Failed Promises: Economic Integration, Bureaucratic Encounters, and the EU-Turkey Customs Union
European integration is based upon the promise to bring prosperity by creating economic and social equilibrium among member states and its regions via integrationist policies jointly managed by states and the institutions of the EU. As one common market initiative for greater economic integration in the wider region, goods circulate without tariff and customs duty barriers in the EU’s common customs area. Turkey, not an EU member, has been in this common market since 1996. The EU-Turkey Customs Union, which promised to bring deeper economic and political integration through eventual Turkish membership, represents Turkey’s aspirations to move from the periphery of Europe into its core. As an anthropological contribution to investigations of advanced European capitalism, this paper examines fundamental conflicts of interest between the EU and Turkey and locates them in their unequal power relations and in the disjuncture of each side’s overall objectives from economic integration. Most importantly, it shows that these interest conflicts have ramifications at the individual bureaucratic level and in daily bureaucratic practice. Dramatic expressions of Turkish state power, which are initially geared toward balancing out power inequities, exacerbate Turkish and EU officials’ failures to maintain at least a facade of mutually sustainable interests. Interpreted by EU officials as Turkish bureaucratic inertia, such disintegration of interests has implications for ongoing economic integration and membership negotiations between the two parties, with Turkish officials experiencing loss of control. The paper calls for a critical political economy that pays due attention to the cultural settings in which the former is embedded.
Firat, Bilge (2012). Failed Promises: Economic Integration, Bureaucratic Encounters, and the EU-Turkey Customs Union. Springer. Available electronically from