European Perspective: Should the EU Accept New Members?

Jan 24, 2019

The European Union (EU) has continued to expand over the years, but adults in five European countries are not convinced the expansion should continue, according to a new Financial Times/Harris Poll. The poll showed that two-thirds of adults in France (67%) and over half of German adults (55%) believe the EU should not continue to take in new members. Just under half (47%) of British adults as well as 40% of Spanish adults also feel there should not be any more new members in the EU. Italy is the only European country to feel differently—just under half of Italians (48%) say the EU should continue to take on new member countries while 41% say the EU should not. While most U.S. adults are not sure (49%), 46% say the EU should continue to take on new members.

The Financial Times/Harris Poll was conducted online by Harris Interactive® among a total of 6,169 adults (aged 16 and over), within France, Germany, Great Britain, Spain, and the United States, and 1,090 adults (aged 18 and over) in Italy between May 31 and June 12, 2007.

One country that has been discussed as a potential European Union new member is Turkey. When asked if Turkey should be invited to join the EU, majorities of French (71%), German (66%) and Italian (55%) adults all say no, as do 46 % of both British and Spanish adults. British and Spanish adults are also more likely to say they are not sure (31% and 28%, respectively) than the other European countries.

Those who say they are either not sure or opposed to Turkey being invited to join the EU were asked a follow-up question. Of those who were asked this question, almost two in five Germans (38%) and just over one-third of Spanish adults (36%) say yes to Turkey joining if the country was to implement reforms desired by some EU member states. One-third (32%) of Italians and 21% of both British and French adults would also say yes to Turkey joining.

Combining these two groups (i.e., those who said yes to Turkey and yes to Turkey with reforms), half of Spanish (53%), Italians (53%) and German adults (51%) now say Turkey should be invited to join the EU as does a plurality (40%) of British adults. It is only the French who are still opposed; 54 % say no to Turkey, even with the reforms, and only one-third (34%) say yes.

Tony Blair as President?
One reform that has been discussed for the European Union is whether there should be a permanent president. Spain and Germany are the only two countries where adults believe this should happen (54% and 48% respectively). France is a little more divided as 44% do not think there should be a permanent president and 38% believe there should be one. In Great Britain and Italy, however, majorities are against this idea. Almost six in ten Italians (59%) and 52% of British adults believe there should not be a permanent president of the EU.

If there was a permanent president, however, don’t look to Tony Blair to fill the role. Majorities in Germany (64%), Great Britain (60%), Spain (56%) and France (53%) as well as 46% of Italians all say that Tony Blair would not make a good full-time president of the European Union. While 40% of US adults are not sure, they are Tony Blair’s strongest supporters, as two in five (40%) do say that he would make a good full-time president.

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