A new study reveals that migration is not the primary concern of European voters, who are more concerned with national issues such as corruption, unemployment and costs of living. EURACTIV France reports.
Viktor Orbán, Matteo Salvini and Steve Bannon contend that the EU elections taking place from 23 to 26 May are first and foremost a referendum on migration. Emmanuel Macron, despite being pro-EU, also acknowledged that the campaign will focus on this very issue.
However, according to a survey of a European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) reflection group, the topic is not that important to Europeans. They are more worried about national issues such as corruption, costs of living, health, housing and unemployment.
This is particularly the case for France: 36% of the respondents agreed that living costs are the main issue, as opposed to only 21% who consider that to be migration.
Other consultations, such as the one led by WeEuropeans or citizen consultations on Europe in France, came to similar conclusions.
“Viktor Orbán, Matteo Salvini and Steve Bannon are attempting to transform these elections into a referendum on migration, by mobilising a sovereigntist coalition to dismantle the EU from the inside,” said Mark Leonard, Director of ECFR.
“The results should warm the hearts of pro-Europeans and demonstrate that there are still votes to be won on major issues such as climate change, health, housing and living conditions,” he said.
In Western Europe, voters are largely in favour of efforts made to relocate refugees, as demonstrated in the YouGov survey that was conducted in 14 EU member states, representing 80% of the seats in the EU Parliament.
In Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands and Sweden, countries that have been the most affected by the 2015 migration crisis, voters assiduously defend a related proposal made by the European Commission, which was never adopted because Eastern European countries disagreed.
The survey essentially reveals diverse priorities and concerns that depend on the national context. Greeks, Italians and Hungarians are particularly worried by the corruption that they see as gnawing away at their countries. Spaniards (42% of those surveyed) consider unemployment to be a bigger problem than migration.
The environment is a priority
In economic terms, Europeans are relatively pessimistic about the robustness of their national economy. Yet, in 13 of the 14 countries surveyed, a majority of citizens demand better environmental protection – even if it will have repercussions on economic growth.
This is the case in France, where 48% of the surveyed believe that environmental protection needs to be prioritised even if this would jeopardise economic growth.
“Pro-European officials risk will be making an enormous mistake if they accept the view spread by anti-EU parties, who contend that this election depends on the migration issue,” said ECFR’s Mark Leonard.
“To mobilise those voters, however, pro-European parties will still provide a serious and honest evaluation of the EU’s failures,” he added.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]