Mind the gap in 2020

Mind the gap in 2020

I see a huge gap between Turkey’s daily political rhetoric and the aspirations of its ordinary citizens. I was looking at the recent İKV (İktisadi Kalkınma Vakfı-Economic Development Foundation) survey.

Sixty percent of Turks are ready to vote for Turkey to become a member of the European Union. This figure is at 66 percent among the 18-24 age bracket. Why?

It is all about economic integration and the poor state of the Turkish economy, if you ask me. Around 54 percent of Turks think that Turkey needs the EU economically, and among young Turks, it’s 69 percent.

Note that the EU is not the only thing that Turks want. Turks like NATO, too, when it comes to defense. According to a recent Metropoll survey, 58 percent of Turks would like to stay in NATO, which marks a four-point increase between July and December. Note especially, that 70 percent of AKP voters would like Turkey to remain a member of NATO.

Turkish support for NATO is just another instance of integration-based decision making, if you ask me. Even Ankara’s attempt to veto NATO’s Baltic plan against Russia, just to get the attention of its Allies on its own regional anxieties, has shown that Turkey is a politically equal partner in NATO’s decision-making process. NATO needs the political consent of all its members to take action.

Turkey has been using this mechanism to communicate its political concerns. The system is working, albeit with some difficulty.

When asked how Turkey has to respond to the rising competition between Russia and the United States in our region; however, Turks want to stay neutral, but only barely. Since last July, the share of survey respondents saying that Turkey has to stay neutral has declined from 55 percent to 50 percent, according to the December Metropoll survey. I see another gap here. Why?

While Turks prefer the EU as a club to be joined in order to increase their welfare, only 23 per-cent believe that Turkey would eventually become a member of the EU. Young Turks have high-er hopes, but even among them, only 28 percent believe that we will eventually join. Why?

Seventy-five percent of Turks believe that the EU is good for their economic welfare, 57 percent think that the EU is good for Turkey’s human rights and democracy record, and only 45 percent think about free movement in Europe. Most also feel that the EU has treated Turkey badly.

The possible U.S. secondary sanctions against Turkey appears to be an important factor when it comes to the negative image of the U.S. in Turkey. Thirty-four percent of Turks are saying that such sanctions would hurt the Turkish economy.

About 25 percent think that the S-400 purchase is important for Turkey’s national interest but nevertheless sanctions will negatively influence Turkey.

In total, this makes around 60 percent of the population thinking that the economic impact of sanctions will be negative. Obviously, that may be why the investment appetite is so hard to revive soon in the country.

I have to say, it’s strange that we still have polling on how our NATO allies might be planning to hurt us.