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Europeans support Ukraine joining the EU — but not yet

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There is strong support for Ukraine joining the European Union in several large EU countries, though Europeans remain unconvinced that should happen immediately, according to polling across six countries shared exclusively with POLITICO.

As European governments scramble to respond to Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine last month, Euroskopia, a group of European polling firms, asked people in Spain, Germany, Greece, France, the Netherlands and Italy what they thought of Russia’s attack.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has already declared Ukraine belongs in the EU, though it is not in her power to admit Ukraine or even propose the country as a candidate for membership. Such decisions have to be agreed upon by all of the bloc’s 27 member countries — and they have disagreed sharply in recent years on EU enlargement.

Leaders of Central European countries have tended to be most favorable to Ukrainian accession to the bloc. The presidents of Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia last month called on the EU to give Ukraine the “highest political support” and “enable the EU institutions to conduct steps to immediately grant Ukraine … EU candidate country status and open the process of negotiations.”

While most respondents to Euroskopia’s poll were sympathetic to Ukraine, 17 percent across all six countries said the invasion was either “acceptable” or “unacceptable but understandable.” Attitudes varied significantly by country, however, with more than a third of respondents in Greece saying they could understand Putin’s actions, compared with just 10 percent in the Netherlands.

Respondents were clear the war posed a danger to their own countries, with 57 percent across the six countries questioned saying they thought their own country was “very much” or “somewhat” in danger. In Italy and the Netherlands, this proportion was 63 percent and 60 percent respectively.

There was also wide disagreement about the need for the EU to create its own army so that countries were not reliant on NATO. Sixty-three percent of respondents in Greece supported the idea, compared with just 27 percent in the Netherlands. There was also strong support in France and Spain, each with 51 percent, but more opposition in Germany and Italy, with 36 and 35 percent respectively.

The polling, which was carried out between March 8 and 11, canvassed the opinions of 1,000 adults in each country.

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