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Bulgarians support EU membership but express growing scepticism towards EU policies

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The majority of Bulgarians like the European Union and do not question the country’s EU path, but there is increasing scepticism about certain EU policies and the EU’s management, according to a survey by the Alpha Research sociological agency published on Wednesday.

About 60% of Bulgarians support Bulgaria’s membership in the EU and are not looking for any other geopolitical alternative for the country. At the same time, Bulgaria’s failure to catch up with wealthier EU countries in terms of living standards and the series of crises in Europe over the past decade has led to growing scepticism about European institutions.

“On a personal level, Bulgarians see benefits for themselves and the country from European membership,” the Alpha Research analysis reads. “For 17 years, since Bulgaria became a member of the EU, Bulgarians have not been able to convince themselves that how the European Union will function and what kind of Europe we will live in depends on their vote.”

This explains the expected low turnout in the European elections in June, with only a third of eligible voters expected to head to the polls. If this trend continues, the number of voters could fall below two million (about 30% of the eligible population), which was the case only in the 2007 European Parliament by-elections.

Only 12% say they fully approve of how the EU is run, 42% see good policies but also problems, and 39% are dissatisfied.

The study found that Bulgarians are most supportive of policies that allow them to benefit from the achievements and guarantees of more developed European countries. They are most critical of the Green Deal and the EU’s migration policy.

Some 81% approve of the possibility of working freely in other EU member states and the proposal to create a common European security system (68%).

The expansion of the Eurozone and the Schengen area (53%) and the influence of European funds on Bulgaria’s development (51%) are mostly received positively by Bulgarians, but 30%  harbour negative opinions about these topics.

Additionally, only 19% approve of the policy of solidarity regarding the distribution of asylum-seekers; 60% disapprove. The EU’s agricultural policy has 26% approval and 52% disapproval.

Increasing the powers of the EU Commission at the expense of national governments is opposed by 77%, although Bulgarian institutions have reached record-low approval ratings in the last year — 12% positive rating for the parliament and 22% for the government.

The Green Deal is supported by only 34% of Bulgarians, while 42% are against the green transition in the EU. For 25% of Bulgarians, the Green Deal is completely incomprehensible. European military aid to Ukraine is supported by only 38% of respondents, compared to 45% who oppose it.

(Krassen Nikolov | Euractiv.bg)

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