Turkish Presence in Serbia: Between Old Rhetoric and New Pragmatism
(Queen Mary University of London)
My research is interested in empirical investigation of the nature of Turkish influence in Serbia, using soft power as a theoretical framework concept. Covering the period between 2009-2018, this contemporary study focuses on the subject country, in this case Serbia, in order to measure the efficiency of soft power mechanisms in an EU candidate country whose national foundation myth is diametrically opposed to Turkey. In the light of recent political and economic expansion of Turkey, numerous events challenged the bilateral relationship of the two countries and therefore necessitated novel and pragmatic approaches. This paper will trace the impact of soft power over decision-making processes in Serbia, which one the other hand resulted in improving cooperation and enhancing stronger Turkish presence in the region. The resources of Turkish soft power include several actors, divided into state, non-state and mixed entities. The state actors are represented through the officials of the Turkish Embassy, the foreign assistance programs of the Turkish Agency for Cooperation and Coordination (TIKA), and the "Yunus Emre" Cultural Institute. The non-state actors cover the influence of the mega-popular soap operas, while the mixed actors refer to the parties involved in economic cooperation. While the state actors work in synchronization, the others often assist them or affect a population that is not necessarily concerned with politics. Using semi-structured in-depth interviews as method of analysis, the paper will illustrate the tangled relations between these actors, aiming at composing the complex mosaic of creating "attraction," as main currency of soft power. I argue that Nye`s theoretical concept of soft power is incompatible for addressing the Turkish model, as it pays insufficient attention to economy as major resource of soft power, particularly in a region and a period when values of neo-liberal democracy are being widely questioned. Not only is Turkey unable to profess democratic values and rule of law, but the subject country, being a good example of stabilocracy, is not particularly interested in importing such values either. Due to various historical burdens, as well as limping economy, Serbia adopted quite a pragmatic approach in its politics, which on the other hand was capitalized by Turkey, in terms of exploring economy as means of spreading influence and positioning as regional leader. Using soft power as a framework concept, this study will aim to capture the nature of Turkish influence in Serbia.
Regions and Imagination