Nearly 80% of Romanians Think EU Should Have Own Army

Our future with NATO - May 14, 2024

More than half of Romanians believe that Romania has benefited from joining the European Union and the same percentage believe that the country’s interests were negotiated very well or fairly well when it joined the EU. At the same time, the percentage of those who are dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with the way Romania’s interests are currently represented in Brussels is almost ten percent higher than the percentage of those who are satisfied or very satisfied with the current MEPs who represent them in the European Parliament, which is also over 50%. These are the findings of an opinion poll carried out in early April by the Romanian polling company IRES as part of the recently published Social Accountability Programme. 

Increased interest among Romanians for the European Parliament elections

The vast majority – 80% – of those questioned in the same survey said they were certain or fairly certain to vote in the 9th of June European Parliament elections. However, just over a third of Romanians are interested in the policies being discussed at EU level, the survey also reveals.

The majority of Romanians believe that the country has benefited from joining the European Union and an overwhelming percentage are convinced that Romania should remain in the EU at least for the next few years.  Some 56% of respondents to the IRES survey said that Romania had gained more from EU membership, while only 37% said it had lost more. The percentage of those who said neither gained nor lost was only 4%, while those who were undecided and said they did not know/would not answer was only 3%.  And the percentage of those who think it would be better for Romania to stay in the EU in the coming years is much higher than those who think the opposite – 73% compared to 24%. 

Nearly 60% of Romanians have a family member working in the EU 

When it comes to the benefits of EU membership, the majority of respondents say they have travelled to an EU country in the last ten years (53%) or have someone in their family working in the EU (59%). But less than a quarter (20%) say they have worked in an EU country, and the percentages of those who have someone studying in the EU or who have benefited from EU funding are extremely low (11% and 6% respectively).

Also, more than half of those surveyed said that Romania had more to gain than to lose in terms of attracting foreign investment (73%), building motorways (68%), repairing roads (61%) access to health services (60%), improving the situation of vulnerable groups (people with no income, people with disabilities, Roma, etc.) (59%), restoration of historical centres/monuments (57%), job creation (56%), Romania’s foreign policy (54%), the smooth running of Romanian business (53%). However, less than half of the respondents felt that EU membership had brought benefits in terms of the independence of the judiciary (49%), higher living standards (48%), exports of Romanian products (47%), transparency of government (46%), the fight against corruption (44%) and Romanian agriculture (40%).

Interestingly, the percentage of those who agreed fully or partially with the statement “EU integration has meant increased welfare for Romanians” is much higher than those who say that Romania has benefited from EU membership. 74% of those who believe that integration has brought welfare are in favour, while only 56% say that, overall, the country has benefited. At the other end of the scale, those who say the opposite – that joining the EU bloc has not brought welfare to Romanians – account for only 25% (with the rest undecided). At the same time, more than 60% of respondents agreed totally (28%) or partially (33%) with the statement “Romania benefited more than it contributed to the EU budget”.  

On the other hand, more than 90% of respondents agreed fully or partially with the statement “Young Romanians benefit from the freedom to study in other EU countries”, more than 70% with the statement “After EU integration the right to work is better protected for Romanians working in the EU” and more than 60% – with the statements “People living in poverty have benefited a lot from EU aid”, “Human rights are better respected in Romania after EU integration”, “Romanian democracy works better after EU integration”. The percentage of those who think that “Romania has a better transport infrastructure (roads, railways) after EU integration” is, however, lower, at around 50% (56%), while those who think that “Corruption of Romanian politicians has decreased after EU integration” is just over 30% (13% agreeing fully and 22% partially). At the other end of the scale, 61% believe that EU integration has not led to a decrease in corruption, with 44% totally disagreeing and 17% partially disagreeing.

Romania’s integration interests were fairly negotiated

Overall, the percentage of those who believe that Romania’s interests in integration have been fairly negotiated is also higher than those who say the opposite. Thus, the percentage of those who think the negotiators did the job fairly well is 45%, and those who think they did it very well – 9%. At the other end of the spectrum, 25% think that the negotiations went rather badly and 17% think that Romania’s interests were negotiated very badly. The remaining 4% are undecided. 

However, the percentage of those who are not interested in what is being discussed in Brussels is almost double that of those who are interested, and those who are dissatisfied with the current MEPs significantly outnumber those who are satisfied with them. Thus, the percentage of respondents who said they were not very or not at all interested in the policies discussed at EU level was over 60% (63%), while the percentage of those who were very or fairly interested was just over 30% (33%). At the same time, the percentage of those who said they were very satisfied with Romania’s representation in the European Parliament was only 7%, plus 37% of those who were fairly satisfied. At the other end of the scale, 34% of those questioned said they were very dissatisfied with the current MEPs, and 20% were fairly dissatisfied.  However, only 54% of respondents are “rather optimistic” about the future of the EU, compared to 44% who are “rather pessimistic”. Still on the future of the EU, an overwhelming majority of Romanians – almost 80% – think the bloc should have its own army.  Also, most – 40% – consider that war at close quarters is the main threat to the EU, and about 10% of respondents named terrorism and the widespread use of artificial intelligence as the top three threats to the future of the Union.

Some 76% of those surveyed said they would agree to a very large, fairly large or fairly small extent with Moldova’s accession to the EU. By comparison, only 65% agreed with Ukraine joining the European Union. The vast majority of Romanians – more than 80% – know that elections, both parliamentary and local, will take place on the 9th of June, and only 9% said they did not know. Equally significant is the percentage of those who said they intend to go to the polls, but the percentage of those who said they will definitely go or are considering voting in the EU Parliamentary elections is slightly higher than the percentage of those who are determined to vote in the local elections. Thus, the percentage of those in the first category stands at 80%, compared to 87% of those in the second. 

50% of Romanians say they are worse off than 10 years ago

The survey also looked at perceptions of living standards. Thus, the majority of those questioned believe that they are living worse or as bad/good compared to 10 years ago. Only 30% said they are living better than a decade ago, while 50% said they are worse off and 19% said their life is the same.  In terms of projecting the future, here too the percentage of those who think they will live worse in 5 years’ time is higher than those projecting a better life: 39% compared to 34%. The percentage of those who think their life will be the same in 5 years’ time is 20% and those who could not/would not answer the question is 6%.

The survey was conducted on a sample of 1,108 respondents, aged 18 and over, using the Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing (CATI) method, with a maximum tolerated error of ±2.9%.