Turks become increasingly isolated

Turkish people's feelings toward the United States and the European Union as well as Iran have cooled significantly, revealing a growing isolation from the East and the West, a major survey showed.

Turks become increasingly isolated

Turkish people's feelings toward the United States and the European Union as well as Iran have cooled significantly, revealing a growing isolation from the East and the West, a major survey showed yesterday.

The annual Transatlantic Trends study by the German Marshall Fund of the United States and four European foundations, published Thursday, showed a continuing decline in Turkish support for EU membership and growing criticism of both US and EU global leadership. Support for EU membership among Turks had fallen to less than half of the population, a mere 40 percent, in 2007 -- as compared to 54 percent in 2006. In addition, Turks were more pessimistic than Europeans on prospects that Turkey will eventually become a member of the EU: 56 percent of Europeans believed Turkey will join, compared with just 26 percent of Turkish respondents saying Turkey is likely to join the bloc eventually.

The findings may pose an additional snag for the government of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in pursuing the EU membership goal, already complicated by opposition from French President Jacques Chirac, disputes over Cyprus and European public skepticism toward an eventual Turkish accession. The EU froze talks with Turkey on eight of the 35 chapters in December due to Ankara's refusal to open its ports and airports to traffic from Greek Cyprus.

Soon after the election victory of his Justice and Development Party (AK Party), Erdoğan reiterated commitment to the EU goal. British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, who was the first foreign minister to visit Turkey after the Turkish elections, said in Ankara on Wednesday that Turkish membership would be a gain for the EU, Turkey and Britain.

But his upbeat tone is not necessarily echoed among Europeans. The survey showed only 22 percent saw Turkish membership as a good thing, with 31 percent perceiving it negatively. France and Germany were the most negative over the prospect of Turkish membership, with 49 percent and 43 percent of respondents considering Turkish membership a bad thing, respectively.

The German Marshall Fund found that Turkish respondents continued to have the most critical views of US and EU leadership in world affairs. Its survey, which involved random samples of about 1,000 Turkish men and women aged 18 and over between June 4 and June 23, found 74 percent of Turks considered US leadership in world affairs undesirable -- up five percentage points from 2006 -- and only 3 percent approved of US President George W. Bush's handling of international policies. For the first time, a majority of Turks -- 54 percent -- viewed EU leadership as undesirable, an increase of seven percentage points from 2006. On a 100-point thermometer scale, positive sentiments towards the US dropped to 11 from 20 degrees in 2006 and feelings towards the European Union cooled to 26 degrees from 45 degrees.

Relations with the US have been strained over the war on Iraq and presence of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in northern Iraq. The US has refused to take concrete steps to eliminate the PKK presence despite Turkish appeals, and more recently reports have indicated that US weapons in Iraq ended up in the PKK's hands.

The survey found that Turkish support for NATO had also continued on a declining trend that began in 2004, with only 35 percent of respondents seeing the alliance as being essential to Turkey's security, as compared to 44 percent last year and 53 percent in 2004.

Feelings toward other actors are also cooling, the survey showed. Positive sentiment toward Iran dropped to 30 degrees on the thermometer from 43. Compared with both Americans and Europeans, Turkish respondents also show the coolest feelings towards Russia (21 degrees) and China (28 degrees). Palestinians emerged as the most favorably perceived nation, with positive feelings measuring 42 degrees on the thermometer. Israel, on the other hand, inspired the coolest feelings at just 5 degrees.


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Last Mod: 07 Eylül 2007, 09:37
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