According to latest polling information released by the European Commission, immigration is the main concern of Europeans, ahead of economic problems and unemployment. The 38 per cent of respondents across the European Union citing immigration as their top concern contrasts to a similar poll last November when the economic situation, employment, and public deficits topped the list.
AFP reports since November immigration has become “a hot topic, with Italy, Greece and Malta having to deal with unprecedented arrivals by sea from Africa and the Middle East.” Calais, described as “the latest flashpoint” where “each day hundreds of migrants attempt to sneak across to Britain via the Channel tunnel” is also cited.
The Spring 2015 Standard Eurobarometer poll showed that at 38 per cent, the issue of immigration at a European level is “now way ahead” of the economic situation, which was top concern for 27 per cent of the people polled, just ahead of unemployment at 24 per cent.
The Standard Eurobarometer, established in 1973, is a twice-yearly European Union-wide poll consisting of approximately 1,000 face-to-face interviews per country. As such results do differ from one member state to another.
Immigration is the number one most frequently cited concern in 20 out of 28 Member States. It reaches the highest points in Malta (65 per cent), a popular entry point for North African migrants, and, perhaps surprisingly, Germany (55 per cent). In Italy, where tens of thousands of migrants have risked everything to make the perilous journey across the Mediterranean sea, immigration was top concern for 43 per cent of people.
Post-Charlie Hebdo and Tunisia, concern for terrorism has also gone up significantly since the winter poll in November 2014, climbing six points to 17 per cent.
The news was not all negative for the European Commission, however, as the poll reports “expectations for the economy are improving” and, inexplicably, “support for the euro remains stable”. Furthermore the number of Europeans who say they have a positive image of the EU has risen from 39 per cent last November to 41 per cent in May, with only 19 per cent having a negative image.
That said, the survey took place between 16 and 27 May, more than a month before Greece’s referendum on the bailout which will doubtless change some opinion on the Continent.
In the UK 32 per cent register a positive image of the EU, 28 per cent register negative but 37 per cent are neutral towards it, suggesting there are a lot of potential targets for both sides to go after in the upcoming referendum.