European public’s views on Turkey’s EU accession.

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With both EU governments and citizens deeply divided over the issue of Turkey’s EU accession, this CEPS paper  takes an in-depth look at attitudes towards Turkey, examining the key elements in determining support for and against EU membership.

Using new data derived from questions measuring citizens’ attitudes towards Turkey that have been introduced into Eurobarometer questionnaires recently, Antonia Ruiz-Jiménez and José Torreblanca attempt to prove that views for and against Turkish membership are multidimensional, with citizens using different arguments for both positions. 

Specifically, they show that the likelihood of supporting or opposing Turkey’s membership depends on whether citizens base their point of view on a utilitarian (weighing up costs and benefits before reaching a conclusion), identity-based (founded on Turkey being part of Europe in geographical, historical and cultural terms), or post-national perspective (linked to a rights-based EU founded on universal principles and emphasising democracy and human rights). 

Ruiz-Jiménez and Torreblanca find that support for Turkish membership is mostly based on post-national arguments, and that opposition to Turkey’s accession is mainly connected with identity-based arguments. They find that instrumental considerations such as costs and benefits are of less relevance. 

The authors conclude that as far as public opinion is concerned, support for Turkey’s membership is low and declining further. They believe that Turkey’s future membership of the EU hinges on the relative weight of post-national and essentialist visions of the future Union. They claim that it does not depend on public opinion at the material level, as represented by cost/benefit considerations. 

They suggest that public support is crucial if Turkey is to join the EU, and that the key to its membership lies in the way accession is argued and justified, rather than wholly in the way it is negotiated. 

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