Polish priests strongly back EU membership, survey shows

Poland's Roman Catholic priests strongly support the country joining the European Union, according to a survey released Tuesday, after efforts by the government to secure support for the bid from the influential church.

The government in December completed negotiations with the EU's current 15 members so that Poland can join next year — but Polish membership has to be approved in a referendum, which is expected in June.

About 59 percent of priests back EU membership, while 20 percent oppose it, the independent Institute of Public Affairs found.

Poland's favorite son, Pope John Paul II, gave his blessing to the country joining up during a trip home in August. Still, the government is keen to secure backing from priests in rural areas where the country's mostly inefficient farmers fear increased competition from the west.

The institute said it polled 600 priests between Oct. 11 and Nov. 5. It gave a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Recent surveys have suggested a small majority of Poles support membership. But with the terms settled, Warsaw is worried about a poor turnout, which in national elections often falls below the 50 percent needed to make the referendum valid.