A survey conducted by the Wise Men Center for Strategic Studies (BİLGESAM) on how Turkey and Turkish people are perceived in Balkan countries shows that both Muslims and Christians in Balkans have positive views about Turkey’s EU membership.
The survey was conducted in 10 Balkan countries with the aim of determining how Turkey is perceived across the region. According to the results of the survey, religion is the key factor that shapes people’s views and perceptions about Turkey.
In this regard, Muslims’ perception of Turkey is more positive than Balkan Christians. However, it’s worth mentioning that Albanian and Macedonian Christians also have positive views about Turkey. The survey indicates that most Muslims and Christians have a positive attitude regarding possible Turkish accession to the European Union.
However, views on Turkey’s role in Balkan politics and Turkey’s democracy profile are conflicting, as most of Christians have generally negative feelings on these matters.
In Albania, 78.5 percent of Muslims who responded to the survey have a positive image of Turkey. In comparison to this, the UK, with 82 percent, and the US, with 80.9 percent, are the primary countries with which Christian Albanians’ sympathies most lie.
Regarding Turkish democracy, the perception among Albanian Muslims is positive with 71 to 80 percent believing that Turkish democracy is in a good state. Albanian Christians have different views, with 48 to 64 percent scoring Turkish democracy highly. The perception about Turkey’s democracy among Bosnian Muslims is positive and the score on democratic profile is between 60 and 72 percent. A total of 72.5 percent of Bosnian Muslims have a positive view on Turkey’s profile with respect to “different religions, cultures and identities.”
However, Bulgarians have negative views on Turkey’s democracy with only between 32 and 38 percent of people rating Turkey highly in different categories such as freedom of thought and expression, respect to other religions, cultures and identities. Only 33 to 40 percent of people believe that Turkey’s democracy is in a good state in Croatia.
While 73 percent of Muslims in Albania see Turkey as an effective player in the Balkans, only 37 percent of Christians share this view. For Muslims the current level of Turkish engagement in the Balkans is sufficient, whereas Christians expect Turkey to be more active in regional affairs, the survey’s results show.
When Muslim Albanians were asked which country they would chose to live in after Albania, 32 percent of them answered Turkey. However, Christians would choose the UK as their second preference.
Along with Albanians, religious and cultural ties also play an important role on Bosnian Muslims’ perception of other countries. Turkey comes in at first place, with 72.5 percent, of countries that Bosnian Muslims like the most. Although 75.4 percent of Bosnian Muslims consider Turkey as a key and active regional player, they do not want much more involvement from Turkey in regional politics, according to the survey.
In response to a question regarding which country they would want to live in other than Bosnia, Turkey was in first place with 26.8 percent. Furthermore, European countries are the last ones that Bosnian Muslims would chose to reside in.
In contrast to Bosnia and Herzegovina and Albania, where the majority of the population is Muslim, in Bulgaria, Turkey’s neighboring country, only 40.1 percent of people indicated positive feelings towards Turkey, and in Croatia, this figure was even lower at 37.4 percent. Turkey does not appear on the list countries that Bulgarians would chose to live in.
When it comes to the Turkish role in the Balkans, 56.7 percent of Bulgarians and only 46.5 of Croatians consider Turkey an effective player. While Bulgarians do not want to see Turkish involvement in regional affairs increase, Croatians think that Turkey should be more active in the region.