Thursday, April 28, 2005

Ukraine or Turkey? European Opinions

KIEV, Ukraine -- According to a recent opinion-poll by TNS Sofres in the "big six" EU countries (Germany, UK, France, Italy, Spain and Poland), 55% support Ukraine's accession to the European Union. At 77%, Poles are the most eager to include Kiev in the EU "club", followed by 62% of Italians and 60% of Spaniards. In Germany, however, just 41% of the population backs Ukraine's accession bid. The study also reveals that those highly in favour of Turkey's EU membership had dropped considerably, ranging from 55% in Poland to 36% in Germany .



A closer look shows a growing divide between EU leaders and their citizens, with the former favouring Turkey and the latter Ukraine. On average, 58% of people in Europe say Kiev should be given the green light because it is natural part of Europe's geography, history and culture. 88% in Poland agreed with this statement, followed by 63% in France and 60% in Spain. UK citizens are less keen to consider Ukraine part of Europe's history and culture at just 44%, while Germans have a balanced opinion, with 50% agreeing and 39% disagreeing. The overall impression is that the President Yushchenko's "Orange Revolution" has boosted positive feelings to Kiev. However those against accession flag Ukraine's troubled economy, which would certainly complicate Europe's own woes. Others highlight the lack of rule of law in the Kiev political system.

As for Turkish membership, public opinion is really rather negative - in contrast to the political path taken by EU leaders. And this as Ankara limbers up to accession negotiation while EU leaders offer Kiev nothing more than a potential common market in the framework of the EU neighbour policy. The TNS research showed that the favourable share towards Turkey's membership is quite far from that one concerning Ukraine. In fact, except for Poland, the other members' outcomes are behind the 50% of the population, reaching only the 36% and the 37% in Germany and in France.

So what is changed since the last enlargement? Germany, the age-old motor of the European enlargement, seems to have lost its strength and the willingness to promote a new European project, with about 9 millions of jobless and widespread economic stagnation. Hence, it is unlikely that Schröder, with the 60% of the population against to the Turkish membership, will risk putting forward proposals aimed to a wider Kiev integration into the EU. Germany not only helped shoulder the burden of the Eastern enlargement but it is also paying for reunification. In corroboration of that, it is not surprising that some of the EU elite count on the negative outcome of the referendum for the constitution in France in order to block the Turkish access to EU.

In the short term, Ukraine's accession looks rather unlikely, bearing in mind that the Balkans region is the first priority on the EU agenda. In the meantime, Yushchenko must work on reinforcing both the rule of law and the economy while tying the "Kiev issue" to a current member such as Poland. Warsaw was a key partner during the "orange revolution", with major backing not only from the political elite but also from the entire population. The key question remains: "can Poland take the place of Germany in promoting a new enlargement?".

Source: Tiscali Europe

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