Public supports core elements of EU-Turkey cooperation on Migration


“As the EU and Turkey are discussing the future of their ‘migration deal’ agreed in 2016, we surveyed over 3,900 voters across Germany, Greece, and Turkey, the three countries centrally affected by the cooperation agreement. We analyzed voters’ preferences vis-a-vis the core elements of EU-Turkey migration cooperation,” explains Martin Ruhs, who leads MEDAM’s research on migration policy preferences at the European University Institute in Florence. “In all three countries, we found public support for certain forms of EU-Turkey cooperation on irregular migration and refugee protection, along the broad lines of the existing agreement. But we also found some important country differences. Overall, our findings suggest public support for targeted reforms of the cooperation, especially with regard to the resettlement of refugees from Turkey to the EU.”

The study finds:

  • In Germany and Greece, there is strong public opposition to ‘pushbacks,’ i.e., the return of irregular migrants to Turkey without first assessing their applications for asylum.
  • Voters in these two countries also support EU financial assistance for refugees in Turkey—but only if these funds are channeled through humanitarian organizations such as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (as is currently the case), rather than through the Turkish government as direct budget support. Hence, it matters for public support in Germany and Greece how EU financial assistance for refugees in Turkey is provided. By contrast, Turkish voters do not care about the specifics of financing channels but support any EU financial assistance for refugees in Turkey. These findings are important because the Turkish government is pressing for more EU support to be channeled through the state budget.
  • Voters in all three countries (Germany, Greece, and Turkey) prefer a hypothetical policy of resettling 1 percent of the Syrian refugee population in Turkey (about 36,000 refugees) to the EU each year. That differs from the 1:1 mechanism of the current cooperation agreement, which stipulates that for each Syrian refugee returned from Greece to Turkey, one refugee will be resettled from Turkey to the EU.

“Immigration is one of the greatest concerns of both European citizens and policy makers. Nonetheless, there has so far been no systematic research on public policy preferences toward EU cooperation with non-EU countries on irregular migration and refugee protection. Our study analyzes voters’ policy preferences in the context of the EU-Turkey agreement,” explains Tobias Heidland, Director of the Kiel Institute’s Research Center for International Development and co-author of the study. “Understanding public views and policy preferences, how they vary across countries and what elements generate public support or opposition, is critical to effective and sustainable international cooperation on migration.”

The study provides focused background analysis for the 2021 MEDAM Assessment Report on Asylum and Migration Policies in Europe, EU-Turkey: Toward sustainable cooperation in migration management and refugee protection. The MEDAM Assessment Report addresses migration cooperation with countries of origin and transit, with special attention on the EU-Turkey relationship, as well as the wider context of attempts to reform EU asylum and migration policy through the European Commission’s proposal for a New Pact on Migration and Asylum.

Further Information


MEDAM virtual event on migration cooperation with countries of origin and transit at the Global Solutions Summit
Friday, May 28, 2021; 15:45–16:45 (CEST)

The New Pact: Managing migration jointly with countries of origin and Transit
15:45-16:15 (CEST)
Interview with European Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas by the New York Times Brussels correspondent, Matina Stevis-Gridneff, followed by Q&A.

EU-Turkey cooperation on migration: Toward a sustainable and effective partnership
16:15-16:45 (CEST)
Panel discussion on key research insights and policy implications with Martin Ruhs (Professor and Deputy Director of the Migration Policy Centre, EUI), Angeliki Dimitriadi (Senior Research Fellow and Head of the Migration Programme, ELIAMEP), and Asli Aydıntaşbaş (Senior Policy Fellow, ECFR).

For media registration for the Global Solution Summit (Thursday and Friday, May 27–28, 2021, 13:00 to 18:00 PM (CEST) click here.


• MEDAM 2021. 2021 MEDAM Assessment Report on Asylum and Migration Policies in Europe. Kiel: IfW.

• Vrânceanu, A., E. Dinas, T. Heidland, and M. Ruhs. (2021). “International Cooperation on Migration: What Do Domestic Publics Want?”, SSRN Working Paper, Social Science Research Network.

  • Melanie Radike - Kiel Institute
    Melanie Radike
    Kommunikationsmanagerin Mercator Dialogue on Asylum and Migration (MEDAM)T +49 (431) 8814-329