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3 out of 4 People Say “Yes” to Turkey’s EU Membership

The results of the “Perceptions of the European Union” research conducted by the Marshall Fund within the scope of Turkey, Europe and Global Issues Program have been announced. The research, which was carried out with face-to-face interviews in March 2022 with 2,180 people representing Turkey’s population over the age of 18 in 27 provinces, shows that support for Turkey’s EU membership is generally strong, while it is as high as 75 percent for young people aged 18-24. turns out to be
The results of the “Perceptions of the European Union” research conducted by the Marshall Fund (GMF – The German Marshall Fund of the United States) show that support for Turkey’s full membership to the EU has increased.

The research clearly showed that especially young people between the ages of 18-24 support EU accession at a higher rate. The results of the research revealed that three out of every four young people would vote “yes” for Turkey’s full membership to the European Union if a referendum were held today. While Turkey’s accession to the EU is strongly supported, the belief that it can become a member remains low, as in last year’s research. The “Perceptions of the European Union” research reveals detailed and remarkable findings showing the approach of the Turkish public on “Turkey-EU relations”, “Foreign Policy” and “Climate”.

“The perception towards the EU in Turkey is very positive”

Evaluating the research results, Marshall Fund Senior Researcher Dr. Kadri Taştan said that the research shows that the face of the public in Turkey is still oriented towards the EU. Taştan said, “The support for Turkey’s EU accession process and the belief in the possibility of its realization is very high, although it is low. The positive perception towards the EU and European-based international institutions and organizations is remarkable in the research. In this sense, the public’s perception of the EU differs significantly from the negative perception towards other major geopolitical actors (USA, Russia, China). Responses to different topics regarding Turkey’s relations with the EU show that the public’s perception of the EU is still shaped by references to domestic politics, law, economic welfare and education. Although prejudices against EU countries are widespread, the tendency to see the EU as a normative power is still very high in Turkish public opinion.

“A stronger dialogue is needed between the EU and Turkey”

Ozgur Unluhisarcikli, Director of the Marshall Fund Ankara Office, stated that the research shows that the Turkish public not only supports EU membership, but also prefers to act together with the EU in international issues, which leads to a stronger foreign policy dialogue between the EU and Turkey in the pre-accession period. He emphasized that it is another indicator of need. Ünlühisarcıklı said, “While it is observed that Turkey has suffered a visible loss of credibility as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it is seen that the government’s policy of facilitating and mediating between Russia and Ukraine has a strong response in the eyes of the public.”

Here are some of the remarkable results of the “Perceptions of the European Union” research;

Turkey should cooperate with EU countries in foreign policy

The results of the “Perceptions of the European Union” research conducted by the Marshall Fund show that Turkey’s cooperation with the EU in international matters is more favored. “Which should Turkey cooperate with in international matters?” 33.1 percent of the respondents answered the question of EU countries. For participants aged 18-24, this rate rises to 44.4%. The EU response is followed by the responses to act alone with 24.6 percent and to act with all of them with 21.1 percent. Those who say they should act with China are 6.8 percent, those who say they should act with Russia at 5.6 percent, and those who say they should act together with the USA at 4.7 percent. The fact that the rate of those who say they should act with Russia, which was 14.7 percent in last year’s survey, decreased to 5.6 percent in this year’s survey, draws attention as a striking result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Tendency to act unilaterally and remain neutral are getting stronger

“Which should Turkey cooperate with in international matters?” The rate of those who answered the question “should not act together with anyone” increased from 15.9 percent in 2021 to 24.6 percent this year, and the rate of those who said “they should act together with all of them” increased from 13.4% in 2021. The increase to 21.1 percent in 2022 indicates that the tendency of the public to act alone and remain neutral is getting stronger.

EU influence leads to better outcomes

The results of the research reveal that the public thinks that the EU’s role in solving problems in the world will lead to relatively better results for humanity. “Which country or group of countries has a say in solving problems in the world will lead to better outcomes for the majority of humanity?” 35.6 percent of the respondents to the question answer the EU countries. Participants aged 18-24 have a slightly higher belief in the EU in this sense. 43.8 percent of the young participants say that having EU countries’ say in the solution of the problems in the world will create better results for the majority of humanity. On the other hand, the rate of those who think that having a say in the USA and Russia will create better results is decreasing. While 12.9% of the participants in the survey last year thought that having a say in the solution of the problems in the world will create better results, this rate has decreased to 5.8 percent this year. While 10.5 percent of the participants in the survey last year thought that Russia’s having a say in the solution of the problems in the world would create better results, this rate decreased to 3.8 percent this year.

Turkey should play a conciliatory role in Russia-Ukraine tension

The “Perceptions of the European Union” research revealed that the public thinks that Turkey should play a conciliatory role or stay away from the Russia-Ukraine tension. While 43.7% of the respondents think that Turkey should play a “conciliatory role between the parties”, 40.1 percent support the view that Turkey should “stay away from conflict and remain neutral”. The rate of those who say “Turkey should act together with Ukraine” is 8.5 percent, while the rate of those who say “Turkey should act together with Russia” is 4.4 percent.

His thoughts on Europeans are positive

The results of the research show that the opinions about Europe and Europeans are also positive. The research indicates that young people have higher rates of positive thoughts about Turkey’s EU membership, as well as about Europe and Europeans, compared to the general population. 60.2% of the respondents stated that they have positive thoughts about Europeans and 35% have negative thoughts about them. On the other hand, 76.6% of young participants in the 18-24 age group say that they think positively about Europeans. The rate of young people who state that they have negative thoughts about Europe is 20.6 percent.

58.6 percent of the participants say “yes” to Turkey’s European Union membership

The “Perceptions of the European Union” research revealed that the public gave strong support for Turkey’s membership to the EU. 58.6% of the respondents think that it would be good for Turkey to become a member of the EU. Participants between the ages of 18-24, on the other hand, see Turkey’s membership in the EU as a “good thing”, with a much higher rate of 72.8%. When asked “If a referendum were to be held for Turkey’s full membership to the EU this Sunday, how would you vote?”, 61.4 percent of the respondents said they would vote “yes”, while 29.6 percent said they would vote “no”. . The percentage of young people who would vote “yes” to Turkey’s full membership to the EU is much higher. 75 percent of the young participants between the ages of 18 and 24 state that if a referendum is held today, they would vote “yes” for Turkey’s full membership to the European Union, and 18.4 percent would vote “no”. When compared to the research carried out by the Marshall Fund last year, a similar picture emerges in all age groups, while the support of young people for Turkey’s full membership to the EU has increased significantly. In the survey conducted last year, 68.8 percent of respondents aged 18-24 stated that they would vote yes for Turkey’s full membership to the European Union if a referendum were held.

68.8% of the respondents see Turkey as a geographically part of Europe. Those who think that Turkey is a part of Europe in historical terms, 57.2 percent, those who think that Turkey is part of Europe in economic terms, 45.6 percent, and 44.5 percent think that Turkey is a part of Europe in terms of security. The rate of those who think that Turkey is a part of Europe in cultural terms is 33.1 percent.

Young people’s belief that being a member of the EU will bring personal benefits is increasing

55.7% of the respondents think that Turkey’s membership to the EU will provide a personal benefit for them, while 37.9% think that it will not provide any personal benefit for them. On the other hand, 73.9% of the participants in the 18-24 age group think that Turkey’s membership to the EU will be beneficial for them, while 22.4% think that it will not provide any personal benefit for them. Considering that the rate of young people who think that Turkey’s membership to the EU will benefit them is 67.2 percent in the research conducted by the Marshall Fund last year, this year’s research reveals that the belief that it will provide personal benefits among young people has also increased.

The belief that Turkey can become a member of the EU is weakening

Support for Turkey’s membership to the European Union is high, but the belief that it can become a member is decreasing. “53 percent of the respondents to the Perceptions of the European Union survey state that the EU has no intention of accepting Turkey as a member, but just stalling. While 15.5 percent of the participants state that they can definitely become a member of the EU if Turkey does its part, 26.7 percent of them state that Turkey is not ready for membership even if the EU wants to.

43.9 percent of the participants in the “Perceptions of the European Union” survey think that Turkey will never be a member of the EU. Considering that the rate of those who support this view in the research conducted in 2021 is 39.7 percent, it is clear that the belief in EU membership has weakened over time. 13.9 percent of the participants believe that Turkey can become a full member of the EU, albeit in five years, 15.8 percent in ten years, and 19.7 percent in more than fifteen years. On the other hand, the results of the research revealed that the belief that Turkey can become a member of the EU is slightly higher among young people. Of the 18-24 year olds, 16.3 percent of the participants will be able to fully join the EU in five years, 23.1 percent in ten years, and 20.3 percent in more than fifteen years. While stating that they can become a member, 34.8 percent argue that Turkey will never be a member of the EU. “Do EU countries really want to see Turkey as an EU member among them?” To the question, 53.8 percent of the participants said “they don’t want”, 36.6% said “some countries don’t want it, but the majority want it, and 6.2 percent of them said “yes”.

EU membership becomes easier if the economy and human rights improve

The participants of the research were asked, “Which will facilitate Turkey’s full membership to the EU?” The answers to the question draw attention to the importance of the economy. Participants state that the recovery of the Turkish economy by 49.6% is the most important factor that will facilitate EU membership. The most important factors that will facilitate EU membership are the improvement of human rights in Turkey by 40.4 percent, Turkey’s necessary legal reforms by 34.7 percent, and the USA’s support for Turkey’s full membership by 16.6 percent. listed as.

Young people also differ in their expectations

“What will be the most important benefit of joining the EU for Turkey?” 21.9 percent of the respondents answered the question as the development of the economy, unemployment and a decrease in the cost of living. 16.4% of the participants of the research stated that the free movement of Turkish citizens in the EU countries, 14.6% the development of democracy and popular participation in the administration, 14.4% the increase in Turkey’s power in the international arena, 9.7% advocates the view that it will increase social peace.

The research shows that the expectations of the participants aged 18-24 from EU membership also differ slightly from the general participants. “What will be the most important benefit of EU membership for Turkey?” 19.8 percent of the young participants between the ages of 18-24 interpreted the question as the development of democracy and the widespread participation of the people in the administration, 19.4 percent as the development of the economy, unemployment and a decrease in the cost of living. 17.4 percent of the respondents answered that Turkey’s power in the international arena increases, and 10.5 percent respond as an increase in social peace. When asked “What would be the greatest benefit to the EU if Turkey became a member of the EU”, 25.2 percent of the participants said that the Turkish market should be opened to European companies, 25 percent said that the young population in Turkey would be included in Europe, 19 percent. He answers that as ensuring cultural pluralism.

Young people have higher trust in international institutions and organizations

The results of the research revealed that young people have more confidence in international institutions compared to other age groups. It is seen that the trust of young people especially in EU-based institutions and organizations is higher. The trust of the research participants in the ECtHR is 48.3%, in the European Union 47.7 percent, in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation 45 percent, in the International Court of Justice 40.9 percent, in NATO 39.4 percent, Confidence in the OSCE was 36.6% and in the United Nations was 35.4%. Young participants between the ages of 18-24 have 61.6 percent confidence in the ECHR, 60.7 percent in the European Union, 52.6 percent in the International Court of Justice, 47.3 percent in NATO, and 45 percent in the United Nations. 0.6, 44.1 percent confidence in the OSCE, 39.5 percent in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

Low level of knowledge about the Customs Union

The rate of those who think that the Customs Union, which is one of the most important agreements in terms of Turkey-EU relations, benefits Turkey is 28.3 percent. 11.8% of the participants think that the Customs Union harms the Turkish economy. The results of the research, “Has the Customs Union agreement benefited or harmed the Turkish economy?” revealed that 59.9 percent of the participants could not answer the question. In this sense, the research shows that the level of knowledge about the Customs Union is very low. In the research conducted last year, considering that the rate of those who think that the Customs Union provides benefits for Turkey is 33.8 percent, it is seen that there is a decrease in the rate of those who think that the Customs Union provides benefits. While 37 percent of the participants state that they will support the mutual inclusion of the services, public procurement and agriculture sectors in the Customs Union, 19.3 percent state that they will oppose it.

High support for meeting the criteria for visa liberalization

When asked about the policies that will contribute most to the improvement of relations between Turkey and the EU, the answers of the participants in the “Perceptions of the European Union” were 56.2 percent liberalizing the visa regime, 44.3 percent cooperation on immigrants and refugees, 41.3 percent cooperation in the fight against terrorism. Three policies stand out. The results of the research revealed that the public support for the fulfillment of the criteria that Turkey must fulfill for visa liberalization is high. While 60.5 percent of the participants support the revision of legislation and practices related to terrorism, which is one of the criteria that Turkey must fulfill for visa liberalization, in the light of European standards, 34.8 percent oppose it. Again, with regard to criminal matters, 62 percent of the participants support the establishment of effective judicial cooperation with all EU member states, while 32.9 percent oppose it. While 66.8 of the respondents support the harmonization of personal data protection legislation with EU standards, 26.5 percent oppose it.

“Turkey must first settle its internal problems”

The results of the “Perceptions of the European Union” research conducted by the Marshall Fund revealed that the Turkish society thinks that the best way to secure peace is negotiations. 63.9 percent of the respondents believe that the best way to secure peace is through “negotiations” and 34 percent believe “military force”. 46.1% of the participants state that Turkey should act alone for its interests in the world, and 52.2% say that it should act with other countries. Within the scope of the research, the participants believe that Turkey should give priority to the solution of its internal problems. “Turkey’s active role in the Middle East, the Balkans and North Africa: Which of the two is your view closer to?” 58.7 percent of the respondents answered the question that Turkey should first resolve its internal problems. 37.4% of the participants think that Turkey should play an active role in the Middle East, the Balkans and North Africa.

Increasing awareness of climate change and the environment

Within the scope of the “Perceptions of the European Union” research, the participants were also asked questions about climate change and the environment in the context of the Paris Climate Agreement and the EU Green Agreement. Responses of the participants show that climate and environmental awareness has increased in Turkey. While 75.6 percent of the participants support the view that protecting the environment should be prioritized even if it causes slow economic growth and job losses, 22.2 percent argue that economic growth and creating job opportunities should be a priority even if the environment is damaged. 62.6 percent of the participants see climate change as a very important threat to the world. The rate of those who think that climate change is caused entirely or partially by human activities is at a very high level of 82.6%. “Which do you think will affect climate change more negatively?” To the question, the participants answer that the agricultural production will be affected the most with 36.2 percent. The rate of those who think that natural resources will be depleted due to climate change is 25.3 percent, the rate of extreme weather events is 22.9 percent, and the rate of those who say that the energy supply will be adversely affected is 21.8 percent. Participants state that the most important role in the fight against climate change falls on businesses and factories. “Which of the actors has the most important role in the fight against climate change?” participants to the question; He answers, “Enterprises/factories with 51.7%, individuals with 36.6%, our government with 31.6%, UN with 17.3%”.

Ece Nagihan

Hello, I'm Ece, I write food ingredients for Expat Guide Turkey every day. Don't forget to check it out!

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