Sofia, February 16, 2015/ Independent Balkan News Agency
By Clive Leviev- Sawyer of The Sofia Globe
Fifty-one per cent of Bulgarians have a positive image of the European Union, with even more believing that the EU favourably affects job creation in Europe and that it improves the quality of life on the continent, according to a Eurobarometer survey.
But as the main concerns facing the EU, Bulgarians most often mentioned immigration, coming in at 35 per cent, according to the poll, reported by local media on February 15 2015.
Bulgarians’ main concerns were the economic situation and unemployment, but their fears about refugees and terrorists were growing, according to the Eurobaromete survey, done between November 8 and 17 2014, with the results announced on February 15.
Concerns of Bulgarian citizens about immigration increased considerably since the spring of 2014 onwards (from 28 per cent to 35 per cent).
Bulgaria ranks third in EU indicating immigration as a major problem facing the EU.
The only countries higher than Bulgaria in pointing to this as a concern were Malta (46 per cent) and Germany (37 per cent).
A possible explanation for the increased concern of immigration in Bulgaria is the influx of refugees from Syria and the Middle East, given that Bulgaria is one of the main entry points into the EU, analysts said.
The second major problem for the EU, according to Bulgarian public opinion, is the economic situation (indicated by 27 per cent of respondents). Compared to the spring of 2014, however, concerns about the economic situation fell by seven points.
While concerns about the economic situation as the main problem facing the European Union fell, compared with the spring 2014 Eurobarometer, there was a growth in concern in Bulgaria (+10 percentage points) and Europeans as a whole (+ 5 percentage points) in regard to terrorism.
The degree of concern of Bulgarians is higher than the EU average – 18 per cent of mentions among Bulgarian nationals, over 11 per cent across the EU.
Bulgarian society is traditionally rather pessimistic as to the estimates and projections about the situation of the country, especially in terms of the economic situation.
The overwhelming majority of Bulgarians (92 per cent) assessed the present situation of the economy in the country as bad, value higher than the average by almost 30 percentage points and virtually unchanged for several years.
It may be added that the timeframe for the survey was November 8 to November 17 – with the Boiko Borissov government having taken office on November 7, with the country now run by a centre-right coalition cabinet with support from nationalist and minority socialist parties in Parliament, after the traumatic months of 2013/14 in which a Bulgarian Socialist Party-Movement for Rights and Freedoms-Ataka ruling axis had hold of the country.
Expectations for short-term economic developments in the country were also pessimistic – 40 per cent of Bulgarians expected it to maintain the current state (which according to the majority is poor), and just under a third (30 per cent) expected further deterioration.
The study reported an increase of four percentage points in the positive attitudes to the economy of Bulgaria and a six percentage points increase in negative attitudes.
However those who saw the situation as likely to unchanged came in at minus seven points. This means that Bulgarians expected dynamic development of the economy in the next 12 months.
The most optimistic about the economic situation in Bulgaria were 15 to 12 the age group (26 per cent expected an improvement in the economic situation compared to 18 per cent among all), students (29 per cent) and Bulgarians with higher education (23 per cent).