Support for EU enlargement slips below 50 percent in several candidate countries
Public acceptance of enlargement is key to the success of the process which entails painful reforms and restructuring. EU Member States public opinion fears falling living standards and mass immigration of cheap labour from the East. Eastern Europeans are afraid of the sale of their cheap real estate, loss of livelihood for farmers and the shutting down of uncompetitive industry.
Support for EU enlargement has recently fallen in several candidate countries. In Estonia it has gone from 51 percen in March to 53 percent in April. Support for enlargement has shrunk to 41 percent in Latvia and 48 percent in Slovenia in opinion polls published this week.
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 the 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, it is only 44 percent in the fifteen EU Member States.
Deutsche Bank Research warns that public opinion on enlargement 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". 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."
The European Commission is launching a major information and communication
strategyto inform the public both in the current and future Member States of the realities of the EU's enlargement process.