Public opinion – stumbling block for enlargement?

DB Research Enlargement Monitor emphasises importance of public support for enlargement, both east and west

The latest issue of the

Deutsche Bank ResearchEU Enlargement Monitor quarterly emphasises the importance of public acceptance of enlargement. “It is increasingly important for the enlargement process that attention be devoted to the factors and motives that determine public opinion on the enlargement of the EU in the old and new member countries,” says the report. It gives an initial survey of public opinion on enlargement in the EU Member States and membership candidates.

According to latest Europe-wide public opinion research, the Eurobarometer, most candidate countries citizens would vote “yes” to EU membership in a referendum. While support in the 10 Central and Eastern European candidates averages 61 percent, less than half of Estonians (45 percent), Latvians (44 percent) and Lithuanians (40 percent) support EU membership.

DB Research warns that public acceptance of enlargement affects the process of economic alignment in the Central and Eastern European countries. In addition, it influences decisions by potential investors, who are “sometimes still hesitant to become engaged in the candidate countries owing to the half-hearted commitment and inadequate levels of support for enlargement in Western Europe”.

Support for enlargement is considerably lower in the 15 EU Member States, where it averaged only 44 percent, according to the latest Eurobarometer. DB Research says that “the public’s lack of information and irrational fears of the repercussions of enlargement make it easy for interest groups in east and west to magnify the alleged disadvantages of enlargement.”

DB Research considers public opinion on EU membership in the candidate countries as “an indicator of the willingness of the people to support their governments’ reforms in preparation for joining the Union.” It adds that the Commission and the Member States have realised the need for action in this respect and plan to raise public awareness of the opportunities which enlargement will create.

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