Volume 4, Issue 2, 2012
One civilisation or many? The concept of civilisation in discourse for and against Turkish EU accession
The paper argues that the concept of civilisation has been frequently used as a metaphorin arguments both in favour of and against Turkey’s eventual EU membership. However, an examination of the discourse suggests that civilisation, which is a polyvalent concept, has been understood and used differently by each side. While the concept of civilisation used by supporters of Turkish accession is an inclusive one, according to which civilisation is one and (potentially) available to all, it is used in a very different way by opponents of Turkey’s full membership. In this case, the conception of civilisation is similar to that of Huntington, as multiple, culturally based and relatively inflexible. Hence, on this basis, it is argued that Turkey is not a suitable candidate for full EU membership
as it does not share the civilisational background of European countries, and thus cannot easily adapt to ‘European’ values such as democracy or human rights. Finally, a minority of arguments imply a culturally based, yet more flexible view of European civilisation as being historically influenced by Islam, and by Turkey in particular. Such a view, similar to Delanty’s ‘civilisational constellations’ implies support of Turkish accession on a cultural basis.