Turkey’s choice: responding to security challenges through humanitarian norms with a revitalized EU anchor


Our globalizing world is presently in a state of global turmoil. While felt everywhere in the world, it is the Middle East in general, and Syria and Iraq in particular, where the meaning and the implications of the global turmoil have recently coalesced. As a regional hegemon bordering Syria and Iraq, Turkey is situated at the heart of these challenges. Despite the existing stalemate in Turkey–EU relations, Turkey can deal with these challenges more effectively if Turkey and the EU work together to develop common responses to them on the basis of humanitarian principles and values. In line with the ‘EU Global Strategy,’ Turkey and the EU could work together to provide humanitarian and effective responses to significant security risks they face and play an important role in post-conflict reconstruction and mediation. There is a need to revitalize Turkey–EU relations in a way trust and collaboration replaces skepticism and instrumentalism.

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    For a more detailed account for the failed state, see Iqbal and Starr (2016).

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    Within a month following the coup attempt, between 17 July and 17 September, reportedly around 93 thousand public officers were suspended from various state departments mainly being education, health and the judiciary; almost 60 thousand public officers were dismissed; around 3500 soldiers were dismissed from the army; over 4000 institutions were either shut down or taken over by the state, including schools, student dorms, medical establishments, foundations, universities, unions, media outlets, and also businesses with ties to the Gulenist movement. The government also appointed trustees to 26 municipalities allegedly with links to the PKK in the southeastern Turkey. These policies were implemented as a part of the government’s ‘determined fight against terror,’ which include the PKK, FETÖ, and ISIL.


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Correspondence to E. Fuat Keyman.

Additional information

In writing this paper, I have benefited from my interviews with decision makers and governing elites in Ankara, Berlin, and Brussels, which were conducted in 2015 and after the failed coup attempt in 2016. The interviews were made within the context of the two projects in which I am involved at the Istanbul Policy Center at Sabancı University: (a) “Turkey in 2023 (2015–2017)”, and (b) “Polarization, Consensus and Democracy in Turkey after the July 15th Failed Coup Attempt (2016–2017)”. Of course, for the argument and the explanations that the paper puts forward, the whole responsibility is mine.

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Keyman, E.F. Turkey’s choice: responding to security challenges through humanitarian norms with a revitalized EU anchor. Int Polit 54, 453–467 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41311-017-0042-z

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  • Refugee crisis
  • War against ISIL
  • Failed state
  • Failed coup attempt
  • Existential security threats
  • The EU Global Strategy Turkey
  • Syria
  • Rule of law
  • Buffer state