52% of Bulgarians see common defense as the EU's top priority

52% of Bulgarians believe that the EU should prioritize the common defense policy, while only 13% of our compatriots consider the issue a secondary one.

This is according to an Ipsos poll prepared for Euronews.

Almost half of Europeans agree that Brussels should sharpen its military strategy as the bloc faces a belligerent Russia and a vacillating US.

More than a third of the most Eurosceptic voters believe the EU should prioritize a common defense policy.

The poll of 26,000 EU voters shows that almost half support the pooling of military forces - a result that is likely to be comforting to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who has made defense a central theme of her re-election campaign.

The poll, which surveyed opinions in countries representing 96 per cent of the EU population ahead of bloc-wide elections to be held in June, showed voters were most concerned about inflation, inequality, and migration.

But bolstering defense is still more popular than sending aid to war-torn Ukraine or protecting minorities, the poll shows.

Many EU countries are starting to bolster their military forces after a full-scale war broke out in Ukraine and amid signs that the US, led by Donald Trump, may show less commitment to NATO.

Although it is an economic and regulatory rather than a military superpower, the EU has begun to look at ways of supplying arms more efficiently, and single market commissioner Thierry Breton has even proposed the creation of a €100 billion defense fund.

According to the study, a stronger EU defense is particularly popular in countries such as Finland and Poland, perhaps because they are neighbors of Russia and worry about its growing belligerence.

But support is far lower in Hungary, whose government has repeatedly blocked sanctions against Russia and support for Ukraine, and in Austria, whose constitution protects neutrality.

Support is highest among voters aged over 50 and in centrist parties, which are likely to back von der Leyen's bid for a second term.

But it is also surprisingly strong among those who are usually wary of devolving powers to Brussels. Almost half (45%) of European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) voters and more than one in three supporters of the more nationalist Identity and Democracy (ID) group support an enhanced military policy.

"The common defense of European borders and interests is one of the few things the EU is good for," said Italian ECR MEP Nicola Procaccini.

But von der Leyen's pledges to Europeanize defense spending could face hurdles, as in the past armies have always been in the hands of member states.

Turning Europe into a defense superpower is "a direct attack on the sovereignty of our nations", said French MEP Jean-Paul Garot, adding "Soldiers are not prepared to die for Europe".

This skepticism is shared by those planning to vote for the far left, whose manifesto for 2024 commits to cutting military spending and ridding Europe of nuclear weapons. /BGNES