What Europeans Really Think of Ukraine and EU Enlargement

As the discussion on the next EU enlargement proceeds, the support of European citizens to support Ukrainians remains solid but not as solid as in the recent past.
Number: 49
Year: 2023
Author(s): Stefano Feltri

As the discussion on the next EU enlargement that might include Ukraine in the bloc proceeds, the support of European citizens to support Ukrainians remains solid but not as solid as in the recent past. Euopinions - a Bertelsman Stigtung project - has monitored how the EU sentiment has evolved towards Ukraine over 18 months.

Kiev membership

As the discussion on the next EU enlargement that might include Ukraine in the bloc proceeds, the support of European citizens to support Ukrainians remains solid but not as solid as in the recent past. 

Euopinions - a Bertelsmann Stiftung project - has monitored how the EU sentiment has evolved towards Ukraine over 18 months. 

The recently released Euopinions report presents data collected in September 2023, just before the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel, which might have shaped the European citizens’ opinions on defense and security since then.
The main finding is that Europeans strongly support delivering weapons to Ukraine, but they are getting more cautious, especially in Poland, probably due to the recent election campaign that made Ukraine a more divisive topic. 

Kiev weapons

The social and economic consequences of the war are starting to somewhat impact European sentiment. The willingness to accept refugees from Ukraine, and to pay higher energy bills as a price for a more independent EU is not as high as two in Spring 2022, when Russia's full-scale invasion started.

Kieve energy
Kiev refugees

However, maybe surprisingly, this “war fatigue” has not severely impacted the European sentiment on future, potential EU membership for Ukraine. 

Kiev Eu membership

However, there are many intermediate challenges between the opening of the membership procedure and its final outcome. The major uncertainties relate to a post-war reconstruction of Ukraine. 


According to Euopinons surveys, Europeans are worried about bearing a heavy financial burden. More fiscal conservative countries - such as Germany and the Netherlands - are the most skeptical. 

Kiev reconstruction

Isabell Hoffmann, from Bertelsmann Stiftung,  and Catherine E. de Vries, an IEP@BU managing council member, are in charge of the Euopinions project. "While European voters have shown remarkable solidarity with Ukraine for the past years, some cracks are starting to emerge, especially when it comes to financial aid and reconstruction. In this context, European leaders will have to formulate a clear narrative about why enlargement is important to keep the public on their side," Professor De Vries argues. 

IEP@BU-Euopinions Joint Project

Given the 2024 European parliamentary elections, IEP@BU and Eupinions plan to jointly collect and publish data. In addition to the standard trend questions, a flexible set of additional questions will be asked to address specific topics particularly relevant for the policymaking debate at the time, for example, we envision an event on Ukrainian reconstruction/accession, current political events, and the EP 2024 elections.

IEP experts will provide input on the questions and on the scientific aspects of the surveys.

IEP@BU and Europinions will co-organize a series of events and publications to discuss survey results and their policy implications. 

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IEP@BU does not express opinions of its own. The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors. Any errors or omissions are the responsibility of the authors.