Public attitudes on the freedom of movement across EU borders were tapped through two different questions. The first asks how freely EU citizens should be allowed to enter the labour market of another member state. Overall, nearly half of the respondents (49.2%) argue that the domestic labour market should admit every legally resident citizen from the remaining member states, whereas 30.5% favour giving priority to natives, and 20.2% choose the intermediate option allowing foreigners to enter just as guest workers and only as long as they keep a job.
Poland (59.0%), Spain (49.6%) and Germany (51.0%) feature a level of support for openness above the EU6 average. The situation is different in France, where public opinion seems to be rather polarized: a relative majority (45.6%) of respondents support the notion of “French workers first”, whereas 40.0% would grant access to all foreign citizens legally resident in the country. Relatively high percentages of “pro-closure” respondents can also be found in Italy (32.2%) and Spain (31.1%).
The second question focuses on the right of access to social security benefits on the part of foreigners. 42.9% of respondents in the entire sample (including the United Kingdom) opt for full openness of their national welfare to foreigners, closely followed by those who think that only EU citizens should be entitled to the same rights as nationals (38.5%). The remaining 18.6% opt for not giving foreigners any access to social security.
In Italy (55.8%), Spain (53.5%), Sweden (48.9%) and the UK (40.7%), the majority of respondents are in favour of granting foreigners unconditional access to welfare rights. By contrast, in Poland (50.8%), France (47.3%) and Germany (46.2%) the highest proportion of respondents opt for the intermediate position. The “closure” option is minoritarian in all countries surveyed. Nevertheless, in France this view is shared by slightly more than 20% of respondents and, not surprisingly, in the United Kingdom it reaches 32.4%.
Photo Credits CC Frans de Wit