Turkey aims for hearts and minds of EU public

Turkey aims for hearts and minds of EU public

Serkan Demirtaş BRUSSELS
Turkey aims for hearts and minds of EU public

A negative perception about Turkey in European public opinion has grown in recent years, Turkey’s EU Minister Volkan Bozkır (C) says. AA photo AA Photo

Turkey launched a new European Union communications strategy on Oct. 16 to repair its broken perception in the eyes of European citizens, prioritizing as targets countries that support Turkey’s accession process the least.

“In recent years, a picture in which facts and perceptions on Turkey do not correspond has grown, together with a negative perception about our country in European public opinion. Thus it will be our priority to provide the overlapping [of facts and perceptions] in this period,” Turkish EU Minister Volkan Bozkır said at a press conference in Brussels as he disclosed the new communication strategy.

Bozkır, who revealed Turkey’s new EU strategy in Brussels three weeks ago, said all the efforts aimed to further accelerate the Turkish accession process for EU membership.

“The new EU Communication Strategy will endorse the first two dimensions of our EU Strategy by internalizing recently adopted political and socio-economic reforms by our people and will help establish a healthy perception of Turkey in EU public opinion,” he said.

Bozkır said the new strategy would be "participatory and proactive" as already existing communication means, methods and targets would be updated and improved. The objective of the new strategy is to increase the support for Turkish accession in the eyes of EU public opinion, he added, emphasizing that the highlight of the strategy would be “Strong Turkey, Strong EU.”

“Priority will be given to those countries that have influence in shaping EU public opinion, as well as those countries whose public opinion is the least supportive of Turkey’s membership,” Bozkır said. “In this, we’ll carry out action plans to contribute to Turkey’s image by developing differentiated strategies for countries.”

Two-pronged new strategy

Turkey’s new strategy has two legs, one for Turkish public opinion and the other for the EU. The strategy for Turkey is expected to “inform the public about the benefits obtained as a result of the EU accession process; increase support and grassroots advocacy for Turkey’s EU membership and facilitate the transformation of the mentality in Turkey during the EU accession process.”

The strategy for the EU aims to “ensure an increased presence of Turkey’s membership on the EU agenda; bolster support for Turkey’s membership in the EU by providing EU citizens with the facts about the country to overcome misperceptions and highlight the ‘Strong Turkey, Strong EU’ perspective with an emphasis on contributions Turkey will make to the EU.”

Messages to be conveyed to Turks and Europeans

The new strategy will deliver key messages to citizens of Turkey and the EU to shape the correct picture on Turkish accession to the bloc. “The EU is a peace project that is based on human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights,” he said, noting that these were the top messages to be given to Turkish public opinion.

Underlining that EU membership was a priority for a more democratic, modern and prosperous Turkey, he said the new strategy would tell Turkish audiences that the accession process must be embraced and adopted not only by the state, but also by all segments of the public, particularly civil society.

Some messages that could be conveyed to the EU public are as follows:

. Turkey and the EU remain strategically important partners that share common values.

. Both sides have much to gain in areas such as foreign policy, economic and trade relations, security of energy supply, border management, employment and migration policy.

.  Turkey is bound to enrich the European mosaic with its own colors as an exemplary model of diverse cultures and religions living together in peace.

. The people of the EU and Turkey are building a common and strong future together.

. Turkey’s membership will upgrade the EU from a regional peace project to a genuinely global one.

Erasmus to play significant role

For the implementation of the new strategy the Consultation, Coordination and Monitoring Board (DAKIK) will be established, consisting of the related stakeholders, for steering, monitoring and assessing the EU communication strategy, the minister said. According to the new strategy, financial support provided by the EU during the accession process will be efficiently utilized as Turkey will be allocated approximately 180 million euros by the EU for the 2014 and 2015 period.

“The Erasmus Program will also be a significant tool in the communication activities as it plays a substantial role in establishing channels of dialogue between the citizens of Turkey and the EU. In this regard, interaction between the citizens of both parties will be bolstered by almost 900 million euros which Turkey will use under the Erasmus Program during 2014-2022 program,” according to the communications strategy.

Strategy’s multiple stakeholders

Along with governmental offices, the strategy envisages roles for civil society, universities, the business world, the media, as well as political actors both from Turkey and the EU. Both stakeholders will undertake short- and medium-term methods to ensure their sound contributions to the new strategy.