Some EU observers certainly feared negative fallout after the bruising and circuitous choosing of the EU Commission president in the aftermath of the European Parliament vote, held in May. After all, a politician, Germany’s Ursula von der Leyen, was eventually picked for the post even though she wasn’t on the ballot and several other Spitzenkandidaten, or lead candidates, were. It didn’t reflect high respect for the rules or pan-European democracy.
But the most recent Eurobarometer poll, taken in June across the 28 EU member states and in five candidate countries, shows no disillusionment of the sort. Those who “tend to trust” the EU creeped up two points from a year ago to 44%, while distrust dropped two points to 46%. That’s its highest level since 2004 and ten percentage points ahead of trust in national governments and parliament. In almost all fields, opinion about the EU tended to be buoyant, at least compared to feelings about their respective national state. Support for the euro hit an all-time high of 76%.
"Overall, the EU is seen in a more positive light than at any time over the past ten years," according to the Eurobarometer report.
These are not super high numbers that EU fans can really rejoice over, but they’re an improvement at a time when the EU is under attack and many were just recently predicting its downfall. Perhaps they reflect the predicament in which Brexit has landed the UK – or the unease over Trumpian America.
More impressive than the trust numbers, 61% of Europeans claim they’re optimistic about the EU’s future. And 73% consider themselves to be “European,” which is also up two points from last year. 55% maintained that they’re happy with the EU’s form of democracy, which topped that in polls over the previous 15 years.
But the result vary across countries, with EU positive marks highest in Ireland (85%), followed by Denmark (79%), Lithuania (76%) and Poland (74%), according to Eurobarometer. 69% of Romanians claimed to be optimistic about the EU’s future – well above the EU average of 45%. The least thrilled were, not surprising the UK citizenry. More surprising: France landed third to last, less negative than only UK and Greece.
Indeed, though immigration is still concern number one for EU citizens, it is of much less concern than a year ago. The number two issue is climate change, which soared up by six points. (The Scandinavians were the most concerned about global warming.) Economic issues, terrorism, and the public finances of the member states all followed with roughly similar ratings.
As for the role of the EU, the most of those surveyed appreciated was the freedom to travel without borders.Perhaps the threat of losing something dear – like membership or open borders – prompted Europeans to reflect on what they have.
[Text by Paul Hockenos]