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Scorecard The Europe Question

What does Turkey think?

Understanding the new Turkey from within

“What does Turkey think?” is a collection of nine essays by Turkish experts and political figures from different backgrounds – Islamists, secularists, Kurds and liberals. The essays examine how questions of identity, democratisation and Ankara’s evolving foreign policy are seen from within the new Turkey.

The authors of “What does Turkey think?” are Dimitar Bechev, Mustafa Akyol, Ayşe Kadıoğlu, Orhan Miroğlu, Şahin Alpay, Hakan Altinay, Osman Baydemir, Ibrahim Kalın, Atila Eralp, Zerrin Torun, Suat Kınıklıoğlu, Soli Özel and Ivan Krastev.

“What does Turkey think?” was made possible by the support of Stiftung Mercator, and is a collaboration between ECFR, Stiftung Mercator, the Sofia-based Centre for Liberal Studies (CLS) and the Istanbul-based Centre for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies (EDAM).

There are three key areas of public discussion:

1. Can the new Turkey deal with its internal diversity, reconcile historical tensions and heal deep wounds?

2. Is Turkey moving in the direction of consolidating democratic achievements, or is it threatened by a populist tyranny of the majority or even authoritarian rule?

3. Why is Turkey acting independently of the West, and is it a partner or rival for the EU and US, particularly in its own neighbourhood?

Many Turks feel alienated by the EU’s increasing reluctance to admit Turkey as a member. As a result the EU is absent from many internal Turkish debates, although it still matters in crucial ways:

  • In identity politics the EU may help Turkey reconcile its internal differences, for instance in finding a peaceful solution for the Kurdish issue.
  • The EU has helped to anchor domestic Turkish democratisation and now has the potential to allay fears that the power of the AKP is unchecked as a new constitution is drafted.
  • The EU remains vital for Turkish economic success, thanks to its proximity and the heavy connectedness with Europe’s massive internal market. Although Turkey has been growing quickly, it cannot compete with East Asian labour costs and needs Europe as it tries to move up the value chain and develop a modern knowledge-driven economy. 
  • Turkey’s attractiveness to neighbours in the Middle East benefits from its close economic and political ties with Europe.

Download the PDF of “What does Turkey think? here.  A Bulgarian translation can be found here.

Click here for more ECFR work on Turkey, including articles, blog posts and a range of podcasts.

“Turkey is now an actor, an economic pole, and perhaps an aspiring regional hegemon. Shunned by the EU, Turkey has paradoxically become more like it: globalised, economically liberal and democratic.”
      Dimitar Bechev, editor and ECFR senior policy fellow.

“The new dynamism in Turkish foreign policy over the last decade has prompted a range of questions. To answer such questions, one needs to understand the changes in Turkish domestic politics, in surrounding regions and in the global order over the first decade of the 21st century.”
      Ibrahim Kalın, Senior Advisor to Prime Minister  Erdogan on foreign policy and public diplomacy.


  • GDP per capita (PPP) was $14,243 in 2010, compared to around $6,000 a decade earlier. Its GDP is expected to average 4% growth per year over the next decade.
  • Turkey’s economy is the 16th largest in the world, and the 6th largest in Europe.
  • The EU accounts for 40.5% of Turkish imports (€40.5 billion) and 45.9% of exports (€33.6 billion). It is also the source of 80% of FDI into Turkey.
  • The AKP is expected to win a third term in power in this June's parliamentary elections. The opposition CHP (People’s Republican Party) is also likely to perform strongly, thanks to its new leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu and its shift towards social democracy while still playing the role of guardian of Kemalism.
  • The economy, constitutional change, the Kurdish question and democratic consolidation are all key electoral issues.


  • This paper, like all ECFR publications, represents the views of its authors, not the collective position of ECFR or its Council Members.
  • “What does Turkey think?” is part of a series of studies carried out by ECFR to explore the internal debates of other powers in an increasingly multipolar world at the level of ideas as well as power. This publication follows the same methodology as ECFR’s earlier project on “What does Russia think?”, and ECFR director Mark Leonard’s book “What does China think?”





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