EU Skepticism in Austria Underpinned by Eurobarometer Survey

Lifestyle & TravelCulture ♦ Published: July 10, 2023; 22:45 ♦ (Vindobona)

According to the latest Eurobarometer survey, Austrians continue to be among the biggest EU skeptics in Europe. Only 35 percent regard the EU as a whole as "positive," while the EU average is 45 percent. Just under a third of respondents in Austria are in favor of EU enlargement, while across Europe half are in favor.

EU skepticism remains high in Austria. / Picture: ©

However, just under one-third of Austrian respondents disapprove of the EU as a whole, an increase of four percentage points compared with the previous Eurobarometer. On average in Europe, only 18 percent feel this negatively about the Union.

Austrian respondents are particularly skeptical about close military cooperation within the EU. Only 56 percent are in favor of a common EU security and defense policy, compared with 77 percent across Europe.

Interestingly, however, there is a high willingness to support Ukraine not only humanitarian and financially. Around two-thirds of Europeans and just under half of Austrians surveyed are in favor of accession candidate status for Ukraine.

The survey, entitled "Spring 2023 - Standard Eurobarometer" (EB 99), was conducted from May 31 to June 21 in the 27 EU member states. A total of 26,425 EU citizens were surveyed.

Biggest concerns

The greatest concerns for Europeans and Austrians continue to be rising prices and the cost of living. Around 61 percent of Austrian respondents see them as the biggest problem in their own country. This is also the view of 45 percent of their European neighbors.

In Austria, this is followed by climate change and migration, each with 21 percent. In the ranking of the most pressing issues across Europe, inflation (27 percent EU-wide and Austria) is ahead of the "internal situation" (25 and 24 percent, respectively) and immigration (24 and 23 percent, respectively).

Background to skepticism

Recent historical experience probably plays an important role in skeptical attitudes toward the EU. Due to Austria's complex history of exposure to political and economic changes in Europe in the past, a certain skepticism toward the supranational EU may arise.

Economic concerns probably play the main role. The perception that the EU harms the domestic economy could contribute to EU skepticism. This could be due to competition with other EU member states, the introduction of the euro, or the regulations of the single market. First and foremost, ordinary people are experiencing social cuts, for which the EU is partly responsible.

The political debate about EU membership and European integration also contributes to EU skepticism. Controversial issues such as the distribution of power within the EU, migration, or democratic decision-making processes can lead to a critical attitude toward the EU. Sovereignty concerns are another factor in neutral Austria. Some people fear that membership in the EU could restrict national freedom of decision, which leads to reservations about the EU.

Media influence also plays a role. The way the EU is portrayed in the media can influence public opinion. Critical coverage of EU affairs can contribute to EU skepticism. Often, the EU has also been used by parties as a kind of scapegoat.