The majority of the Turkish people believe that cooperation with European countries is vital for Türkiye’s security, a recent study revealed Thursday.
A press conference and subsequent panel hosted by the Economic Development Foundation (İKV), a nongovernmental organization and think-tank that mainly focuses on the Türkiye-EU relations, presented the findings and results of a recent survey titled “Public Perceptions on Europe and the European Union in Türkiye,” discussing them in Istanbul with the participation of Deputy Foreign Minister and Director for EU Affairs Faruk Kaymakcı.
İKV Deputy Chair Haluk Kabaalioğlu and Friedrich Naumann Foundation Permanent Representative to Türkiye Beate Apelt gave opening speeches. Following the speeches, Mustafa Aydın, Global Academy coordinator and an academic from Kadir Has University, presented the findings of the study to the participants. In the end, experts discussed the topic of “Europe’s Future and Türkiye” in a panel format.
A noteworthy finding of the study was that 56.4% of the Turkish people believe that “cooperation with European countries” is positive for Türkiye’s security.
Greece, France and Austria were listed as the three leading countries responsible for the Turkish people’s negative perception of the European Union. On the other hand, more than half of the participants listed Germany as the most important partner of Türkiye among EU countries. Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom ranked as the three most trusted European countries.
Despite the recent disagreements, 76% of participants said that they support Türkiye’s possible EU membership. Visa liberalization, the refugee crisis and the negotiation process are seen as the most important topics today in bilateral relations.
The EU primarily means “freedom and democracy” to participants. When participants think about the concept of “Europe,” freedom, equality, democracy, high-quality living standards and economic development are the first five things that come to mind. The concept of “European culture” primarily means equality from their perspective.
Nearly 30% of participants defined Türkiye as a European country, 25% described it as a Middle Eastern country and 16% said that it is a unique country that cannot be categorized.
Those who feel negatively about the EU argued that this was because: “they are self-interested, they dislike foreign countries, they ostracize Türkiye, Türkiye is self-sufficient, Türkiye isn’t allowed into the EU.”
According to the survey conducted, 74% of the participants listed cultural and religious differences as the main reasons that Europeans do not see Turkish people as European.
Evaluating the findings, Kaymakcı also gave information about the government’s own research and EU Communication Strategy (ABİS).
Kaymakcı said that 82% of Turkish people support the possible EU membership, according to their own surveys.
Its economic contributions, the freedom of visa-free travel and high-quality living standards are seen as the three main advantages of possible EU membership, said Kaymakcı.
Türkiye-EU relations are marked by disputes on several issues, including tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean, Türkiye’s role in Syria, the migrant crisis and the stalemate in Türkiye’s accession process to join the bloc. However, Türkiye has recently reiterated that it is part of Europe and sees its future in the EU, adding that it will continue to work toward full membership. Ankara is calling to reenergize the accession process and update the Türkiye-EU Customs Union as it advocates for regular high-level dialogues, visa liberalization and further counterterrorism efforts.
Türkiye has the longest history with the union and the longest negotiation process. The country signed an association agreement with the EU’s predecessor in 1964, the European Economic Community (EEC), which is usually regarded as a first step to eventually becoming a candidate. Applying for official candidacy in 1987, Türkiye had to wait until 1999 to be granted the status of a candidate country. For the start of the negotiations, however, Türkiye had to wait for another six years, until 2005, a uniquely long process compared with other candidates. In recent years, the accession process seems stalled.