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EU election: Security concerns rise

A giant canvas promoting the European elections is seen on the European Parliament Thursday, April 11, 2024 in Strasbourg, eastern France. PHOTO: AP

BRUSSELS (AP) — Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is at the forefront of European Union citizens’ minds, with defence and security seen as key campaign issues ahead of the June elections, according to a study published Wednesday.

At national level, the EU’s defence and security is mentioned first in nine countries, in contrast with sentiments five years ago when the last EU Parliament elections were held.

“The EU’s defence and security was far from a prominent topic in 2019, before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022,” the latest edition of the EU Parliament’s Eurobarometer said.

The report, a collection of opinion surveys across the 27 EU nations, showed that defence and security — alongside the economy and jobs — now come in third place (31 per cent) behind poverty and social exclusion (33 per cent) and public health (32 per cent).

Climate change and the future of Europe follow closely.

The Eurobarometer also noted that EU citizens put defence and security as first priorities in reinforcing the EU’s global position, ahead of food security and agriculture.

Looking at the next legislative mandate, peace and democracy are considered the main values to defend in the coming years, ahead of the protection of human rights, freedom of speech and thought and the rule of law.

Peace is the most valued goal in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Finland. In the Baltic states, Russia’s belligerence toward Ukraine has led some to worry that they could be the next target, while Finland’s relationship with Russia has significantly deteriorated due to the Nordic country’s membership in NATO and over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and related sanctions.

The report also highlighted a surge of interest in the June 6-9 elections.

Some 60 per cent of Europeans said they are interested in the next European elections, an 11-point increase since 2019, and 71 per cent said they are likely to cast a ballot.

The majority of respondents said voting is even more important considering the global situation.

The survey was carried out between February 7 and March 3 in all 27 EU countries. In total, 26,411 interviews were made.