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IR Department Holds Videoconference with EU Partner University

On May 2, Bilkent's Department of International Relations held a videoconference with Maastricht University in the Netherlands. Part of the "Digital Lectures Series" that the two universities have been running since last year, the videoconference was supervised by Asst. Prof. Dimitris Tsarouhas, who is also the project coordinator on behalf of the IR department. The project brings together students and staff in order to promote information exchange and cooperation between Bilkents and Maastricht.
The videoconference centered on a lecture by Prof. Tsarouhas entitled "Social Policy in the EU and Turkey." In the lecture, Prof. Tsarouhas pointed out that social policy has been neglected in accession negotiations with candidate countries, not least because national governments wish to maintain their existing powers over social matters. Discussing the link between Europeanization and enlargement, Prof. Tsarouhas argued that candidate countries' compliance with the EU accession criteria depends on the credibility of accession, the salience attached to certain policy areas and the candidate states' expectations regarding the likelihood of formal accession. Based on these three factors, candidate countries may perceive the EU as a "model", a "template" or a "legitimization device."
Applying his model to Turkey, Prof. Tsarouhas noted that the country has undertaken structural reforms in the area of social policy that surpass the reform efforts of many EU members. Nonetheless, these reforms owe more to Turkey's strong ties with the IMF and the World Bank, and to domestic political factors, than they do to the EU. This is the result of a "weak cognitive Europeanization effect" as well as a lack of sustained legal and political pressure on candidates to reform their social policy structures prior to accession.
After Prof. Tsarouhas's lecture, the floor was open to students' questions, which pertained to matters ranging from specific social policies to more general issues surrounding present and future EU-Turkey relations. The question-and-answer session was almost as long as the lecture itself, and led to a lively debate that allowed students from both universities to discover points of similarity and divergence in the way they approach the subject of EU-Turkey relations. In his responses, Prof. Tsarouhas drew the listeners' attention to the potential impact of current developments such as the upcoming Cypriot presidency of the EU Council, the elections in France and the crisis in Syria.