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2021 Conference of the ECPR Standing Group on Politics and Gender

Who Wants a United Europe? A Study into Public Opinion Attitudes towards EU Enlargement

European Politics
European Union
Foreign Policy
Aleksandra Sojka
Universidad de Granada
Aleksandra Sojka
Universidad de Granada

Already a decade ago, the fifth European Union (EU) enlargement shifted its borders Eastward in what can be considered as a symbolic unification of the continent. However, still several candidates remain knocking on the EU’s door. Recently, their hopes for a swift EU accession vanished as the President of the newly appointed Commission, Jean Claude Juncker, officially put the enlargement on hold by saying that in the next five years the EU will not welcome any new members. But, how much public support is there for further extending the membership of the Union anyways? This paper addresses this relevant question by means of a study of public opinion in current member states, as well as the candidate countries. The main focus is on affective and utilitarian factors as drivers of attitudes towards enlargement and accession. Utilitarian considerations have been the driving force of EU support since its inception. However, the economic and financial crisis of late 2000’s seriously undermined the perception of the EU as guarantor of economic stability. Therefore, do the affective factors become more important now? Are those who identify as Europeans more favorable to further uniting of the continent? I explore this issue with recent data from Eurobarometer survey which reflects the changes in public opinion perceptions of the EU after the economic crisis.
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