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‘A Gap in the Bridge?’: European Union Civil Society Financial Assistance in Turkey


  • Markus Ketola

    () (London School of Economic and Political Science, Department of Social Policy, UK.)


While external programmes developing civil society receive criticism for adhering to a Westernised, neo-Tocquevillean development model, the case of the European Union (EU) and Turkey is different. Turkey's European aspirations legitimise the efforts to ‘democratise’ its civil society, and the EU-propelled political reform programme has helped to expand the variety of voices in Turkish civil society. The impact of external funding on civil society, however, is contingent on the way the aims of this assistance are interpreted in the context of domestic political debates. This article uses examples from the Turkish women's movement to illustrate the complex socio-political debates about religion and secularism that inform NGO behaviour. By implementing an external agenda that draws on the European model of civil society, and which steers away from the government's domestic agenda for civil society, the EU policy has the potential to undermine the successes of the broader political reform process.Si les programmes externes de développement de la société civile sont l’objet d’importantes critiques en raison de leur attachement au modèle de développement occidental et néo tocquevillien, le cas de l’Union européenne (UE) et de la Turquie est différent. Les aspirations européennes de cette dernière légitiment les efforts entrepris pour ‘démocratiser’ sa société civile, et le programme de réformes politiques impulsé par l’Union européenne favorise la pluralité politique au sein de la société civile Turque. L’impact des financements externes sur la société civile dépend cependant de la manière dont les objectifs de cette aide sont interprétés dans le cadre des débats politiques internes. Cet article s’appuie sur des exemples provenant du mouvement des femmes en Turquie afin d’illustrer les débats socio-politiques complexes concernant la religion et la laïcité, et qui façonnent de manière inéluctable le comportement des ONG dans ce pays. En mettant en œuvre des programmes externes inspirés du modèle de société civile européen, en s'éloignant du programme interne de développement de la société civile élaboré par le gouvernement Turque, la politique de l’UE pourrait potentiellement miner les succès de l’ensemble du processus de réforme politique entamé dans ce pays.

Suggested Citation

  • Markus Ketola, 2012. "‘A Gap in the Bridge?’: European Union Civil Society Financial Assistance in Turkey," The European Journal of Development Research, Palgrave Macmillan;European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes (EADI), vol. 24(1), pages 89-104, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:pal:eurjdr:v:24:y:2012:i:1:p:89-104

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