Post-Pandemic Blues: Europeans’ Confidence in EU Dented by Its Lackluster COVID-19 Response

Written by | Thursday, June 10th, 2021

A majority of the European Union citizens now see the European project as “broken”, a survey by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) think tank has found. The slow vaccine roll-out and the extensive media coverage of it were seen as having had a particularly bad impact on the perception of Brussels among the majority of respondents in six Western member states — France (62%), Germany (55%), Italy (57%), Spain (52%), and Austria (51%). Though the ECFR report published on Wednesday (9 June) said that many felt the bloc had „missed an opportunity to prove its worth“ during the pandemic, many in Europe still see value in their country’s membership in the bloc with 11 of the 12 surveyed member states believing that membership is a “good thing”. France is the only exception with membership primarily seen as “neither a good or bad thing”.
The report’s authors suggested the polling should be a wake-up call for Brussels, warning that while public support for the broader European project remained high in many countries, it was fragile and would not easily survive more disappointment. Europeans were “making a distinction between the need for cooperation and solidarity at a European level, and their confidence in the EU to deliver”, they said, and were unhappy the bloc had “missed an opportunity to prove its worth”. The polling also suggested Brexit had changed Europeans’ views of the UK, with the prevailing view now seeing Britain – like the US – as a “necessary partner” to be “strategically cooperated with” rather than an ally, and one in four Germans and one in five French and Spanish respondents considering it as a rival or adversary.
But although in half the states surveyed, most respondents had little confidence in the EU or said their confidence had deteriorated, 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 saying their own domestic political system was “broken”. The survey also revealed a broad sentiment that the 27 members should cooperate more, with majorities in all of the 12 countries surveyed except France and Germany – where there were significant minorities of 47% and 45% respectively – saying the coronavirus pandemic showed a need for greater collaboration. And despite their frustrations, respondents in eight out of the 12 countries still saw the EU as key to their country’s recovery from the coronavirus crisis.

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