Britain as a model: Turkish politicians’ perceptions of the UK

Light lunch provided

This talk analyzes Anglo-Turkish relations in the past 45 years, based on research that has been conducted in the Turkish parliamentary archives and interviews with prominent Turkish politicians, state officials and business people. The data highlights that Britain has rarely been the main theme in Turkish parliamentary discussions or on the main agenda of politics. However, despite major events and periods that have shaped bilateral relations, Britain has been consistently mentioned “as a role model” with its level of democracy and socio-economic development. This type of perception was manifested in parliamentary debates and was touched upon in the interviews in three forms. First, the UK is seen as a country that has epitomized the level of political development that Turkey should also aspire for. Second, the UK was used to legitimize the behaviours of Turkish politicians when criticized by their opponents. Third, in the parliamentary debates, examples from British politics and economic indicators are used to emphasize what other Western countries are doing, usually in passing, along with other country examples and with statistical information. The frequency of how Britain is referenced in parliamentary debates and the positive images of the country in the interviews reflect the Turkish elite’s own understandings of “modernity” and “Western-ness” and provides clues about the constructive relationship the two countries have forged since the Second World War.