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Swedes' integration fears top EU: study

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Swedes' integration fears top EU: study
16:55 CEST+02:00
Swedes have a more favourable opinion of immigration to Sweden than they do of the actual integration process, according to a new study looking at transatlantic attitudes, which also found Swedes were less favourable towards the US than they were last year.

While the US and Europe both recorded majorities stating that first-generation immigrants were integrating well, 61 percent of Swedes responded that they were integrating poorly, and 43 percent said that second generation immigration was poor.

In addition, nearly two-thirds of Swedes, 64 percent, said they had concerns about how the government was handling immigration issues. While the figure was higher than the average of 58 percent across the EU countries including in the study, it was well below that of Italy, where 83 percent said their government was doing a poor job managing immigration, with Spain and the UK not far behind.

The figures come from the 2013 Transatlantic Trends Survey carried out by the German Marshall Fund of the United States, the results of which were published on Wednesday.

Swedes have a much more positive reaction to immigration than their European cousins. In Europe, 44 percent of respondents saw immigration as a problem, and 41 percent saw it as more of an opportunity.

Sixty-eight percent of Swedes, meanwhile, responded that they saw immigration as an opportunity.

Anna Jardfelt, head of the Swedish Institute of International Affairs (Utrikespolitiska institutet), noted that one of the more "interesting" results came in the form of statistics on attitude to immigration and integration.

"It's quite fascinating to see that while we are the most favourable towards immigration, we have quite serious worries on integration. We are open to people actually coming to Sweden, but are concerned about how they integrate," she told The Local.

"Elsewhere in Europe, especially around the southern end, people are more reticent about immigration and more open to integration - completely the other way around. This was one of the more interesting results," Jardfelt said.

Around 78 percent of Swedes said they were not worried about legal immigration at all and 39 percent responded that they were't concerned about illegal immigration.

Swedes registered the strongest disagreement to the question of whether "immigrants take jobs away from native born" citizens at 77 percent, compared to a European majority of 62 percent.

Just over half of Swedes surveyed added that they did not find immigrants to be a "burden on social services", with just under three quarters responding in fact that they found immigrants to be helpful in filling worker-shortages, with the same amount (74 percent) adding that immigrants actually help create jobs when starting new businesses.

Sweden also topped the tables when it came to positive responses to the question of whether immigrants enrich the nation's culture, with 82 percent of Swedes agreeing compared to 69 percent in the US and 60 percent in Europe.

Aside from immigration, Swedes reported a having a drop in favourable attitudes toward the United States. Positive opinion towards the US from Sweden decreased from 67 to 57 percent, and Sweden had among the highest disapproval ratings of the Obama administration's foreign policy, with 27 percent against how the US president conducts his relations with other countries.

The survey, however, was carried out in June before the president's visit to Stockholm in September, a factor which Jardfelt believes may have affected the results drastically.

IN PICTURES: See Obama's top ten moments from his Stockholm visit

The report also noted that 70 percent of Swedes didn't feel affected by the economic crisis, and that 70 percent of Swedes approved of their government's handling of international policies.

The Transatlantic Trends report is an annual survey of US and European public opinion and is based on responses gathered by the TNS Opinion polling firm in June 2013.

Sweden was included in the survey for the first time in 2011. Ten other European Union member states besides Sweden were surveyed for the 2013 report, including France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, and the United Kingdom.

Oliver Gee

Follow Oliver on Twitter here

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