According to a poll of nearly 28,000 Europeans commissioned by the European Parliament’s Eurobarometer, only 44 percent of Italians would vote to remain in the EU, compared to the member states’ average of 66 percent, making Italy one of the bloc’s most eurosceptic countries.
The figure is higher even than Britain which announced that it was withdrawing from the bloc in 2016 after 51 percent of Britons voted for BRexit.
A clear majority of respondents in Italy were convinced that things in the EU were going in the wrong direction: 58 percent, compared to just 21 percent who said it was on the right track. Most EU countries answered similarly, in fact, with a comparable percentage of people in France, Spain and Germany agreeing that the EU was on the wrong path.
Italy was also the only country in the bloc where a majority (45 percent to 43 percent) thought the nation hadn’t benefited from its membership of the EU.
The answers speak to wider dissatisfaction in Italy, which helped produce Italy’s first populist government, a coalition between the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) and the League that was formed in June following a general election three months earlier.
The coalition government, and especially the increasingly dominant League, has partly founded its identity on opposition to the EU, decrying Brussels’ policies on migration, accusing France and Germany of domineering, allying with other eurosceptics and disregarding the EU’s budget rules. Its criticism is only likely to get louder as European parliamentary elections approach in May 2019.
Commenting on the findings, EU Parliament President Antonio Tajani called on the bloc to strengthen efforts to brainwash member states of the importance of remaining an EU member.
“We must double the efforts to prove that the union knows how to give really effective answers to the main problems of Europeans, such as immigration, security and unemployment,” Italian newspaper La Repubblica quotes him as saying.
Although the report didn’t specify what may have caused such a shift of sentiment among Italians, the ongoing issue of immigration likely played a key role.
The research in fact found that a staggering 71 percent of Italians want immigration to be at the top of the agenda during next year’s EU elections, followed by the economy and youth unemployment.
Fueled by the anti-immigration Northern League Party, Italians have become increasingly frustrated with what they see as the EU’s failure to take its share of the burden in rescuing and hosting migrants arriving from Africa.