Ukraine's campaign to join the EU today receives a boost from an opinion poll which shows greater support in Europe for Ukrainian membership than for Turkey. A survey of some 6,000 people in the EU's six largest countries found 55% of voters would like Ukraine to become part of the union. This compares with 45% who support Turkey's bid to join, a process which is due to be formally launched on October 3.
Pro-Ukraine campaigners will use the results to increase pressure on European leaders to give Kiev a start date for accession talks.
Laurent Dondey, spokesman for the pro-Ukraine Yes campaign, said: "This survey is very significant and a great surprise. There has been a big debate about Ukrainian membership but until now nobody was interested in the views of European citizens."
The Yes group commissioned the TNS Sofres polling group to survey opinions in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Britain and Poland.
Voters in Poland, which spearheaded the EU's diplomatic efforts to end the presidential standoff in Ukraine, are overwhelmingly in favour, with 77% for and 12% against.
Forty-nine per cent of voters in Britain support Ukrainian membership, with 27% against. French voters are broadly in favour (58% to 37%), but German voters are opposed by 53% to 41%.
The findings contrasted with the opposition to Turkish membership. French voters are strongly opposed (59% to 37%), as are the Germans (60% to 36%).
Only Poland (55%) recorded a majority in favour of Turkish membership. Half of British voters support Turkey, with 32% against.
Pro-Ukraine campaigners will be careful not to use the figures to criticise Turkey for fear of inflaming arguments about race.
Emmanuel Riviere, of TNS Sofres, said: "People who are against Turkish membership but who accept Ukraine feel it belongs to the European area. They see Turkey as outside their geographic area."
The Yes group said it would use the findings to say it is wrong to deny Ukraine's 48 million people, who live in the largest country wholly within Europe, the chance to join the EU.
"This survey will help Ukraine in its negotiations," Mr Dondey said.