In most cases, Europeans have become substantially happier about admitting those countries that joined in the 2004 and later enlargements
Since the turn of the millennium, 13 nations have been admitted to the EU. Back in early 2019, YouGov asked Europeans whether they felt it was right or wrong to admit those new nations, with the response being generally positive except in the case of Bulgaria and particularly Romania.
Fast forward to 2022, and attitudes have become substantially more favourable still, with double digits increases in the number of people saying it was right to admit these new countries in almost all cases.
There is, however, one exception: Hungary. Attitudes to Hungary’s EU membership have actually worsened in Germany, Sweden and Denmark, and in France have only seen a +4 net increase compared to an average of +16.5 across all the other EU countries we asked the French about.
The Hungarian government, led by right wing Viktor Orban, has caused outrage in Europe in recent years, with the introduction of anti-LGBT laws, increasingly unfair elections and degrading the rule of law, as well as its closeness with Russia and unfriendly stance towards Ukraine putting them at odds with the EU and NATO.
In Italy and Spain – newcomers to this year’s survey – Hungary likewise languishes at the bottom of their lists.
Nevertheless, for the time being, more people still think it was right to admit Hungary to the EU than think it was wrong.
In fact, in all cases bar one people are more likely to think it was right than wrong to admit the post-2004 member states. The exception is France, where people are slightly more likely to say it was wrong to admit Romania (34%) than right (30%), with a net score of -4. Even this represents a significant improvement, however, with the net score in 2019 having been -24, with only 22% saying it was right to admit Romania.
The results mirror a companion study conducted earlier in the year, which measured the change in attitudes to prospective candidate nations joining the EU. That showed a general increase in support for countries to join the EU, particularly for Ukraine, and with the exception of Russia, which for the obvious reasons saw a substantial decline.