“Perceptions & Realities”, national survey on the European perspective of Albania

“Perceptions & Realities”, national survey on the European perspective of Albania

IBNA Special Report

Tirana, April 9, 2015/Independent Balkan News Agency

The EU Delegation to Albania commissioned the Open Society Foundation for Albania to undertake the “2014 National Survey on the European Perspective of Albania – Perceptions & Realities”.

In the past few days came out the results of this study which was conducted in the second half of last year. IBNA publishes below some of the most interesting findings of this study, which takes place for the first time in Albania.

Vjosa Berisha, head of the Information Center at the European Union office to Tirana says that ““the study provides insights on Albania’s citizen level of knowledge and understanding about the European Union, knowledge and understanding of its business, and what the integration process means”.

The study sheds light on the information channels mostly used by them when seeking information about the EU and European integration and explains the factors that influence shaping Albania’s public opinion with regard to EU affairs. In addition, the study provides an insightful analysis of these factors, with recommendations about how to improve the communication about EU.

Is Albania ready to join the EU?

According to the survey, 53% of Albanians believe that the country is ready to join the EU and 43% believe that it’s not. 69% of Albanians believe that the EU must accept the country as a member country although Albania is not ready. Executive Chairman of the Open Society Foundation for Albania (Soros), Andi Dobrushi, says that the EU path is still seen as the first choice for the majority of Albanians.

“Accession in Europe remains the first destination of the desire of the majority of Albanians with 87%, more than Macedonia with 50%, Montenegro with 44%, Turkey with 38% and Serbia with 36%”.

Also, 92% of Albanians believe that our country will benefit from being a member country. Again, a bigger confidence than FYROM with 60%, Montenegro with 54%, Turkey with 43% and Serbia with 42%.

For Mr. Dobrushi, these results must encourage political forces in the country to work for the final objective, accession.

Albanians have more faith on international institutions, where the EU leads with 96%, followed by the United Nations with 94%, while only 49% have faith on the Albanian government, 39% have faith on parliament and 15% have faith on political parties.

Commenting on these figures, Dobrushi suggests that politicians and Albanian institutions must improve their commitment and their work with the public, not only by showing sympathy for the process of integration, but also by encouraging changes that can be felt by the citizens in their day to day life.

Perceptions & knowledge about the EU

To 72% of Albanians the EU means freedom to travel, study and work anywhere in the EU, to 60% it means economic prosperity, for 60% it means Democracy and to 59% it means peace.

With 59% of Albanians associating EU with peace, the country is listed among European countries that still associate the EU mainly with the rationales it was established in the first place. In this figure Albania is followed by Germany (45%), Sweden (44%), Denmark (44%), and Austria (40%).

With 72% of its citizens that associate the EU with freedom to travel, study and work anywhere in the EU, Albania is listed first among all European countries. The other countries following are Estonia (71%), Sweden (67%), Latvia (62%), and Bulgaria (58%).

Albania is also listed first in the number of people that associate the EU with democracy, with 59% of Albanians doing so. It is followed by Germany (45%), Sweden (44%), Denmark (44%), and Austria (40%).

With 60% of its citizens that associate the EU economic prosperity, Albania is listed first among all European countries. The other countries following are countries aspiring an EU membership, specifically Turkey (36%), Macedonia (36%), Montenegro (31%), and Serbia (30%).

In the near future 25% of Albanians see themselves as Albanians only. The countries whose people have highest figure of perceiving themselves as nationality only are Ireland (64%), United Kingdom (63%), Greece (55%), Portugal (50%), and Bulgaria (49%).

In the near future 66% of Albanians see themselves as Albanians & Europeans. This is the highest figure in Europe, followed by Croatia (60%), Denmark (58%), Slovakia (58%), and Poland (58%).

Asked about how well informed about the EU they are, Albanians are listed second with 57% of people expressing they are very or fairly well informed. The other top countries whose people think they are very or fairly well informed are Turkey (58%), Luxemburg (52%), Finland (48%) and Denmark (48%).

Albanians are among top five European populations that have the highest figure of people that do not know of any European institution. Specifically this figure is 46% for Albania, 63% for United Kingdom, 53% for Latvia, 49% for France and 45% for Spain.

In terms of citizens being familiar with the European Parliament Albania is among the last listed countries, with just 31% of people expressing to be familiar with the EU institution. Other last listed countries are France (39%), Finland (39%), Latvia (35%) and United Kingdom (22%).

In terms of citizens being familiar with the European Commission Albania is among the last listed countries, with just 12% of people expressing to be familiar with the EU institution. Other last listed countries are Latvia (18%), France (16%), Spain (16%), and United Kingdom (12%).

In terms of citizens being familiar with the European Central Bank, Albania is among the last listed countries, with just 10% of people expressing to be familiar with the EU institution. Other last listed countries are United Kingdom (11%), Denmark (8%), Latvia (7%), and Poland (5%).

Asked if have ever heard of the European Parliament, 87% of Albanians claim to have heard of it. This figure is below the EU average of 92%. The other last listed countries are Iceland (79%), Macedonia (77%), United Kingdom (77%) and Serbia (77%).

Asked if have ever heard of the European Commission 87% of Albanians claim to have heard of it. This figure is below the EU average of 92%. The other last listed countries are Iceland (79%), Macedonia (77%), United Kingdom (77%) and Serbia (77%).

67% of Albanian people claim they know what rights of citizens of the EU are. This lists Albania first of the list, followed by Finland (64%), Cyprus (59%) Luxembourg (59%), and Denmark (58%).

Albania is also listed first among European populations that would like to know more about rights of citizens of the EU, with 92% of Albanians claiming so. The other countries following are Cyprus (82%), Sweden (77%), Slovakia (72%), and Luxembourg (70%).

Asked if Switzerland is a member of the EU only 41% of Albanians did point out that it is not. The other countries that have the lowest figure for this variable are Ireland (54%), Romania (52%), Cyprus (51%), Turkey (20%).

Asked if the EU currently consists of 28 members 66% of Albanians did point out that it is true. This figure is slightly below the EU average of 68%. The countries that have the highest figure in giving a right answer to this question are Croatia (85%), Austria (84%), Slovakia (82%), Bulgaria (78%), and Hungary (75%).

Asked if the members of the European Parliament are directly elected by the citizens of each Member State 61% of Albanians did point out that it is true. This figure is slightly below the EU average of 63%. The countries that have the highest figure in giving a right answer to this question are Malta (91%), Cyprus (89%), Greece (83%), Bulgaria (79%), and Lithuania (76%).

Just 50% of Albanians know that each Member State does not have the same number of Members of the European Parliament. The other bottom 6 countries are Portugal (50%), Poland 49%, Croatia (48%), Romania (45%), and Italy (38%).

Perceptions and expectations towards EU membership of Albania

Among all people of Europe Albanian citizens have the highest level of trust towards the EU. This figure is confirmed also by the variable that measures how important the EU integration of Albania is to Albanian people.

The results reveal that 77% of Albanians are of the opinion that the EU integration of Albania is very important, 18% think it is important but not a priority and only 4% express that it is not important at all. Compared to AIIS Survey in 2013 this figure shows an increase by 20% in the number of people that think that the EU integration of Albania is very important.

Among all EU candidate countries Albania has the highest figure of people that think that country’s EU membership would be a good think, with 87% of Albanian citizens sharing this opinion.

Among all EU candidate countries Albania has the highest figure of people that think that the country would benefit from being a member of the EU, with 92% of Albanian citizens sharing this opinion.

Expectation of Albanian people towards the effects EU accession will have on the country have been measured on a scale from 0 to 10, were 0 means people expect an extremely negative effect and 100 means people expect an extremely positive effect. The sectors expected to be effected most positively are the education system (mean = 76), the Albanian economy (mean = 73) and the environment protection in Albania (mean = 72). Expectations of Albanian people are lower the Albanian financial system (mean = 68), the Albanian system of justice (mean = 68) and the fight against corruption in Albania (mean = 69).

53% of Albanians think that the country is ready to become a member of the EU, 43% think it is not ready yet and 4% do not know.

Compared to AIIS Survey of 2013 the figure of Albanians that think that the country is ready to become a member of the EU has increased by 23%.

69% of Albanians think that the EU should accept Albania as a member even if the country is not ready yet, while 27% think that the EU should not accept it and 4% do not know.

Compared to AIIS Survey of 2013 the figure of Albanians that think that the EU should accept Albania as a member even if the country is not ready yet has increased by 32%.

If a referendum on EU membership of Albania would take place tomorrow 91% of Albanians would vote for it, while 5% would vote against it, 3% would not vote at all and 1% does not know.

Compared to AIIS Survey of 2013 the figure of Albanians that would vote for an EU membership of Albania has increased by 4%.

Asked if they would consider working in an EU member state in next 2 to 5 years 63% of Albanians show an intention to do so.

With 63% of citizens that would consider working in an EU member state in next 2 to 5 year Albania is ranked first among all European countries surveyed.

For the 63% of citizens that would consider working in an EU member state the main reasons driving them to do so are to get a better salary (81%), for professional development opportunities (41%), can’t find a job home (35%) and better working conditions other than salary (35%).

Albania is listed among top 5 countries whose population would consider working in an EU member state to get a better salary. The other countries leading the list are Bulgaria (89%), Romania (85%), Hungary (82%), and Slovakia (81%).

Albania is listed among top 5 countries whose population would consider working in an EU member state because professional development or career opportunities are better for their profession in an EU member state. The other countries leading the list are Austria (54%), Denmark (48%), Malta (43%), and the Netherlands (43%).

Albania is listed among top 6 countries whose population would consider working in an EU member state because they can’t find a job in home country. The other countries leading the list are Cyprus (63%), Spain, (57%), Greece (43%), Portugal (41%), and Ireland (36%).

Albania is listed among top 6 countries whose population would consider working in an EU member state. The other countries leading the list are Cyprus (51%), Greece (43%), Hungary (40%), Romania (35%), and Slovenia (35%).

Expectations about the future

45% of Albanians feel that the most important issues they are facing at the problem is unemployment, 45% point out crime, 30% are concerned about rising prices/inflation and 19% face with difficult household financial situation.

With 45% of Albanians that point out that unemployment is the most important issue they are facing at the moment, Albania is ranked among top 5 countries that have the highest figure for this variable. The other top 5 countries of the list are Macedonia (46%), Spain (39%), Cyprus (38%), and Turkey (37%).

With 31% of Albanians that point out that crime is the most important issue they are facing at the moment, Albania is ranked first among all European countries that have the highest figure for this variable. The other top 5 countries of the list are Turkey (13%), Belgium (12%), Denmark (9%), and France (9%).

With 71.4% of Albanians expecting the economic situation in the EU to be better in next twelve months, Albania is the most optimistic country of Europe. The other top 5 countries of the list are Montenegro (38.4%), Macedonia (34.0%), the Netherlands (34.0%), and Denmark (32.7%).

With 48.7% of Albanians expecting the economic situation in the country to be better in next twelve months, Albania is once more the most optimistic country of Europe. The other top 5 countries of the list are Denmark (43.6%), Malta (42.4%), the Netherlands (42.4%), and the United Kingdom (33.0%).

Main findings

-The median figure of net monthly income of households (no matter of HH size) is EUR 240. The median net monthly income per person is EUR 80 (accounting for HH size), the median figure of food monthly expenses per household (no matter of HH size) is EUR 200 and the mean figure of food monthly expenses per person is EUR 54 (accounting for HH size).

– Compared to EU countries, citizens of Albania are listed among top 6 populations that watch television on a TV set everyday or almost every day, with 89% of Albanians watching television on a TV set everyday or almost everyday

– In frequency of using the internet Albanian citizens rank 25fth with 42% of people using the internet everyday or almost every day. This figure is below the EU average of 57%.

– In frequency of using online social networks Albanian citizens rank 11fth with 34% of people using them everyday or almost every day. This figure is above the EU average of 33%. Compared to the figure of people accessing the internet everyday or almost every day the figure of using online social media everyday or almost every day

among citizens of Albania is unusually high, making them the most frequent users of social online social networks in Europe. Thus 91% of Albanian citizens that use internet every day or almost every day do also use online social networks everyday or almost every day.

– In frequency of reading the press Albanian citizens are ranked 15th with 25% of people reading the press everyday or almost every day? This figure is below the EU average of 33%.

– Television is the information channel mostly used by Albanian citizens. Thus they spend on average 80.9 hours each month (2 hours & 40 minutes per day) watching TV.

– The second information changes used for long hours is internet accessed from a computer, with an average of 29.8 hours per month (1 hour per day).

– Online information channels & means of access like Facebook, Internet on mobile phone, YouTube, Internet on computer (PC or laptop), WhatsApp, Viber, Instagram, Blogs, Online newspaper, and internet on a tablet are mainly used by people of young age. On the other side information channels like TV are used more extensively by

older people.

– This analysis leads to the conclusion that information campaigns that aim at reaching young Albanian people have more chances for better performance if use online information channels like Facebook, YouTube and WhatsApp

focusing on access of this tools on the mobile phone. On the other side information campaigns that aim at reaching older Albanian people have chances for better performance if using traditional media tools like television.

– Asked about whether they tend to trust or distrust different information channels, the vast majority of Albanian responders reveal a strong tendency to trust TV (73%). The second most trusted information channel is the internet (46%), followed by the radio (43%) and the press (43%).

– Albanian citizens are listed among top 7 populations of Europe that have the highest level of trust towards TV, with 73% of the population trusting the TV.

– Albanian citizens are listed 18th in the level of trust they have towards the press, with 43% of people having trust.

– Albanian citizens are listed 5th in the level of trust they have towards the internet, with 46% of people having trust. This figure is above the EU average of 38%. This makes internet a potentially flourishing information channel for Albanian people.

– Taking into account 2014 World Press Freedom Index (scoring with 0 the best performance and with 100 the worst performance) it is noticed that people of countries that have a better score in media freedom index tend to have more trust in TV. From findings we can conclude that considering the media freedom level in Albania,

Albanian citizens have much higher level of trust in TV that it should be.

– People of countries that have a better score in media freedom index also tend to have more trust in the press.

– Level of media freedom has no effect on level of trust towards the internet. This result confirms the potential of internet as an alternative information channel that enables users to generate and share content related to national and European political matters.

– 84% of Albanian people get most of news on national political maters on television

– 80% of Albanian people get most of news on European political maters on television

– 74% of Albanians use the TV to find information about the EU

– 50% of Albanians use the internet to find information about the EU

– When asked about the websites they would prefer to find information on EU, 30% of Albanians have a preference for Institutional and official websites (governmental websites, etc.)

– 52% of Albanian citizens think that that information on political affairs from online social networks cannot be trusted.

– 67% of Albanian citizens think that online social networks are a good way to have their say on political issues – To 72% of Albanians the EU means freedom to travel, study and work anywhere in the EU, to 60% it means democracy, to 60% it means economic prosperity and to 59% it means peace

– 66% of Albanians see themselves in the near future as being both Albanians & Europeans

– 57% of Albanians think they are very or fairly well informed about the EU

– 46% of Albanians do not know of any European institution

– When being mentioned, 87% of Albanians say they have heard of the European Parliament, 77% have heard of the European Commission and 70% have heard of the European Central Bank.

– 67% of Albanians think they know what rights of EU citizens are, and 92% would like to know more about rights of EU citizens

– 59% of Albanians to not know that Switzerland is not a member of the EU and 66% know that the EU consists of 28 member states

– 96% of Albanians do trust the EU and 49% do trust the Albanian government

– 77% of Albanians are of the opinion that the EU integration of Albania is very important, 18% think it is important but not a priority and only 4% express that it is not important at all

– 87% of Albanians think that the EU membership of Albania would be a good thing and 92% think that Albania would benefit from being a member of the EU

– The sectors Albanian people expect to improve more along with EU accession of Albania are a) The education system, b) The Albanian economy and c) Environment protection in the country

– 53% of Albanians think the country is ready to join the EU, 43% think it is not and 4% do not know.

– 69% of Albanians think that the EU should accept the country as a member even if Albania is not ready yet, 27% think the EU should not, and 4% do not know.

– If a referendum for the EU membership of Albania would take place tomorrow 91% of Albanians would vote for the membership, 5% would vote against it, 3% would not cast a ballot at all and 1% does not know.

– The key variables affecting citizens’ support towards the EU membership of Albania are education level and trust towards national government. There is a trend of people with higher education level and people with lower leve of trust towards the Albanian government to oppose the EU membership of Albania.

– 63% of Albanians would consider working in an EU member state in next 2 to 5 years, with 81% of them seeking a better salary, 41% seeking professional development opportunities and 35% of them not able to find a job in Albania

– 87% of Albanians think that corruption in Albania is more widespread than in other European countries, 92% think corruption is a major problem in the country, 54% of Albanians are personally affected by corruption in their daily life, 89% think that there is corruption in local institutions, 88% think there is corruption in national institutions and 44% think there is corruption within the institutions of the EU

– 19% of Albanians think that in the last 8 months corruption in the country has increased a lot, 9% think it has increased a little, 33% think it stayed the same, 32% think it decreased a little, 4% think it decreased a lot and 3% do not know.

– In the last 8 months 29% of responders were asked or expected to pay a bribe in order to get a public service

– The most corrupted instructions that asked or expected citizens to pay a bribe in the last 8 months are Public healthcare institutions (13.9% of citizens have been asked or expected to pay e bribe), Public education institutions (4,8%), Politicians (3.2%) and the Courts (2.8%)

– The main problems Albanian people are facing at the moment are a) Unemployment (45%), b) Crime (31%) and c) the economic situation in the country (30%).

– 71% of Albanian people expect the economic situation in the EU to be better in next 12 months. This is by far the highest optimism level in Europe. In addition 58% of Albanians expect their live to be better in next 12 months.

This is the highest figure in all of Europe, leaving behind optimism level of people of Montenegro (47.2%), Iceland (43.2%) and Sweden (40.7%).

***

As of June 2014, Albania is officially an EU candidate member country. The improvement of the joint perception on the EU and the encouragement for a better understanding of its institutions, values and procedures are seen as a very important and long term project.

The majority of Albanian society continues to strong support the European integration. There’s a progress in the rise of awareness and understanding on the European Union by the Albanian public. /ibna/

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