29th Sep 2023

Immigration rises to top three issue for EU citizens, survey finds

  • Rising costs remain by far the most pressing issue for 45 percent of European citizens (Photo: Unsplash)
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Immigration has risen to the top three of European citizens' concerns, according to an Eurobarometer survey published by the European Commission on Monday (10 July).

Inflation and the cost of living, and the war in Ukraine, remain the two most pressing current issues facing EU voters, but immigration has moved from sixth to third place in just six months.

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And the differences between EU citizens' first concern and the second and third are tiny: 27 percent replied inflation, 25 percent the international situation and 24 percent immigration.

In addition, almost three-quarters of respondents are in favour of strengthening the EU's external borders and more than two-thirds support a common European asylum system.

In contrast with the immigration issue, concerns about Europe's energy supply dropped sharply, by ten percentage points — and more than eight-out-of-ten respondents said the EU should invest in renewable energy and increase energy efficiency.

With European elections scheduled for June 2024 and domestic elections in countries such as Spain, Luxembourg, Poland, and the Netherlands in the coming months, the survey shows which issues are of most concern to voters on the ground.

On a national level, rising costs remain by far the most pressing issue for 45 percent of European citizens, who have seen food and energy prices soar in the wake of the coronavirus crisis and Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Economic prospects have improved since the last survey in January and February, but all member states — except Portugal — still believe that the national economy will stay the same or get worse over the next year.

Despite a party political backlash of 'regulatory fatigue' against the EU's Green Deal, the environment and climate change have also risen up the agenda of Europeans at national level, alongside other issues such as housing, pensions and education.

Trust the EU — or not?

Overall, neither the rise of the far-right parties in some European countries nor the Qatargate scandal in the European parliament seem to have affected citizens' image of the EU.

Citizens' trust in the European Union has remained stable, and acceptance of European institutions remains higher than that of national ones (47 percent vs 32-33 percent).

(Photo: European Commission)

Denmark, Portugal and Sweden are the member states where political trust in the EU institutions is highest.

In Greece, France, and Cyprus the picture is quite the opposite, with 54-56 percent of respondents saying they do not trust the EU.

On the other hand, trust in the EU-27 has improved among the candidate countries. However, it remains very low in Serbia, Moldova, North Macedonia and Turkey (despite an increase of 12 percentage points), where it does not even reach half of the population.

The survey could not be conducted in Ukraine "due to the situation on the ground", but the majority of member states agree with the decision to grant it potential EU candidate status, albeit with nuances.

Opposition was strong in countries such as Austria, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, where at least 45 percent of respondents said they disagreed with the decision.

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