A study at Cologne University has revealed that Turkish attitudes differ significantly from those of EU nationals when it comes to freedom of religion and gender equality. But this could change if Turkey joined the EU.
Could Turkey's attitudes change if it was part of the European Union?
Citizens in practically all EU nations support the bloc's basic principles: freedom of religion, democracy, gender equality and the rule of law. According to a sociologist's study at Cologne University, however, Turkey assumed an exceptional position when it came to freedom of religion and gender equality.
"Two basic EU principles are not being supported," said Frederike Wuermeling, the author of the study. Although EU Europeans varied in their attitudes, Turkey held a "distinct marginal position" within Europe, she said.
Only one-third of Turks backed gender equality. When it came to freedom of religion, only 16 percent explicitly agreed to this principle, the study revealed.
However, Turkey was in line with other EU countries when it came to the principles of the rule of law. In terms of democratic principles, 87.9 percent of those surveyed in Turkey supported this notion. But 66.1 percent also said they considered a strong leader important, who didn't have to attend to the parliament.
Wealth and religion play a decisive role
The study was based on data from the European Values Survey. It had questioned some 1,000 respondents in each of the 27 EU member states, as well as in Turkey.
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According to Wuermeling, Turkey's economic underdevelopment, as well as the country's high percentage of Muslims played a decisive role in this case.
"There is a positive connection between a country's wealth and the acceptance of EU principles," Wuermeling told DW-WORLD.DE. She said this meant that economic improvement could lead to a change in values.
"This has been the case in the history of the EU," Wuermeling said. "One can assume that it becomes more likely that a privileged partnership or EU membership would lead to a shift in values in Turkey." A stronger orientation towards performance could make religion and traditional family structures less important.
At the moment, however, this was not the case.
"Turkey does not fit into the EU at this time," Wuermeling said.
Turkey began negotiating for membership in the EU in 2005. Last week, the EU resumed official accession talks with Turkey, even though its membership is not guaranteed. Diplomats estimate that it could take 10 to 15 years to reach a result.
Religious reservations also exist in EU nations
The study's findings supported the so-called hypothesis of modernization. It assumes that the higher a country's gross domestic product (GDP), level of education and degree of urbanization, the higher the agreement to EU principles. The analysis also backed the cultural hypothesis, which states that the higher the percentage of Muslims in a country and the higher the level of individual religious belief, the lower the agreement to EU principles.
Wuermeling's study said that the biggest advocates of all four EU principles were Sweden and Denmark.
In three European countries, the study noted a negative attitude. In Malta, with a Catholic population of 97 percent, there were reservations regarding freedom of religion and equal rights. In the predominantly orthodox Greece, as well as in Romania, the number of opponents to freedom of religion prevailed.