Europeanization of turkish subnational administrations

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Submitted in accordance with the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy


Department Of Politics





This Ph.D. has been a journey which I could not have completed without the help and support of the kind people around me, and I take this opportunity to express my profound gratitude and deep regard for those people. First of all, to my primary supervisor, Professor Ian Bache, for his exemplary guidance, monitoring and constant encouragement throughout the course of this thesis. His help and guidance will no doubt serve me well throughout the academic and professional journey on which I am about to embark. I would also take this opportunity to thank my second supervisor, Professor Simon Bulmer, whose sound advice contributed immensely to earlier versions of my thesis. I am also grateful to Sarah Cooke for her kindness and help whenever I needed any technical or departmental support.

I am extremely lucky to have the friendship of Dr. Alaaddin Paksoy, Alharith Baban, Asa Cusack, Dr. Kaan Renda, Dr. Darlington Ashamole and Dr. Mehmet İtik. When I reached a point at which I was not sure if I wanted to continue with my Ph.D., they helped me take a step back from the trees in order to see the wood, and have also kept my ego in check. It would have been difficult to focus on my research without their friendship and encouragement. In this respect, I would also like to acknowledge the financial support of the Republic of Turkey Ministry of Education. I certainly could not have completed my higher education in the UK without this generous financial support.

I am also indebted to several friends for their support at different stages of the Ph.D. process. These include Murat İnan, Zafer Özkan, Dr. Defne Günay, Hilal Gezmiş, Bilge Utkan Mersin, Erhan Kılınç, Emma Lucy Cole, Klaudia Kotowska, Özgür Tüfekçi, Rıdvan Ata, Dr. Mustafa Kemal Bayırbağ, Dr. Masahiro Mogaki, Maria Zosimidou, Nuray Arıdıcı Turner, Joe Turner, Faig Abbasov, Dr. Joao MDD Carvalho, Paniel Reyes Cardenas, Wei Kai, Michael Tudorowski, Dr. Daniel Wunderlich and Alice Palmer.

But the final and most profound thanks must go to my family. Words cannot express how grateful I am to my mother (Saadet), father (Muhsin), brothers (Uğur and Özgür), sisters (Serpil and Serap), brothers-in-law (Selçuk and Cahit), sisters-in-law (Zehra and Hanife), nephews (Onurcan, Kerem and Yusuf Umut) and nieces (Doğa and İpek). I fully appreciate all of the sacrifices that they have made on my behalf. Without their constant encouragement, this Ph.D. would never have been possible.

For any errors on inadequacies that may remain in this work, of course, the responsibility is entirely my own.


The pace and scope of change in territorial relations in the European Union has gone hand in hand with rapidly expanding bodies of theoretical research that seek to explain the forces of change and their direction. Although theoretical perspectives on such issues draw on a variety of disciplines ranging from urban studies, economic geography, comparative regionalism, and so forth, this research restricts itself to the political science perspective. From such a perspective, the research is best read as empirically grounded; making comparative conclusion to the ongoing debates about the direct and indirect impact of Europeanization across different cities and subnational administrations in an applicant state, Turkey. The core objective of the thesis is to bring the Europeanization of Turkish subnational administrations (SNAs), in the sense of municipalities and regional development agencies, into perspective with the changes in territorial relations in the aftermath of the Helsinki Summit of 1999— where Turkey gained candidate status from the European Union.

Focusing on the Turkish subnational administrations provides fertile ground to analyze the claims of Europeanization, multi-level governance and domestic politics approaches. In agreement with the new institutionalist theoretical background, these approaches facilitate a better understanding of the linkages between the process of Europeanization and the creation of multi-level modality in Turkey. Empirically, by focusing on regional policy and its related financial incentives, the main question guiding this research is as follows: How has Europeanization (via regional policy and related financial incentives) produced an impact that has brought about mobilisation of Turkish subnational administrations across the EU arena? The main question is also supplemented with the sub-questions: what has changed at subnational level to demonstrate the response of SNAs to the impact of Europeanization and under what conditions does the impact of Europeanization make SNAs mobilize across the EU arena? To answer these questions, the research adapts a bottom-up perspective on Europeanization as its research design. This combines the pull factor of the opportunity structures, voluntary mechanisms and the push factors of resource capabilities (i.e. organizational capacity and leadership) with the domestic intermediating variables (constitutional-legal framework, the historical legacy, regional distinctiveness, the quality of intergovernmental relationship and the pre-existing territorial network).

The empirical findings derived from the original data provide evidence and insight into the direct and indirect Europeanization of Turkish subnational administrations. Accordingly, the research findings suggest that there has been a clear increase in EU activities after the Helsinki Summit of 1999. These have supported the idea that the process of Europeanization at subnational level has altered the preferences, practices and policies of municipalities and regional development agencies and led them to mobilize across the EU arena. However, the research claims that the political effect of Europeanization (via the EU’s pre-accession funds) does not necessarily increase the power of SNAs vis-à-vis the central institutions. Given the limited scope of subnational engagement with the EU fund management and the role of national governments as powerful gatekeepers, the empirical findings have suggested that the mobilisation of Turkish subnational administrations has achieved modest success in shifting towards the EU’s multi-level modality. This shift, however, has mainly derived from the success of SNAs’ organizational capacity, which has largely been mediated by subnational factors, regional distinctiveness, the quality of intergovernmental relationships and the pre-existing territorial network. Whereas the regional distinctiveness (for the case city of Diyarbakır) plays a negative role for SNAs’ involvement with the EU multi-level polity, the pre-existing territorial network has positive consequences for two case cities, Izmir and Samsun. As for the quality of intergovernmental relations, SNAs from different political party orientation have followed three distinct strategies: cooperation, competition and confrontation. Of these, the cooperative strategy has best paid off. Consequently, the main argument of the research is close to those scholars who put more emphasis on the subnational dynamics in explaining mobilization rather than national and EU contexts.

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