Britain has long been known to be one of the
strongest supporters of Ankara’s bid, and Prime Minister Tony Blair
is widely expected to press for a 'positive' outcome at the 16-17
December summit. For London, Turkey's admission would amount to a
smart strategic move. The public in Britain remains divided on
Germany, the country in Europe with the largest
community of Turkish immigrants, is supportive of Turkey’s cause at
the top levels. However, recent polls put the citizens’ approval
rate at around 30% only.
France has been pulling closer and closer to
promoting an alternative “third way” approach to Turkey in recent
weeks, to a large extent as a result of the population’s
overwhelming opposition to Turkish EU membership. France is the
only member state where opposition to Turkey’s EU membership
predominates at both levels – government and society. Public
opinion polls show an average 70-80% rejection rate.
The Netherlands has also been struggling to
integrate its ever-growing Muslim communities, and the prospect of
Turkey joining the “club” is apparently pushing the country’s
leaders closer and closer to the French approach. The Dutch public
is known to be predominantly against Turkey's membership.
Austria’s leaders are also inclined to heed the
message from the country’s citizens, who are strongly against
Turkey joining the Union. A recent poll found that 76% of Austrians
were against Turkey's accession. There also appears to
be fierce public resistance
from Luxembourg, Cyprus,
Denmark and Sweden.
The Greek government, apparently hoping to
become able to resolve a number of outstanding issues with Ankara
through a supportive vote (including the quarrels over the divided
Cyprus), has manifested goodwill toward the Turkish bid – even in
the teeth of the Greek public’s marked reservations. According
to a recent poll conducted by the company MRB, some 45% of Greeks
disagree with Turkey's EU prospects, with just 25% holding the
Among the smaller member states, the Czech
Republic is expected to vote in favour of Turkey’s bid at
the European summit, despite the fact that the country’s ruling
coalition remains divided on the issue. Accordingly, the Czech
‘yes’ is likely to be a careful ‘yes’. Meanwhile, there is not much
public discussion about the issue in the country, and no
representative public opinion polls have been conducted
In Slovakia, Hungary,
the Baltic states and in many smaller member
states the pattern appears to be rather similar to that in Prague.
These governments are generally supportive of the Turkish bid, with
dissenting voices coming either from the Christian Democrats or the
opposition circles or from the radicals in the extremist corners.
Several of the smaller member states are expected to side with a
decision that would seek to attach a set of conditions to the
projected negotiation process. In general, the public in these
countries remains potentially divided but by and large ignorant of
the issue and its implications.
Public - and through that official - support for Turkey is far
more marked in the Mediterranean states. At both official and
levels, Italy, Spain and
Portugal look at Turkey as a potential balance
against the EU-10 countries that joined the Union in May 2004.
In Turkey, nearly 80% of the public looks
favourably at the prospect of EU membership. According to a survey
published in the German magazine Stern, the rejection rate among
the Turks is only 18%. In the poll, nearly 50% of the respondents
said that they would want to work in EU countries even if the
country does not join the Union.