30% of Europeans think Ukraine should become part of EU to deter Russian aggression, new poll finds



Ukraine’s Institute of World Policy has released the first ever survey to understand how EU citizens perceive Ukraine, and the myths and stereotypes associated with Ukrainians. Conducted by the TNS company, the poll found that despite mostly negative associations with Ukraine, EU residents are willing to eventually see Ukraine as part of the EU.

Conducted in Germany, France, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom, and Poland, the survey involved 5594 people aged 16 to 54. They were asked to name their associations with Ukraine, to select positive reasons for and arguments against Ukraine’s future membership in the EU. The survey itself can be downloaded here. Main findings include:

1) The pool of associations with Ukraine is dominated by negative associations, the three key associations being war, Russia, and poverty. Neutral or positive associations are shared by an insignificant number of the average citizens of the surveyed states. Particularly, Ukraine is associated with war by 46% of the respondents.


Snapshot from the survey

Despite Russia’s aggressive propaganda, associations of Ukraine with fascism are virtually absent: only 0.41% respondents named this association, mostly in Italy and Spain. Surprisingly, Ukraine is less associated with Maidan, the square where the Euromaidan revolution took place (2%) than with the Orange revolution.

2) The three main arguments in favor of providing Ukraine with EU membership are that Ukraine is a part of Europe (31%), that Ukraine’s membership in the EU is a way to protect Ukraine from further Russian aggression (30%), and that Ukraine should have the same rights to gain EU membership as any other state (30%).

Some respondents (14%), however, note that Russia’s interests should be taken into account when addressing the issue of Ukraine’s European integration, a statement which is often repeated by Russian politicians. Despite numerous statements made by both EU authorities and the Ukrainian side regarding the strictly bilateral nature of the Association Agreement, the impact of Russian discourse on EU citizens’ public opinion is evident.

Despite the insignificant number of respondents associating Ukraine with Maidan, many EU citizens believe that Ukraine is a state that defends European values, and should be rewarded with membership prospects (15%). Other reasons for Ukraine’s membership in the EU include: this would expand the European stability space (15%), this would contribute to the EU’s economic growth (12%).

Only 1% of the respondents believe that Ukraine should not be allowed to join the European Union (mostly among French and Italian participants). The reasons elaborated for why Ukraine should not join the EU include: Ukraine is not a part of Europe; Ukraine’s membership in the EU could cause financial instability; Ukraine is not stable enough (is at war); the EU already has enough member states etc. This figure shows that skepticism towards Ukraine from European politicians and experts is exaggerated.

However, a considerably high percentage of the respondents was unwilling/unable to answer the questions, meaning that it could not provide any arguments in favor of Ukraine’s possible accession to the EU, with the highest numbers displayed in the UK (46%).

3) European respondents agreed that Ukraine’s way to the EU is mostly obstructed by corruption (35%), oligarchy (26%), and poverty (22%). Despite the rhetoric that Ukrainians are defending European values, 20% of respondents believe that Ukrainians have to prove their commitments to those values. This may indicate both the fact that the essence of the Revolution of Dignity (Euromaidan) is not fully understood in the EU, and the fact that the values themselves could be perceived differently by the interviewed EU citizens and the Ukrainians.

Ukraine’s membership prospects are unlikely without fighting corruption and oligarchy. These issues were named as critical for Ukraine’s European integration. Ultimately, the expectations of citizens of France and Italy are not different from those of the Ukrainians themselves.



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