25 July 2018

Taking back control: An EU or national issue?

Do Europeans prefer that their governments or that EU institutions deal with non-European immigration fluxes? It all depends on the country.

In our last infographic, we saw how EU member states are polarized when it comes to policy initiatives EU institutions have adapted to handle the increasing influx of immigrants from non-EU member states. While some countries are in favour of a more prominent role of the EU, other countries disagree with the decisions taken by the EU institutions. Do Europeans prefer for their governments to take back control of their country’s borders?

Eurobarometer 87.3 published in May 2017 asked respondents if additional measures should be taken to fight irregular immigration of people from outside the EU. The first graph shows that at the aggregate (EU28) level, almost 90% of European respondents believe that additional measures should be taken to handle extra-EU immigration. 38% think that these measures should be dealt with at the EU level, 28.5% believe that they should be a prerogative of national governments. Another 21% prefer a conjunct role by the EU and national governments instead. Important differences between countries emerge from the data. In the United Kingdom, where during the Brexit referendum campaign “take back control of our borders” was one of the most frequently used slogans by the“Leave” block, almost one respondent out of two believes that additional measures to fight irregular immigration should be dealt with by the British government. A number of respondents agree with this position in eastern European member states as well (e.g. Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania), and in Austria and Cyprus. However, in the large majority of EU member states, a large portion of citizens believe that these additional measures should be adopted at the EU level or at both the EU and the national level. This last position is the most preferred among German respondents (43%).

Project 28 survey, conducted in the same period during 2017, asked respondents if their country should have fences to protect its borders against immigrants, as Hungary has already done. At the aggregate level, a slight majority (51%) of respondents disagree with this statement. However, in Hungary, as well as in Bulgaria, a large majority of respondents support building fences to protect their country’s borders. A number of respondents in some eastern and southern EU member states support this position. A broad share of respondents in north-western European countries, on the other hand, disagree with this position.

Photo Credits CC Flickr: Rasande Tyskar


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