Immigration is by far the biggest EU-level concern for the bloc’s citizens, the latest official survey has found.
Forty per cent of people surveyed said that immigration was one of their two biggest EU concerns, compared with just 20 per cent who chose terrorism. The proportion naming immigration was up from 38 per cent 6 months ago – the last time the survey was carried out – while the proportion naming terrorism was down from 29 per cent.
However, fears about immigration remain far below their 2015 peak, when immigration was a concern for 58 per cent of people.
The survey was carried out between 8 and 22 November, and covered a 6-month period during which Paris, Liège and Amsterdam all experienced terrorism. The results were published on 21 December.
The state of countries’ public finances was the third most-common concern, named by 19 per cent of respondents. Climate change prompted the biggest surge in concern, named by 16 per cent of people, up from 11 per cent 6 months ago.
Figures differed among countries. Immigration was a top concern for 65 per cent of people in Estonia, but only 25 per cent of people in Romania. Climate change was a top concern for 46 per cent of people in Sweden, and was Swedish respondents’ biggest worry.
Unemployment was the top national-level concern, chosen by 23 per cent of people, down from 25 per cent 6 months ago and from a high of 51 per cent in 2013. Cost of living was joint second with immigration on 21 per cent, but up from 17 per cent in the spring.
Despite the concerns about immigration, 83 per cent of people supported freedom of movement for EU citizens, up from 82 per cent in the spring. In fact, free movement of people, goods and services was chosen as the most positive aspect of the EU by 59 per cent of people – more than for any other aspect.
This suggests it is immigration of people to the EU from outside that is playing on people’s minds.
The EU’s implementing body, the European Commission, said in an update published on 4 December that there were 116,000 irregular border crossings into the EU in the first 10 months of 2018, and that this was 30 per cent lower than in 2017.
Irregular immigration into the EU peaked in 2015, with more than a million people arriving. Most arrivals came via the Eastern Mediterranean, but an EU deal with Turkey decreased these arrivals by 97 per cent, the Commission said.
So far, more than 2,100 people have died trying to reach the EU across the Mediterranean Sea in 2018, according to the Commission. This “reflects a shift by smugglers to less seaworthy boats, a business model which the EU is working to combat”, it said.