A majority of Ukrainians are in favor of their country joining the EU. The planned association agreement with Brussels is creating expectations beyond the economic benefits, according to the latest DW-Trend.
The number of Ukrainians supporting EU accession appears to be growing. Fifty-nine-percent support the notion of their country becoming a member of the 28-nation-bloc. Twenty-four percent are opposed to its admission. That appears to be a new trend, as last year the number of EU-proponents in Ukraine was much lower.
These are the results of the current DW-Trends for Ukraine. The representative survey was conducted by the Office of the Ukrainian research institute, IFAK, in June 2013 on behalf of DW'S Ukrainian language department. One thousand people, between the ages of 18 and 65 years, were interviewed in Ukrainian cities with more than 50,000 people.
Two years ago, 74 percent of Ukrainians favored joining the EU; following the financial and economic crisis that hit EU countries in November 2012, now only 52 percent support it. That's a new trend, as last year the number of EU-proponents in Ukraine was much lower. Thirty-seven percent of respondents indicated they would be in favor of Ukraine entering the EU within the next five years – 11 percent more than six months ago. Another 12 percent would like to see the country join within the next five to 10 years. Overall, nearly two-thirds of Ukrainians supported the notion of their country joining the EU.
Even in eastern Ukraine, which traditionally aligns itself more with Russia, 52 percent are in favor of joining the EU. Only 31-percent oppose it. EU accession is a non-issue for the younger generation. The proportion of those in the 18-29-year-old age bracket is at 67 percent, the highest of any one bracket. In the 50-60-year-old age group the figure is stable at 57 percent.
The planned signing of an agreement on association and free trade between Ukraine and the European Union in November this year is seen as an important first step. The EU has attached conditions to the agreement which have not yet been fulfilled by Ukraine. Ukrainians have put their hopes in the contract: 42 percent of Ukrainians support the EU's agreement on association because it will be beneficial for the country's economy. Fourteen percent hope it will strengthen democracy. Another 14 percent oppose the agreement. However, one in 10 (11 percent) believe Ukraine is not ready for such an agreement.
When asked about the main objectives of the European Union, 54 percent said economic development was of utmost importance. A majority of 64 percent also supported economic growth as an EU goal. Thirty-seven percent think the EU's territorial expansion is the main objective. Close to one-third consider the strengthening of democratic values (30 percent) and creating a common security structure (29 percent) as important goals. Respondents were able to give multiple answers.
It is significant that the proportion of those supporting the strengthening of democratic values as an objective of the EU has doubled from 18 percent in November 2012, to 36 percent in June, 2013. This is the highest level since the implementation of DW-Trends for Ukraine. Maybe this is the sign of a paradigm shift in which Ukrainians see EU accession not only as an instrument for economic prosperity, but as a guarantor of stability and democratic values upon which their country is based.
Despite this positive EU perspective, many Ukrainians are skeptical when looking at the current foreign relations. Just 34 percent consider the stance of the EU to be cooperative or friendly. Thirty-six percent of respondents describe the relationship as neutral. After all, one in five (20 percent) think the relationship is strained, or even hostile. Something positive to come from the study is the respondents take on German-Ukranian relations. Forty percent consider the relationship between Ukraine and Germany to be friendly or at least cooperative, with only 14 percent finding it tense or even hostile.