Causes and Types of Euroscepticism by the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) of Turkey
By Can Buyukbay
In this study, the Euroscepticism of the two Turkish political parties, CHP and MHP, are analysed and compared on the basis of party documents and speeches by party leaders from 2004 to 2007. The article addresses not only the types of Euroscepticism and the similarities and differences of the phenomenon, but also the causes of the different types observed by the political parties. Methodically, the content analysis of Mayring (2008), which enables a systematic, theory-based analysis of primary sources, and the difference method of John Stuart Mill (1874) are applied. Based on the four-fold typology of Kopecky and Mudde (2002), (where Euroscepticism is divided in Euroenthusiasts, Eurosceptics, Eurorejects and Europragmatists), a set of categories and their defining characteristics were created. Accordingly, an analysis of the party programmes and various documents were performed, which should serve to ascertain the types of Euroscepticism and to support a comparison of the two political parties.
The aim of this study is to analyse: “Which forms of Euroscepticism do the CHP and MHP show and what similarities and differences can be noted by these parties with respect to Euroscepticism? What are the causes of the differences and similarities in the attitudes of both parties?”
First, a distinction should be made between the conceptions of the MHP and the CHP towards European Integration. By analysing their respective conceptions it can be determined whether the parties can be classified as Europhile (Euroenthusiasts or Eurosceptics) or Europhobe (Europragmatists or Eurorejects) according to Kopecky’s classification. Kopecky describes Europhiles as believing in the key ideas of European Integration and Europhobes as opposing the general idea of European integration.
This study analyses their respective ideological dimensions as a distinguishing factor, for it can be assumed that in the relations between Turkey and the EU under the Copenhagen criteria, it is the political dimensions (namely, stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, human rights, rule of law, protection of minority rights) rather than the economic dimensions that attract the greatest attention. Thus, this requires an analysis of the topics that are given high priority in the Turkish context (The Cyprus Case, human rights and minorities, the Armenian issue and Article 301). The investigation period between 2004-2007 is important because the progress report of 6 October 2004 and the negotiation framework of 3 October 2005 by the European Commission received much criticism from the political parties and has had a huge impact on Euroscepticism up to now.
The Nationalist Action Party (MHP) regards Turkey, in the party program, as an ally of the West (MHP: 2004). The possible EU membership of Turkey is recognized in the party program, but this integration should happen in a just and honourable way. However, it is apparent that there are reservations about Turkey’s national interests and sensitivities. It is not clear whether the Party’s program regards the national sensibilities and the national culture as being in conflict with the basic values of European integration or not. Ultimately, the interpretation of the subject areas by the party officials will expose the specifics of the MHP’s Euroscepticism. Although, in their party program, European integration and the EU are not explicitly rejected, sharp criticism by party officials about the fundamental ideas of European integration and the requirements of the EU can be found in the key subject areas. In regard to the MHP, uniform national identity is given the highest priority, furthermore, the transfer of sovereignty to EU institutions and the granting of freedoms relating to religion and expression are denied. Thus, the MHP, according to Kopecky and Mudde’s classification, fits in the Europhobe category. The MHP’s European discourse conflicts with the basic foundation of European values of democracy, respect for the individual, the protection of minorities and freedom of expression and religion. The MHP addresses the European discourse with a harsh negative rhetoric against the EU and its associated actors. The systematic “thought images” (Opp de Hipt 1987: 6) of the MHP with regards to European Integration and European Union seem to justify this categorization.
The party program of the CHP principally supports European integration and full EU membership (CHP 2008). In addition to this basic support, they stressed that the EU should evaluate Turkey with the same criteria as other candidate countries. A eurosceptical tendency is visible in the party program. On the one hand, European integration is explicitly supported, yet on the other hand, it is stressed that the current state of the EU does not reflect the fundamental values of European integration. To decide whether the CHP is EU-optimist or EU-pessimist, individual subject areas were analyzed. It may be noted that the CHP, according to Kopecky and Mudde’s typology, can be defined as Eurosceptic. A positive attitude towards European integration is expressed; however, a negative attitude towards the EU is still noticeable. In terms of European integration, there is no conflict between statements made by party officials and the party program. Euroscepticism identified in the CHP is primarily based on the belief that Turkey is treated unfairly by the EU.
On the basis of a qualitative analysis of the primary documents, the study arrived at the conclusion that the CHP can be classified as rather eurosceptic and the MHP as rather euroreject. Another important point, other than the forms of Euroscepticism, is the question of causality. Voters from both parties supported EU-membership during this time period by a majority. Second, concern about the European issue in the elections is quite low. Therefore, it is difficult to assert that these parties have a conditional or essential negative position towards the EU to maximize their votes. The strategic and tactical goals are basically indeterminate of the forms of Euroscepticism both parties express. Rather the ideological dimension is dominant. The CHP plays the role of the discontent democrat who feels betrayed by the EU, but also has to deal with the conflicts of Kemalism, whereas the MHP can be seen as a carrier of the extreme nationalist worldview.
CHP (2008): Party Program. http://www.chp.org.tr/Dosyalar.aspx?FileCatID=5 [14.04.2009]
Kopecky, P., Mudde, C. (2002): The Two Sides of Euroscepticism: Party Positions on European Integration in East Central Europe, In: European Union Politics, 3 (3): 297-326.
Mill, John S. (1874). A System of Logic. Ratiocinative and Inductive: Being a connected view of the principles of evidence and the Methods of scientific investigation. New York: Harper & Brothers.
Mayring, Philipp (2008): Qualitative Inhaltsanalyse: Grundlagen und Techniken. Weinheim und Basel: Beltz Verlag.
MHP (2008): Party Program. http://www.mhp.org.tr/mhp_parti_programi.php [11.07.2009]
Opp de Hipt, Manfred (1987): Denkbilder in der Politik. Opladen: Westdeutscher Verlag.