By Sam Tilley
The European elections have been heavily featured in the UK press over the last few weeks, although not for the reasons that they traditionally have been. As a consequence of the Brexit debate, it is easy to forget that the countries remaining inside the European Union have their own non-Brexit issues to consider; prime amongst them is the near-universal discussion around migration.
However, a recent poll suggests a substantial grouping of southern and eastern EU member states are more concerned about the polar opposite of immigration; emigration. These member states count amongst their number Spain, Italy, Greece, Poland, Hungary and Romania. The survey was taken by 45,000 people across 14 countries that make up 80% of the seats in the European Parliament.
These countries include the two European countries most closely linked with the ongoing refugee crisis in Italy and Greece. Perhaps the most surprising country on the above list is Hungary; President Viktor Orban coming under heavy fire from other EU leaders for his position on migration. Under Orban, Hungary has refused to take part in an EU quota system designed to redistribute migrants that arrive in the EU from areas of conflict.
There are numerous suggestions for why this poll has reported back the results that it has. One of the primary factors that affects migration, especially in EU member states located in the east of Europe, is employment. Rising unemployment, especially among young people, has led to a mass exodus from these countries to other parts of the EU. One thing that all of the six nations listed above have in common is a systemic population decline that has been in place over the last decade. A combination of decreasing birth rates and migration to other EU states has led to something of a population crisis in a number of European states. The most heavily affected European countries, albeit one that is not universally recognized, is Kosovo who, over the past decade, have lost roughly 15% of their population.
Migration is not the only issue affecting the European elections, however. Corruption and the environment have both been nominated as the issues that the majority of Europeans are worried about. It is important to note however that whilst immigration wasn’t the most voted on option within the survey, a large amount of potential European voters did flag up migration as being one of the most important issues in the upcoming elections. Regardless of what the survey has indicated, it is beyond likely that migration will continue to be one of the major issues debated within European politics in the years to come.