Most European citizens disagree with Brussels’ efforts to relax environmental and import regulations on Ukrainian produce, Századvég’s Project Europe research shows.


The European Council has decided to extend the suspension of tariff and import restrictions on Ukrainian products. Brussels initially justified the relaxation of the rules on agricultural products from Ukraine by arguing that the war between Russia and Ukraine had prevented goods from reaching third countries via the previous transport routes. However, events over the past year and a half have shown that the intention behind the Brussels efforts was more to represent the interests of multinational agribusinesses operating in Ukraine than to secure food supplies for developing countries.

By lifting the rules, a significant proportion of the cheap, lower-quality and often genetically modified (GMO) products of Ukrainian companies, which operate in a concentrated way with less stringent environmental rules, have not reached third countries, but have flooded the European market, making it impossible for local farmers to survive. In parallel with the lifting of import restrictions, Brussels has also made several proposals to relax EU rules on GMOs, which would remove the obligation for Ukrainian companies to label products as containing GMOs.

Local businesses have already demonstrated their discontent with recent farmers’ protests across Europe. And according to the results of Századvég’s new Project Europe survey, the majority of citizens are also against Brussels’ ambitions: 52% disagree with the idea of relaxing GMO rules to make it easier for Ukrainian grain to enter the EU, and only 35% support the idea.

The differences between countries in the results can be explained by two factors: attitudes towards the Russia-Ukraine war and exposure to Ukrainian grain dumping. The only EU Member State with an absolute majority (52%) in favour of the ambition is Portugal. In addition, the results of the survey show relative majorities in Spain and the Netherlands (44% in each country), as well as in Sweden, Finland (42% in each) and the Baltic states (48% in Estonia, 44% in Latvia and 43% in Lithuania), which take an extremely pro-sanctions stance on the war. Hungarians (85%), Bulgarians (73%) and Austrians (70%) were the most likely to reject the ambition.

• The Project Europe research

In the first half of 2016, the Századvég Foundation conducted a public opinion survey covering the 28 Member States of the European Union to examine the views of European citizens on the issues that most affect the future of the Union. The Project28 public opinion survey was the most extensive ever, with a unique survey of 1,000 randomly selected adults per country, totalling 28,000. The main objectives of the survey were to gauge public sense of prosperity and to explore public attitudes towards the performance of the European Union, the migration crisis and rising terrorism. Following the surveys of 2017, 2018 and 2019, the Századvég Foundation, on behalf of the Hungarian government, continued the research since 2020 under the name Project Europe, which continued to reflect on the most dominant topics in European political and public discourse.

Once again, the 2024 survey aimed to explore public attitudes to the most important public issues affecting our continent. In addition to the public sense of prosperity, the performance of the European Union, the energy crisis and the migration crisis, and in line with the new challenges facing Europe, the main topics of this year’s public opinion poll are the rising geopolitical tensions, the perception of the media and child protection. The 2024 survey covered the European Union, the United Kingdom, Norway and Switzerland, and a total of 30,000 randomly selected adults were interviewed using CATI between 14 February and 15 April.