A large majority of the Turkish population continues to support the country’s membership of the European Union, though few believe it can be realized in the short term, according to a new poll commissioned by the Economic Development Foundation (IKV).
The poll showed a rising trend in support for EU membership among Turkish citizens, 78.9 percent of whom said they favored Turkey’s membership of the EU. This figure was up from 75.5 percent in 2016 and 61.8 percent in 2015.
“Despite all negative developments between Turkey and the EU in 2017, this ratio is very significant,” said IKV board chair Ayhan Zeytinoğlu at a press conference to present the report.
“This high level of support is a message to our government. It shows a national will to take the necessary reform steps for the EU process and for a new process of rapprochement with the EU,” Zeytinoğlu added.
“It is also a warning to the EU. It shows that policies excluding Turkey lack vision and common sense and shows that it would be both unethical and a strategic mistake to keep out a country of 80 million, the majority of whom support EU membership,” he said.
Only 31.2 percent of respondents said they believe Turkey will become a member of the EU in the short term. Regionally, the southeast of Turkey appeared most optimistic in terms of accession “in the short term,” with 56.2 percent of respondents there saying it is possible.
Women and people with university degrees proved to be most skeptical in terms of membership in the short term. Some 72.8 percent of women and 77.4 percent of university graduates said they do not think the country will secure EU membership in the short term.
Meanwhile, 62 percent of those polled said that their conviction that Turkey will become an EU member has weakened in recent years.
The poll comes amid reports of rapprochement between Ankara and various European capitals after relations plunged to bitter lows throughout 2017. Leaders of EU member countries have, however, suggested that Turkey’s EU membership bid is unlikely to proceed soon
‘EU means welfare and democracy’
Economic welfare and development stands out as the most important reason to support EU membership for 48.3 percent of those saying they support Turkey’s membership bid. Development of democracy and human rights stood as the second most important reason, with 34.5 percent of positive respondents citing it.
Some 41.4 percent agreed with the statement that the EU means “high welfare levels and economic development,” while 30.8 percent agreed with the statement that the EU means “democracy and freedom.”
Questioned about the obstacles in front of Turkey’s potential EU membership, 46.6 percent cited “economic reasons” and 44.3 percent cited “double standards.”
Meanwhile, only 4.7 percent of respondents said the EU “has no future,” suggesting that there is little conviction among Turks that the EU is in a state of decline.
“These findings show that the EU fits in with the people’s desire to pursue welfare and freedoms,” said Zeytinoğlu.
“Turkey’s EU membership is not an unrealistic target. On the contrary, despite all difficulties it maintains its validity,” he added.
Asked about French President Emmanuel Macron’s suggestion of a “partnership” between Ankara and Brussels rather than “membership” during President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s visit to Paris last week, Zeytinoğlu said membership “remains important for Turkey.”
“We should not be talking about anything short of membership. Turkey’s accession to the EU might not take place in the near future but we need to walk forward towards this target,” he added.