Brussels is brimming with the activities related to the historic expansion of the European Union. Luxembourg and Strasbourg look equally busy right now. “The Summits” are the talk of the town and excitement is in the air in the capitals of the candidate countries. But last week a poll drew our attention and talked of ignorance among the hosts “the citizens of European Union” about the guests arriving to stay forever, the “candidate countries.”
Lets have a look
at the results:
Poland, Turkey and the Czech Republic are the best know candidates for European Union membership, but many Europeans don’t know who the smaller hopefuls are, according to a European Commission poll released last Wednesday. The Eurobarometer survey, published a day ahead of an EU summit focusing on the financial costs of the bloc’s eastward expansion, said 68 percent of Europeans were either “totally or rather” in favour of enlargement.
Three out of four EU citizens had “heard of enlargement,” the poll revealed, but “knowledge about which countries are candidates for accession is low and very clearly focused on three candidates: Poland, Turkey and the Czech Republic.” None of the people questioned managed to identify Malta as an EU applicant and over 50 percent of the people queried knew none of the 13 candidate countries.
“There is a common view of the practical benefits of enlargement, including opening up of new markets and cultural enrichment,” Eurobarometer said. However, 63 percent of people believed that enlargement would be a costly affair and 60 percent said expansion would make it more difficult to control crime and drug smuggling. Fear of an influx of people into western Europe was especially strong in Spain and Portugal. Eurobarometer queried over 15,000 people aged 15 or over in September this year. A separate survey showed 60 percent support for EU membership in candidate countries but Eurobarometer warned that the proportion of people who believed EU entry was a “bad thing” had risen to 14 percent, up 4 percent from last autumn.
EU leaders were at the summit last weekend were expected to give the formal go-ahead to the membership in 2004 of Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, the Slovak Republic and Slovenia. All 10 countries would wrap up negotiations with the European Union at end 2002, with accession treaties expected in Spring 2003. Slow coaches Bulgaria and Romania were expecting a target accession date of 2007. In a rebuff to Ankara, EU leaders were not expected to set a date for opening membership talks with Turkey. (698)