According to the latest survey DW-Trend, 60 percent of Russian citizens view the European Union as an important economic and strategic partner for their country - and this is particularly true of young people.
Among 18 to 29-year-olds, 72 percent expressed that opinion. Among those aged 30 to 49, 59 percent said the same, while in the generation of 50- to 60-year-old people, 49 percent agreed with that view.
These are the results of a representative survey commissioned by Deutsche Welle (DW) and conducted by the public opinion research institute IFAK (Kiev). One thousand residents between ages 18 and 65 were interviewed by telephone in Russian cities with more than 50,000 residents.
The survey was conducted immediately after the EU-Russia summit in Yekaterinburg. That meeting was overshadowed by differences in opinion, particularly with respect to the conflict in Syria. Russian authorities' treatment of non-governmental organizations also caused political tensions between Brussels and Moscow. But such conflicts between Russia and the European Union do not appear to affect Russians' personal attitude toward the EU, as the survey reflects.
41 percent of those polled said Russia should join the EU. Nearly one-third (30 percent) would like to see that step taken within the next five years. At the same time, 40 percent reject Russia’s accession to the European Union. Compared with the last DW-Trend survey in November 2012, these figures have hardly changed. That represents a halt to a negative trend seen in the last two years, when the percentage of people against EU accession rose from 18 percent in December 2010 to 41 percent in November 2012.
Those surveyed have a positive view of the Russian-European relationship. Ten percent describe the relationship as friendly and 47 percent as cooperative. Just one in ten (11 percent) see the relations between Russia and European countries as strained.
The Russian-German relationship is viewed even more positively. Despite political conflicts that nearly led to an altercation during a meeting in late June between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin in St. Petersburg, 44 percent of Russians see German-Russian relations as cooperative, and 23 percent even see them as friendly. Only five percent describe the situation as tense.
In November 2012, 18 percent viewed the bilateral relations as tense or even hostile. As such, the German government's open and repeated criticism of restrictions on free speech and the human rights situation in Russia seems not to have had a long-term effect on the overall positive attitude of Russian citizens toward Germany and the European Union.