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25th May 2019

Europeans prefer Russia as EU member over Turkey

  • Russia - more popular with Europeans than Turkey (Photo: Russian Embassy)

European citizens would rather see Ukraine and Russia enter the EU than Turkey, a French poll suggests - but less than half of Ukrainians themselves back EU membership.

A survey conducted by French polling firm TNS Sofres for the Ukrainian Yalta European Strategy network, a lobby group promoting Kiev's accession to the EU, was published on Wednesday (30 November).

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Around 1,000 people in each of the EU's six largest countries - Germany, France, Italy, Poland, Spain and the UK - were asked the following question:

"Imagine that the following countries were to apply to join the European Union and met all the conditions for accession. Personally, would you be for or against each of these countries joining?"

The question was asked with regard to Turkey, which opened EU accession talks in October, as well as Ukraine, Russia and Morocco, all of which cannot expect membership talks in the near future, Brussels has signalled.

But non-candidate states Ukraine and Russia appear to enjoy more popularity among Europeans than Turkey.

Kiev and Moscow got a "yes" from 51 and 45 percent of respondents respectively, as opposed to just 40 percent backing Turkish membership.

A majority of 46 percent said they are against Turkey joining the EU, compared to 41 percent opposing Russian accession and 34 percent rejecting Ukraine's EU bid.

In the case of Morocco, 31 percent of Europeans would say "yes" while 51 would say "no".

Enlargement blues

The French researchers found that, compared to a similar survey conducted last March, "there is a strong tendency towards decreasing support for enlargement in all of the six countries, irrespective of who the candidate to accession might be."

The finding is in line with recent statements by European enlargement commissioner Olli Rehn, who observed the emergence of "enlargement blues", particularly in France and Germany.

In the TNS poll, the French and the Germans were the biggest opponents of any of the countries - Turkey, Ukraine, Russia or Morocco - joining the EU.

The Poles were most supportive of further EU enlargement, with 64 percent of respondents backing Ukraine's EU ambitions.

But even the Poles seem to be suffering from enlargement blues, given the fact that this figure was much higher (77 percent) in March.

Minority of Ukrainians want EU accession

Despite the fact that Ukraine is the favourite candidate in each of the six EU countries, support for membership of the EU in Ukraine itself is less than 50 percent, TNS reported.

Analysing this figure, the French researchers noted that many Ukrainians said 'don't know' or 'no answer' when asked whether they want to see their country in the EU.

Olga Shumlya, an expert at Kiev's International Centre for Policy Studies (ICPS), also highlighted the widespread ignorance about the EU among Ukrainians, stating:

"The problem is that people really don't know what the EU is: a promise of peace and prosperity. If you ask, the same person may want to join the EU and have a union with Russia at the same time, not knowing that this is impossible."

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