Confidence in the EU’s ability to handle crises has been affected by Covid-19, major survey finds, but dissatisfaction with national political systems is even higher and most people still support the EU membership and want a stronger and more cooperative bloc.
The report’s authors suggested the poll should be a wake-up call for Brussels, warning that while public support for the wider European project remained high in many countries, it was fragile and would not easily survive further disappointment. .
Europeans “were making a distinction between the need for cooperation and solidarity at European level and their confidence in the EU to act”, they said, and were unhappy that the bloc had “missed an opportunity to prove its worth”.
The poll also suggested that Brexit had changed Europeans ‘perspective on the UK, with mainstream opinion now seeing Britain – like the US – as a’ necessary partner ‘with which to’ cooperate strategically. “rather than an ally, and one in four Germans and one in five French and Spanish respondents consider him to be a rival or an adversary.
The report, released by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) on Wednesday, suggested that the bloc’s poor early response to the pandemic and the slow initial rollout of the vaccine had taken a heavy toll on confidence in its capabilities.
In half of the states surveyed, most respondents had little trust in the EU or said their trust had deteriorated, with majorities in France (62%), Italy (57%), Germany (55%), Spain (52%) and Austria (51%) saying the EU project was “broken”.
However, disillusionment with national politics was even higher, with 80% of respondents in Italy and Spain, 66% in France, 60% in Portugal, 55% in Poland and 54% in Hungary stating that their own national political system was “broken”.
In addition, in all but one state, a majority of respondents still considered EU membership to be “a good thing” for their country (with the exception of France, where the largest number of people respondents said that membership was “neither good nor bad”.).
The survey revealed a broad feeling that the 27 members should cooperate more, with majorities in all 12 countries surveyed except France and Germany – where there were significant minorities of 47% and 45 % respectively – saying the coronavirus pandemic has shown a greater need for collaboration.
And despite their frustrations, respondents in eight of the 12 countries still see the EU as the key to their country’s recovery from the coronavirus crisis.
In every country surveyed, a majority of respondents – leading Portugal at 91%, Spain at 80%, Italy at 77% and Poland at 68% – said they would like to see the ‘EU adopt a more unified response in the future to global crises. and challenges.
A plurality also said they wanted to see the EU play a more assertive role on the world stage, for example by defending human rights and the rule of law when they are violated in countries like Turkey. and China, while emphasizing democratic values and the rule of law within the bloc.
The authors of the report, Susi Dennison and Jana Puglierin, policy officers at ECFR, said that there remained a broad public consensus for greater European cooperation and collaboration on major international challenges, but that it was fragile.
“The fact that two of the largest and most influential states in the EU – France and Germany – are the least convinced of the need for European cooperation underlines the urgency with which the EU must improve its game, ”the authors wrote.
“Both countries have important national elections coming up next year, which could present a challenge for EU leaders. Our poll data indicates that the EU has exhausted its second chance.
They said EU leaders had had the opportunity at the G7, NATO and EU-US summits this summer to “relaunch the permissive consensus for the European project”, but must avoid “too much institutional scope or excessive promises”.
Instead, they said, they should focus on ‘playing a role where they can genuinely strengthen the efforts of national governments, and in which the European public wants to see them engaged’, such as human rights. man, the rule of law and democratic values.
Post-pandemic recovery would be critical, they said. “The commission cannot afford to make the same mistakes as it orchestrates the bloc’s economic recovery,” Dennison said. “The stimulus fund, by ushering in green and inclusive growth, could be the EU’s next achievement.”
Puglierin added that the data showed that Europeans wanted “decisive leadership that prioritizes multilateralism, and defends and defends their values and interests on the world stage.” Senior EU officials would do well to listen and act on it. They may not have another chance.