The FINANCIAL -- From December 2013 to January 2014, a consortium composed of TNS Opinion SA, Kantar Media SA, Particip GmbH and GORBI conducted the autumn 2013 EU Neighbourhood Barometer as part of the “ENPI Regional Communication Programme 2011-2013: Opinion polling and media monitoring,” on behalf of the European Commission’s Development and Cooperation Office, Europe Aid (Unit F4).
The study had multiple objectives, but in this column I have decided to focus only on perceptions of citizens living in the Eastern Neighbourhood countries towards the EU, NATO and UN. Among the surveyed countries, over 7,000 respondents were asked whether or not they tend to trust these well-known regional/global organizations. Please be advised that the data was collected prior to the sharp escalation in tensions between the West and Russia amid rising hostilities in eastern and the tragic downing of Malaysian civilian airliner.
Among all the countries included in the poll, Georgia stands out for its continued public support towards these organizations.
The opinion survey’s main findings:
Respondents continue to most likely trust the EU (46%), followed by the UN (39%). A minority tends to trust NATO (24%).
Trust in the three international organizations increased throughout the three first waves of the survey but this present survey shows a clear decline in the levels of trust in all three organizations: EU (-7 percentage points), the UN (-7) and the NATO (-4). The negative trends are not surprising given that countries within the EU’s Eastern Neighbourhood region are still in the process of opening their borders and markets to Europe and other continents.
An analysis of the present national results reveals that among the three international organisations, the EU enjoys the highest level of trust in four countries: Georgia (71%), Moldova (48%), Ukraine (45%) and Azerbaijan (42%).
Respondents in Armenia, Belarus and the Russian Federation are almost equally likely to trust the EU and the UN.
By far the highest levels of trust in NATO are expressed in Georgia (68%) and this is not a surprise if one looks at the recent history of this country.
Some distinct developments can be observed in comparison to the spring of 2013. In Georgia and Azerbaijan, respondents are now considerably more likely to trust all three international organisations. Conversely, levels of trust are generally falling in Ukraine.
Table 1: Trust in institution
Source: ENPI barometer nationwide surveys. Note: numbers are given in percentages.
Let’s now take a closer look at respondents’ trust in the EU:
1. A majority of respondents in six countries tend to trust the EU. The highest levels of trust are observed in Georgia (71%), Armenia (54%) and Moldova (48%).
2. Only in the Russian Federation do respondents who distrust the EU (43%) outnumber those who say they tend to trust the organisation (35%).
3. Significant developments in the levels of trust can be observed since the spring of 2013. In the five countries, levels of trust are falling. This is particularly the case in Ukraine (-12 percentage points), Moldova (-10) and the Russian Federation (-10). In turn, respondents in Georgia and Azerbaijan are now considerably more likely to trust the European Union (+14 both).
Things are dramatically changing in the surveyed countries amid increasing military clashes in eastern Ukraine and along its porous border with Russia. This undoubtedly has a detrimental effect on the formation of public opinion. The next waves of this survey will hopefully confirm this and we may have a completely different situation not only among Russian or Ukrainian respondents, but among Belarusians and Armenians (who have at best reluctantly agreed to join the Russian-dominated Eurasian Economic Union). As for Georgia, despite being pre-emptively denied an anticipated Membership Action Plan at the upcoming NATO summit in Wales, its citizens will most likely continue to support integration with NATO. There simply is no alternative policy course that promises the hope of physically safeguarding Georgian territory and continued military reforms. No matter how many lucrative economic deals Russia throws at us to entice us into the Customs Union, prospects for a real partnership with Russia will be hindered by a lack of trust. Friendship is nothing but commerce – and each side seeks his own interests. It is clear what Russia’s are and thank god we know what our interests are.
GORBI is a regional hub for partner organizations and international clients. Since 2003, GORBI remains an exclusive member of Gallup International research network for its two decades of experience in survey research in post-Soviet Union countries, as well as Mongolia and Iraq. All 6 surveys were conducted on a national representative sample of 1,000 respondents; data retains a 3% margin of error, with confidence at 95%. This data was provided exclusively to the Financial. Please do not visit our site ( www.gorbi.com ); it is under construction.