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Erik-Jan Zürcher, professor of Turkish Studies, opens the European Law master

On 8 September the students of the European Law Master gathered in the Lorentzzaal for the festive opening of their programme.

Europa Institute Thesis Award

After a word of welcome by Prof. Rick Lawson and Prof. Van den Bogaert, the prizes for the two best master theses in European law of the year 2015/2016 were awarded. 

Annette Scholten was praised by her supervisor Armin Cuyvers for her groundbreaking analysis of the European Fiscal Board. Annette’s thesis gives a very detailed analysis of the current set-up of the fiscal board. In addition, it contrasts the current set-up with the process leading up to the establishment of the board. Through a combination of careful legal analysis, use of primary sources, and multiple interviews with key stakeholders, the author draws a rich and insightful picture of how the Fiscal Board came into being, what it is, and how it will likely develop and affect the EU constitutional framework.

Ina Hristova received the award for her thesis on intellectual property rights. Her supervisor Prof. Marco Bronckers found Ina’s thesis to be quite unusual, in that she started her analysis of a new EU Directive on trade secrets from a fundamental, almost legal-philosophical perspective (what is the nature of the right at issue), then proceeded to a review of the international context (existing treaty law binding upon the EU), before testing whether the compromise struck in the EU Directive is responsive both to the nature of the right at issue as well as the EU’s international obligations.

Opening lecture ‘Making sense of Turkey’

After this the master was officially opened with a lecture by Prof. Dr. Erik-Jan Zürcher, professor of Turkish Studies at Leiden University. During his lecture with the title ‘Making sense of Turkey’ Professor Zürcher shared valuable insights on the current developments in Turkey and put them into the broader context of Turkish history.

Directly in the beginning, Professor Zürcher referred to the national elections of 2015, as well as the local and presidential elections of 2014, in order to stress the importance of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the Turkish context. According to Professor Zürcher, President Erdoğan can be seen as highly decisive figure both for the AKP and Turkey as a whole.

Professor Zürcher observed that the Turkish President launched ‘a war on four fronts’ after these elections, which have to be distinguished into three internal ones, namely the Kurdish PKK, Fethullah Gülen’s movement “Hizmet”, and the liberal Turkish media, as well as the external threat Islamic State. Accordingly, the current state practice can only be understood in the context of this ‘war on four fronts’. A direct consequence might be an increasingly anti-Western public opinion.

Professor Zürcher linked these current developments to the deeply polarised Turkish society, which is a result of old and established opposition. On the one side, he detected the progressive and modernist Kemalists, whose sole aim is modernity and opening Turkey towards the Western world. On the other side, Professor Zürcher identified a conservative, Muslim Turkey, which is represented by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the AKP. Their policy could be summarised as ‘cherry picking modernity’, favouring certain advantages of the Western world but advocating strict Islamic morals. Professor Zürcher concluded that Turkey was never a hundred-percent pro-European country, but, instead, has a long-standing history of opposition on the country’s future and polarising its population.

In the following discussion, the significance of Turkey was stressed. Regarding the Turkey-EU agreement, Professor Zürcher noted that government and public detected an ‘immoral and weak’ EU. Asked on his opinion on a potential EU Member Ship of Turkey, Professor Zürcher referred back to the polarisation in society and pointed out that there was no strong interest in becoming a member of the EU. The different aspects of the topic were further discussed during the following lunch in the Faculty Restaurant.

The Europa Institute would like to thank Professor Zürcher once again for his revealing opening lecture.



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