South, East EU Worry More about Emigration than Immigration, ECFR Poll Finds

South, East EU Worry More about Emigration than Immigration, ECFR Poll Finds

Large swaths of the Southern and Eastern EU are worried about population loss.

Emigration is a greater concern than immigration for many in the southern and eastern member states of the European Union, with some now even favoring “emigration controls”, a survey of the European Council on Foreign Relations think tank has found.

Six EU member states – Romania, Poland, and Hungary in Eastern Europe and Spain, Italy, and Greece in Southern Europe – are more concerned with the effects of emigration than with immigration, according to the poll.

The member states in question are countries with rapidly declining or at least flatlining population levels, with Romania seeing the steepest fall of nearly 10% in the past decade as many of its young people have emigrated to Western Europe.

The ECFR survey was carried out by YouGov, and questioned close to 50,000 people in a total of 14 EU member states that will occupy 80% of the seats in the new European Parliament. The aim of the poll was to find out the major concerns of the EU citizens ahead of the EU elections on May 23-26, 2019.

In the survey as a whole, 20% were worried about emigration and 32% about immigration, the ECFR said, as cited by The Guardian.

While immigration far surpassed emigration as a concern in northern and western EU countries, in some of the southern and eastern member states it was deemed so major an issue that some respondents even advocated banning their compatriots from leaving for long periods of time.

The ECFR poll found that Islamic radicalism was the top area of concern, with one in five Europeans worried about it. Respectively, however, northwest member states such as Belgium, France and the Netherlands have much higher fears of Islamic radicalism than the countries of Eastern Europe.

Corruption, nationalism, terrorism, climate change, and economy are the top concerns for the Europeans in the survey EU member states.

Corruption topped the list for more than 50% of the citizens in seven EU countries: Poland, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Greece, Italy, and Spain. In three – Italy, Romania, and Greece – the economy was the top concern.

“The EU elections have been sold as a battleground over the heart of Europe,” said Mark Leonard, Director of the ECFR, pointing out that nationalists had been trying to make the upcoming European Parliament vote into a referendum on migration.

“The findings from this poll should give heart to pro-Europeans, and show that there are still votes to be won on major issues such as climate change, healthcare, housing, and living standards,” Leonard said.

“They will be making a strategic blunder if they accept the framing of the anti-European parties that this election will be won or lost on migration alone,” he elaborated.

Some 375 million voters will be eligible to elect 705 MEPs who will take office on July 2, 2019, in an election that is second in scope only to India’s.

For the time being, the UK is not expected to participate in the EU elections. It has until April 12 to notify the EU of whether it would participate which would mean that it would be seeking a more substantial delay of Brexit.

(Banner image: European Commission)

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