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Balkan Neighbors, EU Hopefuls Are Worlds Apart on Migrants

Balkan Neighbors, EU Hopefuls Are Worlds Apart on Migrants

by Neli Esipova and Julie Ray

Story Highlights

  • Macedonians are least accepting of migrants in the world
  • Albanians among the most accepting
  • High percentages in each country would like to migrate

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Adding yet another potential wrinkle to the migration debate in the European Union, the bloc announced in July that it could start accession negotiations next year with Macedonia and Albania -- two Balkan neighbors whose views toward migrants could not be farther apart. Macedonia's score of 1.47 on Gallup's Migrant Acceptance Index is the lowest in the entire world, while Albania's score of 7.22 makes it one of the most-accepting countries in the world for migrants.

Migrant Acceptance Index Scores Across EU, Macedonia and Albania
Sweden 7.92 Cyprus 5.41
Ireland 7.74 Malta 4.95
Luxembourg 7.54 Slovenia 4.42
Netherlands 7.46 Greece 3.34
Spain 7.44 Poland 3.31
Albania* 7.22 Romania 2.93
Denmark 7.09 Lithuania 2.72
Germany 7.09 Bulgaria 2.42
Portugal 6.65 Croatia 2.39
United Kingdom 6.61 Estonia 2.37
Finland 6.58 Czech Republic 2.26
Italy 6.49 Latvia 2.04
France 6.46 Slovakia 1.83
Belgium 6.16 Hungary 1.69
Austria 6.06 Macedonia* 1.47
Maximum possible score on the index is 9.0. *Albania and Macedonia are candidate countries.
Gallup World Poll, 2016

If Albania and Macedonia make sufficient progress toward reform, the two countries will continue to take steps to join a bloc that has struggled to find accord on migration since the height of the migration crisis in 2015. This division is further reflected in Gallup's finding that the EU is the most divided region in the world on its Migrant Acceptance Index, which gauges people's acceptance of migrants based on increasing degrees of personal proximity. The higher the resulting index score, the more accepting the population is of migrants.

Scores in the EU with its current membership range from a high of 7.92 in Sweden to a low of 1.69 in Hungary. Macedonia's score is lower than the one for Hungary -- one of the few countries to pull out of the recent U.N. global migration agreement -- while Albania's score would rank it just after Spain.

Cultural norms and traditions factor into people's attitudes toward migrants and Albania's higher scores may reflect the hospitality that is ingrained in its culture. This is illustrated in an old Albanian saying, "Before the house belongs to the owner, it first belongs to God and the guest."

Albanians historically have offered "besa" -- taking care of those in need and being hospitable -- to Jews fleeing Nazi persecution during World War II, to Kosovar refugees during the Kosovo War, and to Syrian refugees in the present conflict. Macedonia, on the other hand, sealed its border with Greece during the recent migrant crisis that started in 2015.

Desire to Migrate Elevated in Both Countries

While Albania and Macedonia are on opposite sides of the spectrum when it comes to their acceptance of migrants in their own societies, both countries themselves have extensive diasporas, and more than six in 10 residents say they have relatives or friends in other countries that they depend on for help.

Relatively high percentages in each country would also personally like to migrate permanently to other countries -- which potentially would be much easier if they were to join the EU. Sixty-two percent of Albanians and 33% of Macedonians in 2017 said they would like to migrate permanently to another country if they could, which is far higher than the wishes in almost all existing EU member states. Germany is a top desired destination for potential migrants in each country.

Desire to Migrate Permanently Across EU, Macedonia and Albania
Albania* 62% Spain 17%
Italy 36% Germany 16%
Macedonia* 33% Hungary 16%
Cyprus 30% Poland 16%
Belgium 27% Bulgaria 15%
United Kingdom 26% Portugal 15%
Lithuania 25% Croatia 14%
Slovenia 25% Slovakia 14%
Romania 24% Denmark 13%
France 21% Luxembourg 13%
Greece 21% Ireland 12%
Latvia 20% Sweden 12%
Malta 18% Austria 10%
Netherlands 18% Czech Republic 10%
Estonia 17% Finland 10%
*Albania and Macedonia are candidate countries.
Gallup World Poll, 2017


Before next year, both countries will need to demonstrate to the EU an ability to sustain reforms they've already made, and make additional progress on fighting organized crime and corruption, which majorities in each country acknowledge is a problem. However, those are not the only issues potentially complicating their eventual integration in 2025 -- if all goes according to plan: The bloc would be absorbing two countries with high unemployment -- and a high desire to migrate -- and with Macedonia's entry, the EU would gain a country as opposed to migrants as current member Hungary.

Anita Pugliese contributed to this analysis.

Survey Methods

These results are based on telephone and face-to-face interviews with approximately 1,000 adults, aged 15 and older, conducted throughout 2016 and 2017 in the respective countries. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error ranges from ±2.1 percentage points to ±5.6 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.

Learn more about how the Gallup World Poll works.

For complete methodology and specific survey dates, please review Gallup's Country Data Set details.

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