This paper examines the way in which the Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) frame Turkey and how it affects their voting stance towards Ankara in the parliamentary debates. Recent studies (Baldwin 2005; Braghiroli 2012; Canan-Sokullu 2011) have demonstrated that the “Turkey discourse” and the issue of Turkish European Union (EU) membership produce a very divisive impact on the voting dynamics and voting alignments in the European Parliament (EP). Given its national and political significance, the issue has a high divisive potential that might sensibly affect MEPs’ individual behaviour.
The parliamentary positions on Ankara’s European ambitions range from enthusiastic support to open Turkophobia. What is even more striking is the wide variety of individual positions generally identifiable within the same political/ideological area. The same might be said with respect to the impact of MEPs’ nationality and domestic traditions. In this respect, the “Turkey discourse” emerges as a cross-cleavage and at the same time highly salient issue. To what extent are MEPs’ different perceptions and representations of Turkey reflected in the way they vote when Turkey is at stake in the EP? And, what is the impact of this state of things on groups’ internal cohesion?
In this paper we will try to address these questions. Therefore, we will first present how MEPs look at Turkey and how they vote when Turkey-related votes are at stake. We will then cross these two dimensions to assess the level of match between legislators’ feelings and actual voting behaviour at the individual level. Two different sources of data will be used in the analysis. In order to capture MEPs’ perceptions of Turkey elite survey data will be used, while MEPs’ voting behaviour will be assessed in the light of their expressed votes. This will allow us to assess MEPs’ liberté de manœuvre vis-à-vis their respective political group (and national delegation) and the identification of pragmatic or idealistic/identitarian behavioural styles affecting their voting decisions.