Earlier this year, Eurobarometer started asking members what they thought about future EU expansion. The results (which can be found here, as a pdf) were pretty interesting.
52% of Europeans support membership for Croatia, while only 34% oppose it. (War criminals? What war criminals?) And 50% support membership for Bulgaria. But only 45% support Romania coming in. Which is a bit embarrassing, given that the EU has already firmly committed to Romanian membership, even if it might be delayed for a year.
Still, the Romanians can take comfort; they’re well ahead of Serbia (40%), Albania (36%) and Turkey (dead last, with 35% of Europeans supporting Turkish membership and 52% against).
Where this gets interesting — in a Eurovision-y sort of way — is when you start to break it down by country.
(If you want to see all the gritty details, open that .pdf file and scroll down to the last 10 pages or so.)
Broadly speaking, support for further enlargement of the EU is strongest in the ten New Member States (NMS, for short). When asked if EU enlargement in general was a good idea, 76% of Poles, 79% of Slovenes and 66% of Hungarians said “yes”. Only 33% of Germans, 32% of French and 31% of Austrians agreed. Europe as a whole is split exactly down the middle on enlargement — 50% of Europeans think it’s a good idea — but there’s a whopping difference between the 15 old Member States and the 10 new ones: 43% vs. 70%.
And when you start asking about particular states, once again the old/new split is very clear. No matter which potential member is under discussion, the New Ten are more enthusiastic than the Old Fifteen.
Croatia? 48% of respondents in the EU-15 say yes, but 72% in the NMS. Bulgaria? 46% and 70% respectively. Even the Romanians get a 58% rating from the new EU members… as opposed to a less-good 43% from the EU-15.
And Turkey? 48% of respondents in the NMS think Turkey should be a member. That’s pretty high. Of course, it has to be balanced against a 32% “yes” vote in the EU-15.
Looking even more closely, we find some odd connections. Who’s giving whom the coveted douze? Well, for Croatia, the biggest supporters are the Slovenes, the Slovaks, the Hungarians and the Czechs — all over 75%. One could almost believe in Habsburg nostalgia! (But probably not. All those countries are big investors in Croatia.) The biggest anti-Croat votes? The Germans, with just 42% in favor and 51% agains. Which is interesting, given German support for Croatia’s independence, back when.
For Bulgaria, the big boosters are Poles, Slovaks, and Slovenes — all over 70% “yes” — with Swedes, Lithuanians, Czechs and Cypriots also pretty enthusiastic at 65% or higher. Slav-on-Slav love may explain some of this, with the Orthodox Cypriots rooting for another Orthodox country, but why are the Swedes and Lithuanians so Bulgarophilic? Whatever the magic is, it doesn’t work on the Germans (35% “yes”, 59% “no”) or the Austrians (21% “yes”, 68% “no”).
(Still, overall Bulgaria seems to be surprisingly popular. It seems Bulgaria has somehow crept into our hearts. Go figure.)
Romania? Mad props from the Cypriots and Slovenes at 70% or more, and solid support as well from the Swedes, Slovaks, Poles and Greeks. But poor Romania gets little love from France (43% “yes”, 48% “no”). Pretty sad, given that Romania has traditionally looked to France as a friend and role model; perhaps Romanian support for the US on the Iraq war made a lasting impression, there. And as for Austria and Germany… well, only 28% of Germans and 17% of Austrians support Romanian accession, while clear majorities in both countries oppose it.
Turkey? Hoo boy. Nobody’s very enthusiastic about Turkish membership, but at least they get a majority “yes” in Poland and Slovakia, and plurality “yes” votes — under 50%, but still higher than the “no” — in Spain, Sweden, Ireland, Latvia, Hungary, Portugal, Belgium, and Great Britain.
(Yah, that’s right… 45% of Brits said “yes” to Turkish membership, while only 37% said no. Interesting, no? But then, when it comes to expansion, Britain is weird. The Brits dislike the idea of expansion — only 48% support it, less than the EU average — but they like all the individual applicants quite a lot. Go figure.)
On the other hand: very firm “no” votes from Germany, France, Greece, Estonia, Cyprus, Luxembourg, and Austria. With the French at 70/21, and the Germans at 74/20, there’s clearly some very serious resistance to Turkish accession.
What’s interesting is that almost everyone varies at least occasionally. The French may be very down on the Turks, but they’re cool with Bulgaria. Most countries have no interest in letting Albania in the club, but the Slovenes and the Maltese are all for it. (Small country bias?) The Swedes are mostly pro-expansion, but get cold feet when it comes to Turkey. The Spanish and the Portuguese seem to be the mirror image of the Brits… they like expansion in the abstract (56% support) but get nervous about some of the new members in particular.
Still, some patterns emerge. Sweden and Great Britain are the most pro-expansion among the EU-15. Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia stand out among the NMS, with the Hungarians and Czechs a bit more cautious, and the Cypriots and Maltese seeming to vote some sort of perceived national agenda. Germany, Luxembourg, France and Austria are most strongly against expansion, both in general and in specific.
The most anti-expansion country in Europe? Austria. They’re consistent almost across the board: they don’t want EU expansion either in general or in specific.
Oh, they have a bit of a soft spot for Croatia… 45% would support Croatian membership, 46% against it. Sentimentality for the old Habsburg connection; or, perhaps, the fact that Austria has a lot of money invested in Croatia, and no other cheap beaches within reach. Still, it’s a net “nein”.
And when you ask Austrians about other potential members… phew:
— Yes 21% No 68%
— Yes 19% No 69%
— Yes 17% No 73%
— Yes 13% No 77%
— Yes 10% No 80%
Defenders of Christendom, anyone?