Being part of the EU is something more and more Russians desire, according to the latest Deutsche Welle poll. And it is the perceived economic benefits that makes them want to be part of the bloc.
Poll: Russians see economic advantages to EU membership
Russians cite their country's economic woes as the main reason for wanting EU membership, according to the latest DW trend poll by Deutsche Welle's Russian Service, conducted in cooperation with the polling institute IFAK during the month of December.
Compared to the previous poll in September 2010, more Russians favor a speedy EU accession, with 23 percent saying they would like to join in the next two years - up from 16 percent in the autumn of last year.
In December, there were also 6 percent fewer Russians against EU membership than in September, with just 18 percent of those polled now opposed.
Young Russians aged 18 to 29 are most likely to prefer a quick accession to the bloc, with 33 percent in favor.
Business, not ideology
Almost half of those polled take a pragmatic approach to EU membership, with 47 percent of Russians citing economic advantages as one of the main reasons for membership.
Security concerns ranked second, with 28 percent saying that they see a common security policy as a principal goal for the EU.
While the EU is seen as crucial in addressing Russia's economic woes, few Russians are drawn to the EU's democratic ideals and the idea of a common European identity. Only 14 percent think democratic values or a European identity are crucial EU goals.
Perception of freedom of the press mixed
Western nations have repeatedly accused Russia of shortcomings with regard to freedom of the press, but according to the DW poll, Russians have mixed feelings about the topic.
While 28 percent believe journalists need better protection and 11 percent think that those who give their frank opinions are risking their lives, a total of 60 percent believe that the level of freedom of speech is satisfactory or better.
Only 13 percent of those polled call for laws governing the media to be relaxed and a mere 4 percent see it as an issue the EU or the West should get involved in.
Germany seen as a friend
The DW poll also asked Russians about their country's relations with other countries.
At the bottom of the scale is Georgia, with 29 percent seeing relations with the former Soviet satellite as hostile. Ties with the United States were also rated hostile by 12 percent of those polled and 38 percent viewed relations with the former Cold War arch foe as tense.
Germany, on the other hand, is seen as a friend by 29 percent of Russians. Ukraine was also rated positively, with 33 percent viewing relations with their neighbor as friendly.
Over a third of Russians polled see their relations with the EU as cooperative, 29 percent rate them neutral. Few people see the EU as a threat.
The poll was based on 1,000 people, selected from across Russia to present a representative sample of the population.
Authors: Ingo Mannteufel, Sergey Govoruha, Nicole Goebel
Editor: Rob Turner