Just 37 per cent of Bulgarians are in favour of the euro, a drop of six percentage points in recent months, with 49 per cent opposing the European single currency, according the results of a survey newly-released by Eurostat.
An EU member since January 2007, Bulgaria continues to use the national currency, the lev, pegged by a Currency Board arrangement to the euro.
Forty-eight per cent of Bulgarians had a positive image of the EU, down by seven percentage points, while 17 per cent had a “totally negative” view of the EU, up by three percentage points.
Fifty-six per cent of Bulgarians polled declared themselves “totally positive” about the future of the EU while 33 per cent were totally pessimistic.
The results of the autumn survey announced by Eurostat on December 23 also found that Bulgarians saw immigration as the biggest challenge facing the EU, although at national level, the biggest challenge was seen as unemployment.
Among Bulgarians, asked to name the top two challenges to the EU from among a range of options, the results were immigration 61 per cent and terrorism 38 per cent. At national level, however, the top challenges were seen as unemployment 39 per cent, the economic situation 33 per cent and immigration 21 per cent.
Across all EU countries, immigration is considered to be the most important issue facing the EU: it is mentioned by 58 per cent of Europeans, after a 20-point increase since spring 2015, Eurostat said.
Since spring 2013, mentions of immigration have increased continuously: +2 percentage points in spring 2013; +6 in autumn 2013; +5 in spring 2014; +3 in autumn 2014; +14 in spring 2015, and +20 in autumn 2015.
Immigration is followed by terrorism (25 per cent, +8 percentage points since spring 2015, and +19 since spring 2014).
The economic situation (21 per cent, -6), unemployment (17 per cent, -7) and the state of EU member states’ public finances (17 per cent, -6) are in third and equal fourth place, respectively.
In 27 EU countries, immigration is perceived as the most important issue facing the EU. It is mentioned by 58 per cent of respondents across the EU, and reaches its highest levels in Estonia (79 per cent) and the Czech Republic, Denmark and Germany (all 76 per cent); its lowest score was found in Spain (39 per cent).
Portugal stands out as the only country where immigration comes in second position (31 per cent), after the state of member states’ public finances (38 per cent).
Mentioned by a quarter of Europeans (25 per cent), terrorism is now seen as the second main issue facing the EU.
Respondents in Romania (43 per cent), Slovakia (39 per cent) and Latvia (39 per cent) are the most likely to cite this item, which stands in second place in 15 EU countries.
In third place at EU level, the economic situation is cited by 21 per cent of Europeans, and is identified as the second most important problem in five countries: Greece (36 per cent), Sweden (28 per cent), the Netherlands (25 per cent), Denmark (22 per cent) and Slovenia (19 per cent).
Unemployment, the fourth concern at EU level (17 per cent of Europeans on average), comes second in three countries: Cyprus (43 per cent), Luxembourg (32 per cent) and Spain (25 per cent).
The state of member states’ public finances, which is in equal fourth position at EU level (17 per cent) and in first position in Portugal, is the second item mentioned in three member states: Finland (30 per cent), Austria (28 per cent) and Germany (25 per cent). In Italy, the economic situation
and unemployment are in equal second place (25 per cent for both items).
As to main concerns at national level, after a 13-point increase since spring 2015, immigration is now seen as the main concern (36 per cent), in equal first place with unemployment (36 per cent, -6 percentage points).
It is the first time that an item not directly related to the economy has headed the list, Eurostat said.
All other issues are mentioned by less than a fifth of Europeans: the economic situation is in third position (19 per cent, -2), while health and social security (14 per cent, -4) and rising prices/inflation/cost of living (14 per cent, unchanged) share the fourth place. Terrorism is now the sixth concern of Europeans at national level, after a 4-point increase (11 per cent).
While the image of the EU was predominantly positive in the surveys of autumn 2014 and spring 2015, it is now primarily neutral once again: 37 per cent of Europeans have a positive image of the EU (-4 percentage points since spring 2015), while 38 per cent have a neutral image (unchanged).
The proportion of Europeans for whom the EU conjures up a negative image has risen to 23 per cent (+4); before this, it had declined continuously in the four previous surveys.
The European Union tends to conjure up a positive image in 11 member states (down from 15 in spring 2015).
The countries where respondents are most likely to have a positive image of the EU are Romania (57 per cent), Poland (55 per cent), Ireland (54 per cent), Lithuania (53 per cent) and Croatia (51 per cent).
The EU’s image is neutral for a majority of the population in 15 countries (up from 10), and negative in Cyprus and Austria (the same countries as in spring 2015).
The positive image of the EU has lost ground in 24 member states, most strikingly in Estonia (36 per cent, -13 percentage points), Germany (34 per cent, -11) and the Czech Republic (27 per cent, -10).
While optimism about the future of the EU had grown continuously since autumn 2013, it has now lost some ground: 53 per cent of Europeans now say they are optimistic about the future of the EU (-5 percentage points since spring 2015). Meanwhile, pessimism has increased (41 per cent, +5), exceeding 40 per cent for the first time since autumn 2013.
A majority of respondents are optimistic about the future of the EU in 22 member states (down from 26 in spring 2015), led by Ireland (76 per cent), Romania (73 per cent) and Poland (70 per cent).
At the other end of the scale, optimism is the lowest in Greece (34 per cent vs. 63 per cent “pessimistic”), Cyprus (37 per cent vs. 58 per cent) and Austria (40 per cent vs. 56 per cent). Majorities are pessimistic in these three countries and in France (44 per cent vs. 52 per cent), Germany (46 per cent vs. 48 per cent) and Czech Republic (47 per cent vs. 51 per cent).
Optimism has lost ground in 25 EU countries since spring 2015, most strikingly in Germany (46 per cent, -14 percentage points) and in the Netherlands (58 per cent, -13).
Europeans’ perceptions of their national economy continue to improve, though they are still predominantly negative: 40 per cent consider that the national economic situation is ‘good’ (+2 percentage points since spring 2015), while 57 per cent think it is ‘bad’ (-2).
Though these perceptions are improving in the EU as a whole, the gap between countries remains extremely wide, Eurostat said: as in spring 2015, 83 points separate Germany, where 86 per cent of the population say that the situation of their national economy is good, from Greece (3 per cent).
More than three-quarters of the population see their national economy in a positive light in Germany (86 per cent), Malta (85 per cent), Luxembourg (85 per cent), Denmark (83 per cent), the Netherlands (79 per cent) and Sweden (76 per cent).
In a second group of countries, this opinion is less widespread, but is still held by a majority of respondents: Ireland (57 per cent), the United Kingdom (53 per cent), the Czech Republic (51 per cent), Austria (51 per cent), Poland (47 per cent vs. 46 per cent ‘bad’) and Estonia (47 per cent vs.
46 per cent). Overall, positive views are predominant in 12 member states (up from eight in spring 2015).
A majority of respondents are still pessimistic in 16 Member States, with the fewest describing the national economy as ‘good’ in Greece (3 per cent), Portugal (8 per cent), Spain (9 per cent) and Bulgaria (9 per cent).
Positive impressions of the current situation of the national economy have gained ground in 17 EU countries, most steeply in Ireland (57 per cent, +10 percentage points since spring 2015) and Slovakia (30 per cent, +10).
They have remained unchanged in five countries, and have lost ground in six: Austria (51 per cent, -5), the United Kingdom (53 per cent, -3), Portugal (8 per cent, -2), Sweden (76 per cent, -2), Hungary (29 per cent, -1) and Lithuania (37 per cent, -1).
Europeans remain divided regarding the impact of the economic crisis on jobs: after a 4-point increase since spring 2015, a narrow majority think that “the worst is still to come” (46 per cent) whereas 44 per cent think that “the impact of the crisis on jobs has already reached its peak” (-4 percentage points).
Europeans remain uncertain about the effects of the crisis on jobs; since
autumn 2013, the majority opinion has changed in each survey.
Majorities of respondents believe that “the impact of the crisis on jobs has already reached its peak” in 12 member states. This opinion is most widespread in Ireland (75 per cent), Denmark (70 per cent), and the Netherlands (70 per cent). Overall, more than half of the population share this view in nine EU countries.
At the other end of the scale, majorities of the population consider that “the worse is still to come” in 16 member states, led by Greece (70 per cent), Luxembourg (64 per cent), and France (63 per cent).
Compared with spring 2015, optimism has declined in 25 member states, led by Greece (28 per cent, -16 percentage points), Slovenia (38 per cent, -14) and Slovakia (43 per cent, -12).
The majority opinion has reversed in seven countries: Slovenia, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Finland, Lithuania, Sweden and Estonia. Italy (57 per cent, +7), Croatia (59 per cent, +3) and Ireland (75 per cent, +1) are the only three countries where optimism has gained ground.
More than half of Europeans support “a European economic and monetary union with one single currency, the euro” (56 per cent, -1 percentage point), while 37 per cent say they are against (+1).
While support for the euro has increased continuously since autumn 2013 (EB80), the positive trend has halted, though evolutions are limited, Eurostat said.
Support for the euro continues to differ noticeably within and outside the euro area. Support remains very widespread in the euro area (68 per cent, -1 percentage point, vs. 26 per cent, +1).
Outside the euro area, however, less than a third of respondents are now in favour of the euro after a 1-point decrease (32 per cent), while the proportion of those who oppose the single currency has remained unchanged (58 per cent).
Majorities of respondents are in favour of the euro in 22 member states (up from 21 in spring 2015): the number of countries where this is the majority opinion has risen, while support has declined at EU level. Support for the euro varies widely between member states: 62 points separate Estonia, where respondents are the most likely to support the single currency (82 per cent), from the Czech Republic and the United Kingdom (20 per cent in both cases).
Estonia is followed by Luxembourg (80 per cent), Belgium (79 per cent), Slovakia (78 per cent), Slovenia (77 per cent) and Ireland (76 per cent).
At the other end of the scale, majorities oppose the euro in the Czech Republic (75 per cent), the United Kingdom (73 per cent), Sweden (71 per cent), Denmark (64 per cent), Poland (52 per cent) and Bulgaria (49 per cent), six EU countries that are outside the euro area.
Support for the euro has decreased in 18 Member States since spring 2015, led by Lithuania (67 per cent, -6 percentage points), Latvia (72 per cent, -6), Hungary (49 per cent, -6) and Bulgaria (37 per cent, -6).
It has remained stable in four countries, and has risen in in six: Spain (67 per cent, +6), Portugal (67 per cent, +5), Cyprus (49 per cent, +5), Belgium (79 per cent, +4), Poland (34 per cent, +2) and Greece (70 per cent, +1). Cyprus has now joined the group of countries where a majority of respondents support the euro.
(Photo: Carlos Paes/sxc.hu)