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All-Russian Center for Public Opinion Studies has conducted a survey to find out what people think about integration in Europe. The study aims at sampling Russian public opinion prior to the EU meeting in Ireland that will focus on issues relating to the forthcoming EU extension to Eastern Europe. The opinion poll was carried out from February 21 through February 22, 2004, in 100 inhabited localities scattered around 39 regions, districts and republics of Russia. 1,580,000 people were polled in their places of residence. Statistical error is under 3.4 percent as reported by RIA Novosti News Agency.

?On the whole the opinion poll shows a certain degree of coolness of the Russians toward the concept of Russia being a close friend of the West,? said a source at the All-Russian Center for Public Opinion Studies.

The ?coolness? is reflected in larger numbers of those who are skeptical of European integration. They?re confident that no one in the EU is looking for Russia to join it and Europeans will never treat Russia as an equal partner. These skeptics increased their percentage from 16 to 20 percent on a year ago. The number of those who want Russia to be an equal partner to the EU dropped from 30 to 25 percent. The above people object to full integration of Russia into the European community.

The same trend is revealed in a hypothetical vote for/against the joining of the EU. The number of supporters fell 10 percent to 45 percent in the period from 2001 to 2004; the number of opponents grew 9 percent to 30 percent. A quarter of the polled found it difficult to produce an answer.

Those who favor Russia?s joining of the EU normally cite the following reasons: economic advantages, fears of being left out on the ?roadside of Europe?, intentions to catch up with the European standards in life, democracy and human rights. Only 12 percent of the polled cite the common European identity, cultural and spiritual similarities between Russia and Europe as leading motives for integration. On the contrary, citizens of the most countries of Eastern Europe view the ?return to the family? of European peoples as one of the major leading motives.

The opinion polls put economic issues linked to cooperation between Russia and the EU on top of the list. Cooperation in the fight against the international terrorism also remains one of the most important issues.

The opinion poll shows a slackening interest of the people toward the importance of military and technical cooperation, one of the noticeable changes manifested over the last year. In the meantime, civil aviation and space projects won more popularity with the Russian people. The removal of visa barriers for Russians traveling within the EU also became a more important issue. According to specialists of the above center, the issue is regarded more important nowadays following a new stage of the EU enlargement and the introduction of a visa regime for travel from Russia to such countries as Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic and Cyprus. More visa restrictions applicable to Russian citizens traveling within the Schengen zone are also considered as another reason behind the increasing importance of the issue.


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