Confidence in the EU’s ability to handle crises has been affected by Covid-19, a major survey shows, but dissatisfaction with national political systems is even greater and most people continue to support membership in the EU and wants a stronger and more cooperative bloc.
The report’s authors suggested that the vote should be a wake-up call for Brussels, warning that while public support for the overall European project remained high in many countries, it was fragile and would not easily survive further disappointments.
The Europeans were “making a distinction between the need for cooperation and solidarity at the European level and their confidence in the EU to deliver,” they said, and were unhappy that the bloc “had missed an opportunity to prove itself.”
The poll also suggested that Brexit had changed Europeans’ views of the UK, and prevailing opinion now sees Britain, like the United States, as a “necessary partner” with whom to “strategically cooperate” rather than a ally, and one in four Germans and one in five French and Spanish respondents consider it a rival or adversary.
The report, published by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) on Wednesday, he suggested that the bloc’s poor early response to the pandemic and the slow initial launch of the vaccine had dealt a serious blow to confidence in its capabilities.
In half of the states surveyed, the majority of respondents had little confidence in the EU or said their confidence had deteriorated, with majorities in France (62%), Italy (57%), Germany (55%), Spain (52%) and Austria (51%) saying that the EU project was “broken”.
However, disillusionment with national politics was even greater: 80% of respondents in Italy and Spain, 66% in France, 60% in Portugal, 55% in Poland and 54% in Hungary said their own internal political system was “broken”.
Furthermore, in all but one state, the majority of respondents still felt that EU membership was “a good thing” for their country (the exception was France, where the largest number of respondents said that membership was “neither good or bad “). ).
The survey revealed a broad sentiment 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 that the coronavirus pandemic showed the need for greater collaboration.
And despite their frustrations, respondents in eight of the 12 countries still viewed the EU as key to their country’s recovery from the coronavirus crisis.
Across all countries surveyed, the majority of respondents, led by Portugal with 91%, Spain with 80%, Italy with 77% and Poland with 68%, said they would like the EU to adopt a more unified response in the future in the face of global crises. and challenges.
A plurality also said they wanted the EU to play a more assertive role on the world stage, for example, upholding human rights and the rule of law when violated in countries such as Turkey and China, while prioritizing democratic values and the rule of law. of the law within the block.
The report’s authors, Susi Dennison and Jana Puglierin, ECFR policy fellows, said that there remained 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 underscores the urgency with which the EU needs to improve its game,” the authors wrote.
“Both countries have important upcoming national elections next year, which may represent a challenge for EU leaders. Our survey data indicates that the EU has exhausted its second chances. “
They said that EU leaders had the opportunity at the G7, NATO and EU-US summits. This summer to “restart permissive consensus for the European project”, but should avoid “excessive institutional scope or excessive promises.”
Instead, they said, they should focus on “playing a role in which they can really enhance the efforts of national governments and in which the European public wants to see them compromised”, such as human rights, the rule of law and democratic values.
Post-pandemic recovery would be critical, they said. “The commission cannot afford to make the same mistakes while orchestrating the bloc’s economic revival,” Dennison said. “The recovery fund, by ushering in green and inclusive growth, could be the next EU success story.”
Puglierin added that the data showed that Europeans wanted “decisive leadership that prioritizes multilateralism and defends and defends their values and interests on the global stage. Senior EU officials would do well to listen and act accordingly. They may not have another chance. “
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism