While external programmes developing civil society receive criticism for adhering to a Westernised, neo-Tocquevillean development model, the case of the European Union (EU) and Turkey is different. Turkey's European aspirations legitimise the efforts to ‘democratise’ its civil society, and the EU-propelled political reform programme has helped to expand the variety of voices in Turkish civil society. The impact of external funding on civil society, however, is contingent on the way the aims of this assistance are interpreted in the context of domestic political debates. This article uses examples from the Turkish women's movement to illustrate the complex socio-political debates about religion and secularism that inform NGO behaviour. By implementing an external agenda that draws on the European model of civil society, and which steers away from the government's domestic agenda for civil society, the EU policy has the potential to undermine the successes of the broader political reform process.
- European Union
- civil society