A European Commission-funded survey found that immigration has overtaken economic themes as the most important issue facing the EU. These economic issues have “led the hierarchy of main concerns since this question was first asked in 2010”.
In the midst of Europe’s migrant crisis, the Eurobarometer study, conducted by TNS Opinion and Social, examined public feelings towards the issue both in EU member states and non-member states, resulting in a mixture of responses. The report was carried out between May 16 and 27 in 34 countries or territories: the 28 EU member states, five candidate countries (Macedonia, Turkey, Montenegro, Serbia and Albania) and the Turkish Cypriot Community in the part of the country that is not controlled by the government of the Republic of Cyprus.
Almost all of the EU's 28 countries were markedly more positive about immigrants from inside the EU than out. The average percentage of positive opinion towards EU migrants was 11 percentage points (pp) higher than that of non-EU migrants.
Latvia, Slovakia and the Czech Republic were among the countries that scored the lowest along with Italy, Greece and Cyprus, with just between 10% and 20% of the population responding positively to immigration from outside the EU. These results are supported by a report this month of a surge of anti-migrant protests in the eastern part of the EU. Demonstrations have been staged across Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, all of which dismissed the idea of accepting migrants, rejecting Germany’s appeals for solidarity on the issue.
The study also looked at what the public perceived as the biggest problem facing the EU at this time. With the problem so close to home, and the extensive media coverage it has received, over 70% of countries unsurprisingly labelled immigration as the EU’s number one challenge.
Unemployment, the economic situation and member states’ public finances were amongst other priority issues according to the remaining 30% of EU countries. Romania stood alone, as one of the countries not on the front line of the migrant crisis, and named terrorism as the most important issue facing the EU.
According to former deputy director of the Romanian Intelligence service, Mircea Gheordunescu, although Romania does not suffer from domestic terrorism, there are “a large number of illegal structures belonging to foreign terrorist organizations acting within Romanian national boundaries.”
Along with more recent reports of terror threats, and the relocation of terrorists to Romania, the media is keeping the issue in the public eye.
More Europeans have a positive view of the EU than neutral or negative. Support for the EU has increased, with 71% of Europeans supporting a common policy on immigration and 58% optimistic about the future of the EU. For the first time, two-thirds of Europeans feel that they are citizens of the EU, the highest proportion that the study has recorded.