Russia: Flagging interest in EU | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 13.06.2012
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Europe

Russia: Flagging interest in EU

German relations with Russia are strong. But a DW survey shows Russians' attitude toward the EU is critical. Even the image the Russians have of their own country within Europe is quite negative.

The ongoing euro crisis appears to have diminished the enthusiasm of the Russian people towards the European Union. They have become much more critical over the past year with regards to Russia's relations with the EU. This is what the current DW-Trend for Russia in June appears to show. Opinion research institute IFAK, on behalf of DW's Russian department, surveyed 1,000 people between the ages of 18 and 65 living in Russia.

The number of supporters for Russia becoming a member of the EU (38 percent) appears to have stayed the same, but the number of opponents has increased. Almost half of the respondents (47 percent) reject the idea that Russia should join the EU. That is 11 percent more than last year.

From a Russian perspective, the main objective of the European Union is to promote economic growth (55 percent). It is these core issues that the EU in recent months has neglected, but that the Russians find the most important. The debt crisis in the eurozone has dampened economic growth. And Russian confidence in the EU has also disappeared.

Forty percent of those surveyed believe a main objective of the EU is territorial expansion. One in five said it was the development of a universal security system, the same number who believed it was to further European interests in the world. This presents a fundamental problem. Nearly 30 percent of Russians support the development of a common European security system, but few are for the territorial expansion of the EU and furthering European interests globally.

At the same time, Russians do not think their country has an especially positive image within Europe. They believe Russia is seen by many within Europe as a supplier of raw materials and cheap labor (35 percent). Just under a quarter of respondents say Russia is thought of as a reliable strategic partner.

Twenty-two percent were more skeptical, suggesting that Russia, especially within Europe is seen as a wayward superpower with imperial ambitions. This attitude has barely changed since 2011. From the Russian people's point of view, Russia was unable to positively change its image and influence within Europe over the last few months.

Weakness within the European Union has also had an effect on any bilateral relationship between the EU and Russia. In April 2011, 52 percent of those surveyed rated relations as friendly and amicable; current DW-Trend respondents indicate this has dropped to 43 percent.

However, the relationship between Germany and Russia has suffered less. Although the proportion expressing a belief the relationship between two countries was friendly has dropped six percent to 24 percent, a clear majority, 70 percent of the Russian population, see German-Russian relations as either friendly or amicable.

A significant majority of the Russian population was critical of the decision by some EU politicians not to travel to the Euro 2012 soccer tournament as a protest against human rights abuses in Ukraine. Sixty percent think the decision was wrong, with only 17 percent thinking it was the right thing to do. Similarly, there was little support for a political boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics, to be held in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi. Seventy-one percent opposed a protest of this kind against human rights violations in Russia. Only 14 percent were in favor of such action.

Author: Bernd Johann / jlw
Editor: Simon Bone