Bulgarians see immigration as biggest issue facing EU, 77% oppose migration by non-EU nationals

Sixty-two per cent of Bulgarians see immigration as the most important issue facing the European Union while 42 per cent see terrorism as the biggest issue facing the bloc, the latest regular survey by Eurobarometer has found.

While 61 per cent of Bulgarians have a positive attitude to migration from elsewhere in the EU, 77 per cent have a negative attitude to migration by non-EU citizens.

This negative attitude to migration by non-EU nationals has grown by five points since Eurobarometer’s spring 2016 survey.

Bulgarians, while seeing immigration and terrorism as the most important issues facing the EU, with the economic situation in third place at 12 per cent, had different priorities when it came to their own country, the Eurobarometer poll found.

The most important issues facing Bulgaria were unemployment (30 per cent), immigration (29 per cent) and the economic situation (30 per cent), according to the survey, which allowed respondents to choose two issues out of a number of options.

The Eurobarometer survey found that, at a personal level – as opposed to a national level- Bulgarians saw the main issues facing them as rising prices, inflation and cost of living (30 per cent), health and social security (20 per cent) and pensions (21 per cent).

Just less than half of Bulgarians – 49 per cent – had a positive image of the EU, a drop of two points compared with the spring 2016 Eurobarometer survey. Thirty-three per cent had a neutral image, a gain of three points, and 16 per cent had a “totally negative” image of the EU, a drop of one point since the previous survey.

At the same time, 55 per cent of Bulgarians were optimistic about the future of the EU, though this was a drop of three points since the spring.

Eighty-seven per cent of Bulgarians favoured free movement of goods, persons and services, five per cent were against and eight per cent answered “don’t know”.

Fifty per cent of Bulgarians opposed the euro, the bloc’s common currency. Bulgarians, who currency is the lev (pegged to the euro by a currency board arrangement) were 38 per cent for, while 12 per cent answered “don’t know”.

The Eurobarometer survey was done between November 3 and 16 2016, in the 28 member countries of the EU and the five candidate countries.

The newest survey found that migration and terrorism remain by far the most important issues facing the EU, according to respondents in the countries.

However, both issues have lost ground since spring 2016. At 45 per cent, immigration has lost a further three percentage points following a 10-point decrease between autumn 2015 and spring 2016.

Mentioned by close to a third of EU citizens, terrorism has lost seven percentage points since spring 2016, after the sharp 14-point rise registered between autumn 2015 and spring 2016.

The economic situation remains third (20 per cent), ahead of the state of member states’public finances (17 per cent) and unemployment (16 per cent); these three items have each recorded a one-point increase since spring 2016.

One in 10 EU citizens mention the EU’s influence in the world (10 per cent, +3 percentage points), which thus achieved a double digit score for the first time since autumn 2010 when this question was first asked.

Other items are mentioned by less than 10 per cent of the population, but apart from crime (8 per cent, -1) and energy supply (3 per cent, unchanged), they have all have gained ground since spring 2016, though to a limited extent.

Mentioned by 45 per cent of Europeans, immigration is seen as the most important concern in 26
EU countries (up from 20 in spring 2016), reaching its highest scores in Estonia (70 per cent), Hungary
(65 per cent) and Malta (65 per cent).

It is the second most important concern in Spain, and the third in Portugal.

Close to a third of EU citizens mention terrorism (32 per cent, in second position); this is perceived as the
most important concern in Spain (33 per cent), and stands in second place in 21 member states, including
the Czech Republic (47 per cent), Malta (45 per cent) and Latvia (45 per cent), where it reaches its highest scores.

Immigration and terrorism are mentioned as the first or second most important issue facing the EU in all member states except Portugal, Italy, Greece, Denmark, Sweden and Finland.

The economic situation is seen as one of the most important problems facing the EU by one in five Europeans (20 per cent, in third place). It is in second position in Greece (33 per cent), Sweden (25 per cent), Portugal (24 per cent) and Denmark (23 per cent), and also scores highly in Spain (31 per cent, third place) and Cyprus (28 per cent, fourth place).

With 17 per cent of mentions at EU level, the state of member states’ public finances remains in fourth position, but is in first place in Portugal (38 per cent).

Unemployment is mentioned by 16 per cent of EU citizens, in fifth position, and by more than a quarter of respondents in Cyprus (29 per cent) and Italy (27 per cent).

Mentioned by eight per cent of Europeans, in equal seventh position along with climate change and rising prices/inflation/cost of living, crime is in third place in Romania (16 per cent), while climate change reaches its highest score in Sweden (22 per cent, third place).

A majority of Europeans have a neutral image of the EU, with a result which remains unchanged for the third successive time (38 per cent, unchanged since spring 2015).

After a one-point increase, more than a third of Europeans (35 per cent) have a positive image of the EU.

While this proportion decreased between spring 2015 and spring 2016 (-7 percentage points, from 41 per cent in spring 2015 down to 34 per cent in spring 2016), the negative trend has now halted.

Meanwhile, the proportion of Europeans who have a negative image of the EU has lost ground (-2 since spring 2016, at 25 per cent) but still represents one European in four.

In 20 Member States, a majority of citizens have a neutral image of the EU (up from 17 in spring 2016), with the highest scores registered in Spain (51 per cent) and Latvia (50 per cent).

In seven countries, a positive image of the EU is predominant: Ireland (55 per cent), Poland (51 per cent), Romania (50 per cent), Bulgaria (49 per cent), Portugal (48 per cent), Luxembourg (47 per cent), but also the United Kingdom (34 per cent).

Respondents in Greece stand out, being now the only ones for whom the EU conjures up a negative image (47 per cent), as in spring 2016.

The EU now has a neutral image for a majority of respondents in France (39 per cent) and in Belgium (38 per cent), where it was seen in a predominantly positive light in spring 2016, and in Austria (36 per cent) and Cyprus (38 per cent), where the majority were negative in spring 2016.

Conversely, a majority of respondents have a positive image of the EU in Romania (50 per cent), where the majority were neutral in spring 2016, and in the United Kingdom (34 per cent), where the majority were negative in spring 2016.

Compared with spring 2016, more respondents now have a positive image of the EU in 15 member states, with the most significant increases in Romania (50 per cent, +8 percentage points, following the 15-point decrease seen between autumn 2015 and spring 2016) and Germany (37 per cent, +8).

The positive image has remained unchanged in four countries, and has lost ground in nine, most strikingly in France (29 per cent, -7).

More than eight in 10 EU citizens are in favour of “the free movement of EU citizens who can live, work, study and do business anywhere in the EU” (81 per cent, +2 percentage points), and this opinion is shared by more than two-thirds of respondents in all 28 EU member states.

In Luxembourg (96 per cent), Estonia (95 per cent), Lithuania (95 per cent), Latvia (94 per cent), Spain (91 per cent), and Germany, Slovenia and Ireland (all 90 per cent), at least nine in 10 respondents support “the free movement of EU citizens who can live, work, study and do business anywhere in the EU”, while at the other end of the scale, support is somewhat less widespread in Austria (67 per cent), the United Kingdom (68 per cent), and Italy and Denmark (both 72 per cent).

Opposition to the free movement of EU citizens is strongest in Austria (29 per cent), the United Kingdom (24 per cent), and Italy, Denmark and Belgium (all 20 per cent), the Eurobarometer survey found.

(Photo: (copyright) Clive Leviev-Sawyer)




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