Introduced: Senem Aydın-Düzgit

September 2023

Senem Aydın-Düzgit is a Senior Scholar and the Research and Academic Affairs Coordinator at Istanbul Policy Center as well as a Professor of International Relations at the Sabancı University. Her areas of expertise include European and Turkish foreign policy.

Senem Aydin_Düzgit

What do you work on as a Fellow of the Robert Bosch Academy?

As a Fellow of the Robert Bosch Academy, I am working on two new research projects in tandem. One seeks to trace the extent, transformation, and consequences of Germany’s promotion of democratic norms in Turkey. Since the foundation of the Federal Republic, successive German governments have referred to the promotion of human rights, democracy, and the rule of law as the underlying principles of German foreign policy. Notwithstanding Germany’s deep-rooted commitment to democracy support as a foreign policy goal both individually and as an EU member state, its support for democracy in third countries remains  understudied and undertheorized. It is an important case because of Turkey’s two-fold standing as an EU candidate experiencing substantial democratic backsliding and as a strategic partner for Germany/the EU. Through this lens I want to scrutinize Germany’s practice of democracy support in a multi-level setting.

A second and larger project pertains to the sources of anti-Westernism in the Global South. This requires an inquiry into the contemporary sources of resentment with the idea of the “West” and the so-called “liberal international order,” including historical representations, perceptions, and discourses. The policy community has identified the rise of anti-Westernism at the global level, but this has not been accompanied by sufficient academic or policy-relevant work to understand and explain how anti-Western views are founded in individual and collective beliefs across different countries that are not conventionally considered as part of the West. Yet these actors possess increased leverage on the global order.


What are the most relevant issues in your field?

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the future of the liberal international order, the rise of populist authoritarianism, and authoritarian resilience. All of these issues are connected in various ways. For instance, the rise of illiberalism in Europe and beyond has a direct impact on the ways in which the global order is being contested; authoritarian resilience in many states cannot be explained without recourse to the shifts in the international order. And the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues to have a major impact on the European and global security order.   


How do you perceive the current relationship between the European Union and Turkey? What are the key challenges in the relationship between the EU and Turkey?

I find the current relationship between the EU and Turkey one of pure transactionalism. It is devoid of norms and values which the EU had for long underlined as among the defining features of its foreign policy. In fact, I think one of the starkest examples of the EU’s foreign policy shift from relatively stronger normative grounds to realpolitik can be found in its current relationship with Turkey. Turkey’s accession process is now frozen for an indeterminable period and replaced instead by a very fragile partnership consisting mainly of migration cooperation and economic links. There are also contentious issues such as the dispute over maritime borders in the Eastern Mediterranean. The EU lacks a common, coherent and long-term vision of where its relations with Turkey should be heading, and adopts instead a short-term, pragmatic and policy-specific approach which avoids larger questions such as the potential long-term implications of the rise of authoritarianism in Turkey for the EU.        


What insights for your work are you expecting to gain during your fellowship?

I am looking to understand the precise role that Germany is playing in shaping the EU’s relations with Turkey, particularly from a democracy and human rights standpoint. I am particularly interested in finding out how key developments such as the migration crisis and the Russian invasion of Ukraine have influenced German decision makers’ policy choices on Turkey and how they have in turn uploaded these policy preferences onto the EU level. As for my larger project on the micro foundations of anti-Westernism in the Global South, I would like to have deeper insight into how citizens and societies beyond the “West” perceive the notion of the “West” and the grounds on which they articulate their resentments. Some of the key questions are whether anti-Westernism is a response to the legitimacy crisis of the existing world order, as it had been the case for Asia in the long 19th and early 20th century global order, a response to ontological anxiety, a cultural resentment, an expression of anti-Americanism, a product of historical legacies, or any complex combination of these and other potential drivers. Such an inquiry is not just significant from an academic point of view, but also has crucial pertinence from a policy perspective, as it strongly relates to the debates on the crisis of the international order.


What makes Berlin and Germany relevant for your work?

After Brexit, the UK ceased to be among the key players in shaping the EU-Turkey relationship, leaving Germany as the main actor. Being based at the Robert Bosch Academy in Berlin provides an excellent opportunity to meet and discuss with various stakeholders the evolving nature of the EU-Turkey-Germany triangle. There is also great interest in Berlin, and in Germany at large, in the future of the liberal order and Europe’s place within it, especially after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. This often entails a growing concern with the decline of the “West,” and with the ambivalence, if not outright hostility, of various rising players towards key positions taken by the EU and NATO. Furthermore, Berlin and the Academy are cosmopolitan hubs where rich intellectual exchanges on these and other related topics take place at the highest level, which I treasure the most about this fellowship.         

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