In Depth Society, 02/03/2016

Attitude to Ukraine’s European Integration in Kharkiv

The survey conducted by the GfK Ukraine on 26th October – 19th November 2015. Participants of the survey were 1,388 Kharkiv residents 18 years or over and 150 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in areas of their compact dwelling. The sample is representative for the Kharkiv adult population pursuant to gender, age and the region of residence according to the State Statistics Service as of 01.01.2014.

According to the survey results Kharkivites have more of a positive attitude to the EU than to Russia: 35% of respondents have a positive attitude towards the EU, 22% have negative attitude towards the EU; 31% of the respondents have positive attitude to Russia and 30% have negative attitude to Russia (other respondents could not or did not want to answer).

The way of living in the EU is more attractive: 64% of respondents assessed the quality of life in the EU as “very good / good”; comparable life quality in Russia is estimated the same way by only 18% of Kharkivites. While 46% of respondents believe that things in EU countries are going in the right direction; half of the respondents (22%) share the opinion that things in Russia are going in the right direction.

Although, the relationships with Russia are closer than with the EU:

– 53% of the respondents visited Russia (but only 21% visited the EU)

– 35% of the respondents keep in touch with family and friends from Russia (but only 17% keep in touch with relatives and friends from the EU).

30% of Kharkivites would support Ukraine’s accession to the EU, and 26% of respondents would support joining the Customs Union (CU) It’s interesting to know that 4% would support EU membership as well as membership in CU. A relative majority of the respondents (48%) would support neither joining the EU nor joining the CU. There are more supporters in favour of joining the EU than the supporters joining the CU among IDPs (24% opposed to 14 %).

The most convincing argument for joining the EU Kharkivites consider is strengthening the economy and visa-free travel to EU countries (23% of the respondents considered these arguments convincing). The arguments regarding the strengthening of democracy, protection of citizens’ rights and freedoms, the ways of real public influence on the authorities are less convincing. Only 16% of the respondents pointed these factors out. The most compelling arguments against joining the EU, included “decline of the economy, the destruction of the home producer, the closure of enterprises and increasing of unemployment” (19%) and “massive buying of Ukrainian land and industry by foreigners” (18%).

According to the results of the regression analysis the following beliefs or characteristics exist. Listed below are the most to least influential factors out of those that are the part of the regression model:

  • lack of regret for the collapse of the Soviet Union;
  • distrust towards mayor Gennadiy Kernes;
  • the belief that Ukraine is a part of European civilization, not solely a part of Eastern Slavic civilization;
  • belief that Ukraine should not withdraw the intention to join NATO for the sake of improving relations with Russia;
  • limited or no of personal experience of visiting Russia;
  • agreed with the assertion that the countries of the former socialist camp (Poland, Czech Republic, Romania, Bulgaria) and the former Soviet republics (Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia) improved their economy as a direct result of joining the EU ;
  • appreciation of quality of life in the EU;
  • trust in the President of Ukraine.

Factors determining voting “for joining the EU”.

These can be divided into 3 main categories:

  • value-emotional – attitude to the USSR, the perception of Ukraine as a part of European or East Slavic civilization, a sense of closeness to Russia, which is formed in particular by visiting there, etc.;
  • political – attitude towards the President vs. attitude towards mayor G. Kernes;
  • rational – acceptance that new EU Member improve the economy as a result of joining the EU, the assessment of quality of life in the EU.

The authors of this report believe that the most promising communication strategy is the impact on rational factors that is, information about the practical benefits of EU membership.

77% of Kharkivites would like to find out more about the EU and / or European integration.

In particular, 45% of Kharkivites noted that they would like to know how ordinary Europeans live (income, cost of living, education, medicine, police, etc.).

30% of Kharkivites would like to find out social and economic situation and differences in the EU – and experiences of the former Soviet Union countries, which recently joined the EU. 28% would like to know how the lives of residents of countries which recently joined the EU have changed. As noted above, knowing about benefits and improvements to the economy as a result of joining the EU of neighboring countries is an important factor in voting “for joining the EU” according to the results of regression analysis.

20% of Kharkivites would like to know what was provided by the Association Agreement with the EU (AA), what obligations were undertaken by Ukraine. It should be noted that there is prevalent understanding of the negative economic consequences for AA among Kharkivites: in particular, 59% believe that the transition to the European standards in accordance with AA will be unprofitable for Ukrainian manufacturers because of the high cost of production modernization. 34% believe that the Association will result (or has already resulted) in higher prices. 32% believe that it will result in utility price increases. Overall, 26% Kharkivites believe that they personally will lose from AA and only 15% of them expect they will personally benefit from it. Others think that the AA will not affect them, or could not answer.

19% of Kharkiv Inhabitants and business people would like to know what assistance the EU provides and can provide specifically to Ukraine. In response to the questions – what assistant does Ukraine need from the EU? – Kharkivites often mentioned investments in the Ukrainian economy (22%), assisting Ukrainian companies in entering the European market and lending / financial assistance to Ukraine (18%), assistance to strengthen energy independence and providing visa-free regime (17%).

Please find the full report here: GfK_report_Kharkiv_eng