Eurobarometer: Over half of EU citizens against Turkey’s accession

The latest Eurobarometer shows that 52% of Europeans do not want Turkey to join the EU while 53% do not think that the EU is listening to them. There is also a general decline in confidence in the Commission and the Parliament. 

Future enlargement

The crunch decision on enlargement comes in the form of Turkey, with a decision on whether to start accession talks due on 3 October (see EURACTIV LinksDossier EU-Turkey relations). The Eurobarometer survey shows that 52% of EU citizens are against Turkey joining the EU. Citizens from the new member states are more in favour of Turkey joining (48% in favour) than the EU-15 (32% in favour).

Half of the respondents in the 25 current member states are in favour of further
enlargement of the European Union in future years, down 3 points since last year. At the same time there has been a proportional increase in the level of opposition to the idea (38%).

Support is particularly strong in Slovenia (79%), Poland (76%) and Slovakia (73%), compared with the reservations about and even opposition to further enlargement noted in Germany (60%), Luxembourg (60%) and Austria (58%).

Of the group of countries most critical of the idea of further enlargement, opposition has grown notably in France (+ 7 points) and Luxembourg (+ 6 points), while in Austria the score is four points lower than in the previous survey.

A detailed country analysis reveals that there is far stronger support for the accession
of current European Free Trade Area (EFTA) member countries, that is to say Iceland and in particular Norway and Switzerland.

Support for the idea of a Constitution

The Eurobarometer survey shows that the majority of European Union citizens (61%)  support the idea of a European Constitution, down by 7 percentage points from 2004.

The survey emphasises that this result must not be seen as an intention of how respondents would vote in a possible referendum in the countries which are considering or are planning to organise such a consultation on the Constitutional Treaty. It reflects only the extent to which respondents agree with the actual concept of a Constitution for the European Union and not an evaluation of the content of the text proposed to the Member States for ratification.

The Eurobarometer notes that in the two countries which in their recently held referenda voted against the Constitution, the assessment of European Union membership is clearly positive in France (53%) and above all in The Netherlands (67%). Asked about the benefits from being a member of the EU, 55% of citizens replied positively, up two points from 2004.

The EU as a political union?

  • Approximately six out of ten Europeans say they are in favour of a move towards greater political union within the European Union.
  • In line with the results recorded last autumn, the idea of European political union is supported by 58% of respondents.
  • Support is still stronger in the 10 new Member States (67% versus 57% in the 15 old Member States); support is particularly strong in Romania (77%).

EU priorities

Tackling unemployment plus addressing poverty and social inclusion are the top two areas that the citizens want the EU to prioritise.

Confidence in the Commission and Parliament

Both the Commission and the Parliament are suffering from lower levels of confidence.

Confidence in the European Commission fell significantly during the first half of 2005 and now stands at levels observed in autumn 2003 (46%), i.e. a fall of 6 points in comparison to the last Eurobarometer survey. 

Although the majority of citizens still have confidence in the Parliament (52%), the percentage has fallen by 5 points compared with the score obtained just after the European elections. At the same time, one in three interviewees tend not to trust it (31%). 

For countries that are traditionally enthusiastic about membership of the European Union and its benefits, such as Ireland and Spain, there has been a particularly sharp fall in the level of confidence.

As regards the Parliament, the level of confidence in Ireland has fallen by 13 points (down from 70% to 57%), while in the same country confidence in the Commission has fallen by 15 points, from 66% to 51%. In Spain, the results have fallen by 14 and 23 points respectively.

In the United Kingdom, a relative majority of citizens still tend not to trust the European Parliament (42%) and the Commission (38%). Moreover, the level of
confidence seems more reserved in the Netherlands and Germany where
approximately four out of ten citizens declare that they do not have confidence in
these two institutions.

Is the EU listening to its citizens?

Fifty three per cent of European citizens consider that their voice does not count in the European Union, while 38% take the opposite view – a result is in line with that recorded last autumn.

The belief that their voice is not heard in the European Union is the strongest among
citizens in the Czech Republic, Estonia, Slovakia and the United Kingdom.

While 53% of respondents are satisfied with the way democracy works in their country, the percentage of respondents satisfied with the way democracy works in the
European Union is lower at 49%.

"What we need is a new consensus, a shared perception of the purpose of Europe and where it is heading. The support that the public give to the Union provides enormous political capital, but it should not be taken for granted. Europeans today expect to be more involved in the political process, and the challenges that are of concern to them are globalisation, unemployment and social problems. The people of Europe and the organisations that represent them must have more say and we, the decision-makers, must learn to listen to people’s hopes and expectations," said Communications Strategy Commissioner Margot Wallström  in a Commission press release.

After EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn briefed the bloc's 25 foreign ministers on the proposed draft negotiating mandate for talks with Ankara, Austria and Cyprus voiced familiar objections, according to Reuters.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said it was not the right moment to discuss the issue of Turkey joining the EU, promising ministers they would have a substantial discussion at an informal meeting in Wales in early September.

Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnick said the EU should not rule out alternatives to full membership and asked why the Commission was planning to publish its next report on Turkey's progress only after the talks started.

"We have always thought it would be smart to explicitly spell out an alternative," Plassnick told journalists at a news conference. "We stress the issue of (the EU's) absorption capacity accordingly."

This standard Eurobarometer covers 30 countries or territories: the 25 member states, the two accession countries (Bulgaria and Romania), the two candidate countries (Croatia and Turkey) and the Territory of Northern Cyprus. 

It was commissioned by the Directorate-General Press and Communication and carried out by TNS Opinion & Social, a consortium formed by TNS and EOS Gallup Europe and carried out between 9 May and 14 June.

The bulk of the Eurobarometer was carried out before the results of the French and Dutch referenda were known.

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