. and Wüst, A.M. (2004) Inhalte der Europawahlprogramme deutscher Parteien 1979–1999. Aus Politik und Zeitgeschichte 17: 38–45.
Boomgaarden, H.G. and Freire, A. (2009) Religion and euroskepticism: Direct, indirect or no effects? West European Politics 32 (6): 1240–1265.
Braun, D., Mikhaylov, S. and Schmitt, H. (2009) Testing expert coders’ reliability and misclassification on Euromanifesto content. Paper presented at the XXI World Congress of the International Political Science Association; July 2009, Santiago de Chile.
Braun, D., Salzwedel, M., Stumpf, C. and Wüst, M. (2007) Euromanifesto Documentation. Mannheim, Germany: MZES.
Broughton, D. (1996) The CDU-CSU in Germany: Is there any alternative? In: D.L. Hanley (ed.) Christian Democracy in Europe: A Comparative Perspective. London: Pinter, pp. 101–120.
Byrnes, T. (2006) Transnational religion and Europeanization. In: T. Byrnes and P. Katzenstein (eds.) Religion in an Expanding Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 284–305.
Byrnes, T. and Katzenstein, P.J. (eds.) (2006) Religion in an Expanding Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Casanova, J. (2006) Religion, European secular identities and European integration. In: T. Byrnes and P. Katzenstein (eds.) Religion in an Expanding Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 65–92.
Davie, G. (1994) The religious factor in the emergence of Europe as a global region. Social Compass 14 (1): 95–112.
de Vreese, C.H., Boomgaarden, H.G., with Minkenberg, M. and Vliegenthart, R. (2009) Introduction: Religion and the European union. West European Politics 32 (6): 1181–1189.
de Vreese, C.H., Boomgaarden, H.G. and Semetko, H.A. (2008) Hard and soft: Predictors of public support for Turkish membership in the EU. European Union Politics 9 (4): 511–530.
Flam, H. (2004) Turkey and the EU: Politics and economics of accession. CESifo Economic Studies 50 (1): 171–210.
Freston, P. (2004) Protestant Political Parties: A Global Survey. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate Publishing.
Frey, T. (2009) Die Christdemokratie in Westeuropa: Der schmale Grat zum Erfolg. Baden-Baden: Nomos.
Greeley, A.M. (2003) Religion in Europe at the End of the Second Millennium: A Sociological Profile. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction.
Hagevi, M. (2002) Religiosity and Swedish opinion on the European union. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 41 (4): 759–769.
Hanley, D.L. (ed.) (1996) Christian Democracy in Europe: A Comparative Perspective. London: Pinter.
Hehir, J.B. (2006) The old church and the new Europe: Charting the changes. In: T. Byrnes and P. Katzenstein (eds.) Religion in an Expanding Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 93–116.
Hix, S., Noury, A.G. and Roland, G. (2007) Democratic Politics in the European Parliament. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Hobolt, S.B., van der Brug, W., de Vreese, C.H., Boomgaarden H. G. and Hinrichsen, M. (2011) Religious intolerance and euroskepticism. European Union Politics 12 (4): 359–379.
Holmes, D.R. (2000) Surrogate discourses of power: The European union and the problem of society. In: I. Bellier and T.M. Wilson (eds.) An Anthropology of the European Union: Building, Imagining and Experiencing the New Europe. Oxford: Berg, pp. 93–115.
Hurd, E.S (2006) Negotiating Europe: The politics of religion and the prospects for Turkish accession. Review of International Studies 43: 401–418.
Jung, D. and Raudvere, C. (2008) Turkey: European dimensions and the status of Islam. In: D. Jung (ed.) Religion, Politics, and Turkey's EU Accession. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 3–16.
Kaiser, W. (2007) Christian Democracy and the Origins of European Union. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Kalyvas, S.N. and van Kersbergen, K. (2010) Christian democracy. Annual Review of Political Science 13: 183–209.
Kentmen, C. (2008) Determinants of support for EU membership in Turkey: Islamic attachments, utilitarian considerations and national identity. European Union Politics 9 (4): 487–510.
Kirisci, K. (2008) Religion as an argument in the debate on Turkish EU membership. In: D. Jung (ed.) Religion, Politics, and Turkey's EU Accession. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 19–40.
Kubicek, P. (2005) Turkish accession to the European Union: Challenges and opportunities. World Affairs 168 (2): 67–78.
Madeley, J. (2010) E unum pluribus: The role of religion in the project of European integration. In: J. Haynes (ed.) Religion and Politics in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. London: Routledge, pp. 114–135.
Madeley, J. and Sitter, N. (2003) Differential Euroscepticism among the Nordic Christian parties: Protestantism or protest? Paper presented to the Political Science Association Conference; Leicester.
Marks, G., Hooghe, L., Nelson, M. and Edwards, E. (2006) Party competition and European integration in the East and West: Different structure, same causality. Comparative Political Studies 39 (2): 155–175.
Marks, G. and Wilson, C. (1999) National parties and the contextation of Europe. In: T.F. Banchoff and M.P. Smith (eds.) Legitimacy and the European Union: The Contested Polity. London: Routledge.
McLaren, L.M. (2007) Explaining opposition to Turkish membership of the EU. European Union Politics 8 (2): 251–278.
Minkenberg, M. (2000) Die EU-Osterweiterung im westeuropäischen Parteiendiskurs. Zeitschrift für Parlamentsfragen 31 (3): 626–634.
Minkenberg, M. (2009) Religion and Euroscepticism: Cleavages, religious parties and churches in EU member states. West European Politics 32 (6): 1190–1211.
Minkenberg, M., Boomgarden, H.G., de Vreese, C.H. and Freire, A. (2012) Introduction: Turkish Membership in the European Union – The role of religion. Comparative European Politics 10 (2): 133–148.
Mohseni, P. and Wilcox, C. (2009) Religion and political parties. In: J. Haynes (ed.) Routledge Handbook of Religion and Politics. New York: Routledge.
Nelsen, B.F. and Guth, J.L. (2003) Religion and youth support for the European union. Journal of Common Market Studies 41 (1): 89–112.
Nelsen, B.F., Guth, J.L. and Cleveland, F.R. (2001) Does religion matter? European Union Politics 2 (2): 191–217.
Norris, P. and Inglehart, R. (2004) Sacred and Secular. Religion and Politics Worldwide. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Redmond, J. (2007) Turkey and the European union: Troubled European or European trouble? International Affairs 83 (2): 305–317.
Schlesinger, P. and Foret, F. (2006) Political roof and sacred canopy? Religion and the EU constitution. European Journal of Social Theory 9 (1): 59–81.
Schoen, H. (2008) Turkey's bid for EU membership, contrasting views of public opinion, and voice choice. Evidence from the 2005 German federal election. Electoral Studies 27 (2): 344–355.
Taggart, P. (1998) A touchstone of dissent: Euroscepticism in contemporary Western European party systems. European Journal of Political Research 33 (3): 363–388.
Taggart, P. and Szczerbiak, A. (2004) Contemporary Euroscepticism in the party systems of the European union candidate states of Central and Eastern Europe. European Journal of Political Research 43 (1): 1–27.
Togan, S. (2004) Turkey: Toward EU accession. The World Economy 27 (7): 1013–1045.
Vollaard, H. (2006) Protestantism and Euro-scepticism in the Netherlands. Perspectives on European Politics and Society 7 (3): 276–297.
Wüst, A.M. and Schmitt, H. (2007) Comparing the views of parties and voters in the 1999 election to the European parliament. In: W. van der Brug and C. van der Eijk (Hrsg.) European Elections & Domestic Politics. Lessons from the Past and Scenarios for the Future. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, pp. 73–93.
Wüst, A.M. and Volkens, A. (2003) Euromanifesto Coding Instructions, Mannheim, Germany: MZES. Working paper 64.
The authors would like to acknowledge the grant from NORFACE making this research possible.
About this article
Cite this article
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
- EU enlargement
- Christian democracy
- party positions