Posted on May 15, 2024

Seven Out of 10 Europeans Believe Their Country Takes in Too Many Immigrants

Francisco Peregil, El Pais, May 7, 2024

Europeans view immigration with increasing suspicion. Seven out of 10 Europeans believe that their country takes in too many migrants, according to a survey carried out by BVA Xsight for ARTE Europe Weekly, a project led by the French-German TV channel ARTE GEIE and which EL PAÍS has participated in, as part of the countdown to the European elections in June.

The survey shows that 85% of respondents feel the European Union needs to take more action to combat irregular migration. And only 39% believe that Europe needs immigration today.

The countries where most people consider immigration a problem are Bulgaria (74% of respondents), the Czech Republic (73%), Hungary and Cyprus (68% in both cases). Paradoxically, in Italy, the European country where the largest number of immigrants entered irregularly last year (157,652), only 44% of respondents viewed it as a problem and only 14% saw it as the main problem. In Greece and Spain, the second and third countries with the most irregular arrivals in 2023, respectively, only 11% of respondents considered it the issue of most concern to them, below the European average of 17%. However, Greece is the country where the most people (90%) believe their country takes in too many migrants.

These are some of the conclusions from a survey carried out online between March 27 and April 9 in the 27 member states, where 22,726 people over 15 years of age were interviewed, with a representative sample from each country. In addition to El PAÍS, the media organizations Gazeta Wyborcza, Internazionale, Ir, Kathimerini, Le Soir and Telex collaborated in the survey.

Beyond the data on migration, health is the biggest concern for Europeans (41%), followed by the war in Ukraine (38%). The environment and inflation are tied in third place at 24%. Each country also presents some unique features when it comes to the order of priorities. In France, purchasing power is a top concern; in Poland people are particularly focused on security; the Irish are notably preoccupied with housing and Spaniards are very worried about unemployment.

This picture of Europeans’ concerns emerges one month before more than 400 million people from to the 27 countries of the European Union are called to vote in the elections to the European Parliament, which will be held between June 6 and 9. Voters will elect 705 MEPs in a chamber whose composition will be key to deciding issues such as pushing or stopping a policy of self-defense, and the promotion of measures for the green transition — under threat by the far right, which is forecast to perform well at the polls.

On the economic front, 73% of those surveyed feel optimistic about their personal future, although 57% believe that the economic situation in the EU has worsened and 63% feel the same way about their own country.

Only a third of respondents believe that EU decisions have a positive impact on their lives. And there is only one country, Portugal, where the majority (51%) highlighted the positive influence of the EU on their lives. Portugal is followed by Spain, Luxembourg, Malta and Romania, all of them with 43% positive responses. At the opposite pole, France and the Czech Republic (21% in both cases) are where the smallest number of people believe that the EU affects their lives favorably, followed by Hungary (24%) and the Netherlands (26%).

In the population as a whole, only 9% admit to feeling more European than their own nationality. In several of the member states that joined the EU most recently, citizens recognize that, when they vote, they prioritize their national needs over European ones: Romania (82%), Bulgaria (81%), Greece and Latvia (79% in both cases). However, the majority of countries would like to see the common European policy strengthened, especially in defense (72%) and immigration (70%).