With the Brexit debate raging fiercely and a record number of Eurosceptics in the new European Parliament, the stakes have never been higher for the EU to perform and deliver. A new European Commission (EC), led by the President-elect Ursula von der Leyen, is taking over the reins in Brussels.
The findings from a new eupinions survey shows that there is still much good will towards the EU: 62% across the EU said they speak in positive terms about the EU in conversations with friends and colleagues. But the good will is tempered by the crises buffeting the bloc: only half said that they’re optimistic about the EU’s future. In general, it was Europe’s youngest generation that views the EU most benevolently, while middle-aged people harbour the greatest reservations. Over a third of all Europeans say that they’re expecting more countries, in addition to the UK, to exit the EU.
These findings are part of an eupinions survey that was conducted in June 2019 of more than 12,000 citizens across the bloc. One set of results is based on a sample public opinion in the EU27 (excluding the UK), and another focuses on France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland and Spain.
More specifically, the area where the EU demos expects the most is in environmental policy. A total of 40% underscored the centrality of the environment in their vision of the future. In France, Germany, the Netherlands and Poland, environment topped their list. This was followed by jobs (34%), social security (23%), citizen rights (21%) and public safety. Those people who voted for the far-right and far-left parties were the least likely to care about the environment.
In terms of their personal worries, however, it is not climate change or pollution that causes sleepless nights but rather the rising cost of living. Over half of respondents underlined the cost of living: the highest percentages in France and Poland, 61% and 62% respectively. It was followed by poor health, job insecurity and crime.
As for the EU’s future, about a third predict that more countries would peel off, as the UK is doing, while another third thinks that there will be European integration at different speeds. A fifth believes the EU remain intact, with 9% thinking that the EU will perish entirely. An optimistic 5% say there will be a United States of Europe in the indefinite future. Among the 54% of respondents who support deeper European integration, the highest supporters in terms of age was the youngest generation. In terms of expectations for the EU losing more member states, the French were the most inclined to think so, the Spanish the least so.
“As the new EC prepares to take office,” argue the poll`s authors Catherine E. de Vries and Isabell Hoffmann, “it faces a considerable challenge. The Commission must prove itself capable of tackling pressing political issues, such as climate change, slowing economic growth, migration and challenges to the rule of law while exercising caution in balancing the interests of the various political forces that now make up the European Parliament and which influence the member states of the European Council.”