Turkish youth see EU membership as ‘dream’ chance for more freedoms, jobs: Survey

  • A study found 66.2% of the 18- to 25-year-olds quizzed would welcome Turkey being accepted into the EU
  • But one-third of them believed it would never happen, and one-fifth felt that if it did, it would not be for at least another 15 years

Menekse Tokyay / ANKARA: Turkish youth see possible future membership of the EU as a “dream” chance for more freedoms and job opportunities in their country, a survey has revealed.
The German Marshall Fund of the US (GMF) study found that 66.2 percent of the 18- to 25-year-olds quizzed would welcome Turkey being accepted into the EU.
But one-third of them believed it would never happen, and one-fifth felt that if it did, it would not be for at least another 15 years.
The survey titled, “Turkish Perceptions of the EU,” was carried out for the American think tank by Istanbul-based Infakto Research Workshop over March and April and covered youth living in urban and rural areas.
More than half of those questioned (52.1 percent) thought the EU was deliberately delaying a decision on Turkey becoming a full member as it ultimately had no intention of allowing the country to join.
However, 67.2 percent of interviewees reckoned they would personally benefit from EU membership, and one-fifth considered acceptance would improve democracy in Turkey.
Prof. Emre Erdogan, co-founder of Infakto Research Workshop, told Arab News: “Prospective membership of the EU is seen by Turkish young people as a window of opportunity for more freedoms and options for their future.
“Young Turks are willing to seize every single opportunity to find jobs and get more freedoms, and their EU conception fits into this dream.”
He said the EU was perceived by Turkish youth as a quasi-perfect model of a social welfare club that provided its citizens with additional support mechanisms during times of crisis.
“The economic fallout from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic on Turkish youth who lost their jobs, was completely illustrative of this contraction between Turkish and EU models,” Erdogan added.
Youth unemployment has reached alarming levels in Turkey, with almost 25 percent of 15- to 24-year-olds jobless and many struggling without any form of state support.
The economic constraints of the COVID-19 pandemic have further restricted Turkish companies from hiring often inexperienced young people.
Those taking part in the survey said the focus for improving ties between Ankara and Brussels should be on visa-free travel to EU countries, cooperation against terrorism, and joint action to resolve the refugee crisis.
Results showed that around half of young Turks thought Turkey and the EU had diverging interests on refugees, the situation in the eastern Mediterranean, the civil wars in Syria and Libya, the fight against Daesh, and relations with Cyprus.
Azerbaijan was viewed by almost half of those polled as Turkey’s most important partner (46.1 percent), followed by Russia (18.6 percent), and Germany (13.5 percent). The US was considered as the biggest threat to Turkey’s national interests (60.6 percent), followed by Israel (24 percent), and Russia (19 percent).
A total of 42 percent felt Turkey should cooperate with EU countries, followed by Russia (14.3 percent). On trusted institutions, the European Court of Human Rights gained a 57.3 percent vote of confidence, with the EU on 52.3 percent, and the International Court of Justice getting a 48.3 percent trust rating.
Dr. Kadri Tastan, senior researcher at GMF, told Arab News that despite the shaky and pragmatic relationship between Ankara and Brussels over the years, young people still looked to the EU as a future anchor for the progress of freedoms and democracy in Turkey.
“These survey results once again reminded us that Turkish youth rely on Western democracies and take them as their reference models.
“On the other hand, their personal motivations for the EU membership bid are directly connected to the visa liberalization promises of Brussels, as they want to freely travel to Europe and to set up a new life,” Tastan said.
Generation Z, those born between the mid-to-late 1990s and early 2010s, could well hold the key to Turkey’s future governance, as at least 5 million will vote for the first time in their lives at the upcoming general and presidential elections in 2023.
Prof. Erdogan said: “Most of the political parties in Turkey are concerned about being considered as pro-EU because the nationalist paranoia, dubbed as Sevres syndrome, still haunts the political landscape in the country.
“Those who draw a rosy picture about EU membership are quickly demonized because outside powers, such as the EU, are mostly seen by the ruling politicians as intent on using several tools to subvert and break up Turkey from within.”


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