EU public opinion on expansion: not enthusiastic

In an effort to allay fears about waning commitment on EU expansion, officials in Brussels on Wednesday unveiled a "road map" for frontrunners that, if followed, would open the Union's door to successful candidates at the beginning of 2003. But how do the people in other EU member states feel about the Union's early expansion? Daniela Lazarova has this report:

According to regularly conducted Euro-barometer surveys, popular support for the European Union's eastward expansion is waning, lower this year than it was in 1999. A great many people think that the countries knocking on the EU's door are ill-prepared for admission and will drag the entire union down while siphoning off large amount of funds from EU coffers.

As the projected target date for the first wave of admissions nears, EU citizens are said to be increasingly fearful for their jobs with the thought of millions of low-paid Poles, Hungarians and Czechs streaming across open borders. They fear an influx of corruption, disrespect for the law, increased environmental damage and crime.

If the Czechs are unhappy about having been placed in the third group of EU candidates by officials in Brussels, they would be far less happy with the position allotted them by the EU public. They figure last-but-one on the ladder of the 10 top candidates, followed only by Slovenia which for some reason many EU citizens think of as a Balkan country. Czech analysts point out that it is disturbing to find that EU citizens fear the Czech Republic's admission more than that of Cyprus, which is expected to bring a great deal of unwanted 'political luggage' with it.

As far as anti-Czech sentiments go, Austrians currently top the list, citing the Temelin nuclear power plant as their main objection. Despite the Czech Republic's traditionally good relationship with France, the French are equally skeptical as regards the benefits of expansion. Germany on the other hand is more forthcoming: three out of five Germans would welcome the Czech Republic's EU entry. And the Czech Republic's most enthusiastic supporters are to be found in Sweden, Denmark and Greece.