Belarus between EU and EEU: Perceptions, Preferences, Values

The ODB Brussels (ODB) has commissioned a survey about perceptions, preferences, and values Belarusians attribute to the European Union (EU), and the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) in order to contribute to open and objective debate on the relations between Belarus and these two regional blocks.

This survey was conducted between 18 January and 7 February 2016 in Belarus, as part of the ODB Brussels project EU-Belarus Task Force, with the assistance of the Institute for Management and Social Technologies (GIUST), Belarusian State University (Professor David Rotman). The project was financially supported by the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida), Global Europe Centre (GEC) and Jean Monnet Chair, University of Kent.The findings are the copyright of  the ODB Brussels and the University of Kent: Please cite accordingly.

This nation-wide representative survey is cross-temporal, untaken with reference to the two analogous surveys conducted in 2009 and 2013 for comparative purposes. 

The survey involved all six regions of Belarus, covering 52 selected residential areas. The sampling was multi-staged, stratified, and random, and included 1,000 respondents (1643 contacts were attempted in total). The surveyed selection was representative of the population aged 18+ (urban and rural) by nationality, sex, region, age and education. The interview lasted on average 40-50 minutes using local languages for interlocution. The sample representation error was no more than + 3%. The survey included 12% random quality control on completion, undertaken by the Principal Investigator. 81 interviewers were involved in undertaking the survey. They had on average 3-10 years of polling experience, and received relevant training in social research skills.  

Principal investigator: Professor Elena A. Korosteleva, Politics, Jean Monnet Chair in European Politics, and Director (Professional Studies), Global Europe Centre at the School of Politics and IR, University of Kent.

Belarus’ National Values Survey 2016: executive summary

Three particular trends are observable in the opinion of the Belarusian respondents:

  • There is a high-level understanding and appreciation of the EU as an international partner, underpinned by a growing sense of common interest and partnership in a number of areas.
  • Differences in normative associations between BY, the EU and the EEU continue to persist. At the same time, fostering economic welfare may present a common ground for convergence.
  • Perceived rivalry and strategic overlap between the EU and the EEU are becoming more pronounced. Public reasoning however is currently swayed in favour of economic cooperation with the EEU.


Thematic Block I: The EU-Belarus relations under the EaP: perceptions, interests and expectations

-    There are a growing interest and importance of the EU for the BY respondents.
-    At the same time, emotively the EU now less associates with hope (-4 since 2013), and enthusiasm (a twofold decrease), and more with mistrust (+7) and anxiety (a twofold increase).
-    The EU-BY relations are seen as stable and prospering predicated on common economic, political and security interests.
-    There is a growing sense of Self-worth among the respondents, reflected in more positive perceptions of themselves abroad. This comes in sharp contrast to a similar (and very critical) Self-evaluation in the 2013 survey.
-    Two thirds of the respondents believe that BY should develop a new framework for relations with the EU, which would prioritise economic and trade relations (48%), as well as visa liberalisation and financial aid (20%). Only 8% consent that BY could benefit from the EU’s experience of democracy and good governance (an over twofold decrease since 2009).

Thematic Block II: BY values and normative associations

-    Public awareness levels about the EU and the EEU are exceptionally high and stable.
-    At the same time, there are persistent normative differences in public perceptions of their greater neighbours: while the EU continues to associate with a model of liberal democracy; the EEU presents a hybrid case of ‘social democracy,’ with a mix of liberal and socialist (egalitarian) values – which is closer to ‘the hearts and minds’ of the Belarusians.
-    For the first time however, market economy, a prevalent feature in both models, is seen as a ground for closer convergence between the two normative models.
-    There is a perceivable overlap in the benefits that the EU and the EEU could offer, which exacerbates a sense of rivalry between the two powers, in the eyes of the respondents. Trade and economic development are prioritised in the relationship with both, but more opportunities for cooperation are seen with the EEU.

Thematic Block III: Geopolitics – BY between the EU and the EEU

-    While both partners are seen as strategically important for BY, twice as many respondents believe that the EEU should be their principal partner.
-    A growing plurality of respondents believe the EU and the EEU may not be able to work together in helping to modernise BY.
-    There is a perceivable growing sense of rivalry between the two neighbours which is further attested by a sense of their overlapping competencies.
-    Over 50% respondents believe that the country’s foreign policy is firmly anchored on Russia and the EEU; with two thirds approving of this course of development.

To disseminate the survey findings as widely as possible ODB has made available detailed findings as well as the  raw data (SPSS) and answers to the questionnair in Russian.

Contact person: Alyona Lis

SPSS data

ODB Brussels