The expected surge in support for eurosceptics in this week's European elections will not sweep the whole bloc, with voters from Spain to Ireland and the Baltics showing solid support for the EU.

Opinion polls predict a significant advance for nationalist and populist forces opposed to closer European Union integration in the vote, which begins on Thursday and runs to Sunday.

But the latest Eurobarometer survey commissioned by the European Parliament found 61 per cent of respondents say their country's EU membership is a good thing - the highest level since the early 1990s.

Spain, which elects the fifth-biggest contingent of lawmakers to the 751-seat European parliament, is a prime example of a country resisting the eurosceptic trend.

According to Eurobarometer, 69 per cent of Spaniards have a favourable view of bloc membership and polls show the pro-EU Socialists are on track to win the most seats.

A survey carried out by Madrid's Real Elcano Institute in France, Germany, Italy and Spain found that Spaniards had the strongest attachment to Europe.

Spain's return to democracy following the death of longtime dictator Francisco Franco in 1975 and its entry in 1986 into EU forerunner the European Economic Community "are two sides of the same coin," said Jose Ignacio Torreblanca of the European Council on Foreign Relations think-tank.

"National identity has been configured as a European identity in the face of Francoism. Spaniards are therefore vaccinated against anti-European nationalism," he added.

Even the programme of far-right party Vox, which won seats in the Spanish parliament for the first time in a general election last month, starts off by saying "we believe in Europe because we are Europe".

Prosperity

While in France people talk of "Les Trente Glorieuses", the 30 years of post-war economic growth that began in 1945, in Spain "our period of maximum prosperity is associated with entry into the EU," said Torreblanca.

EU membership helped thrust Spain into the modern world. EU developments funds for example have helped the country build Europe's largest high-speed rail network.

Like Spain, in Portugal 69 per cent of the population looks upon EU membership favourably.

The country joined the bloc in the same year as its neighbour after decades of dictatorship and it has "benefited greatly from the European project" in terms of improved social services, education and transport, said the head of the ruling Socialist Party's poll list, Pedro Marques.

The poverty rate for senior citizens in Portugal has been halved since statistics started being kept in 1995, he noted.

Polls show Portugal's ruling Socialists will win the most seats while support for the populist right will be negligible.

Ireland, which is amongst the most pro-EU nations with 83 per cent of respondents having a positive opinion of membership according to Eurobarometer, has also benefited hugely.

The country has received €42 billion in EU development aid since it joined the EU in 1973, 700,000 jobs have been created and foreign trade increased 90 fold, according to Irish government figures.

The main parties are all pro-European. Prime Minister Leo Varadkar has called his ruling Fine Gael party "the party of Europe".

Security

Kathryn Simpson, lecturer in politics at Manchester Metropolitan University, said Britain and Ireland "could not be any more different in their attitudes towards the EU," with Ireland "consistently positive and pro-EU in its stance".

Ireland will bear the economic brunt of Britain's looming exit from the EU and it has consistently been backed by its EU partners.

For the three former Soviet-ruled Baltic states which joined the EU in 2004 - Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia - bloc membership is also synonymous with prosperity due to the access to the single market it has given them as well as security in the face of a more assertive Russia.

The trio have grown increasingly wary of Russia since it annexed the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea in 2014.

Even in Estonia, where a far-right party is part of the governing coalition, 74 per cent view EU membership favourably, more than in Lithuania (71 per cent) and Latvia (54 per cent), according to Eurobarometer.

In Latvia and Lithuania no major eurosceptic party is running in the European elections.

Comments

Comments not loading? We recommend using Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox with javascript turned on.
Comments powered by Disqus