Saturday, July 08, 2006

Spring is in the air

Spring is in the airApparently, the joys of spring had a Euro-flavour this year. According to the Spring Eurobarometer, as the sap started rising and the birds started tweeting and the lambs started gambolling… you get the picture … that was the time when we learned to stop worrying and started to love the EU.

Well, that's not quite the picture but commissioner Wallström definitely has a spring in her step as the early results show "an important increase in the support for EU membership among citizens, as well as in the image of the EU." The downside, however, is that "enlargement suffers from weaker support among the public opinion."

According to the survey, the three main indicators covering the general attitude towards the European Union show an unambiguous positive development in the public opinion. Compared to the last survey in the autumn 2005, support for EU membership have increased by 5 points (55 vs. 50 percent), image of the EU by 6 points (50 vs. 44 percent) and perceived benefits of the membership by 2 points (54 vs. 52 percent). In parallel, negative opinions on these three indicators have been decreasing, in particular for the image of the EU (15 vs. 20 percent).

Nevertheless, Finland - currently holder of the EU presidency - still ranks as the lowest in the support league, with a mere 39 percent in favour of EU membership, while the UK is not far behind with 42 percent. Whatever the raving Europhiles might say, therefore – and whatever the Boy King thinks is "cool" – the majority of people in this country do not support our membership of the EU. Furthermore, in only 34 percent of British people does the EU conjure up a favourable image while only 31 percent "tend to trust" the Union as a whole.

One more fly in the ointment is that support generally for the concept of a constitution for the EU has slightly decreased since the last survey in the autumn 2005 (61 percent, -2), coming back to the level reached in spring 2005. Some twenty-two percent of citizens are opposed to the concept of a European constitution and 17 percent do not know. With 62 percent of positive opinions, France is just above the EU average and with 59 percent, the Netherlands are just below.

However, reflecting just how pitifully little "Europeans" actually know about the EU, the Eurobarometer shows that they are "rather satisfied with the way democracy works in the European Union". Satisfaction rate reaches 50 percent (48 percent in the EU 15 and 59 percent in the new Member States, +1 compared to the last survey) while dissatisfaction is at 34 percent (-1). These, it appears, are the most positive scores achieved for this question in the last ten years.

Full details of the survey can be seen here.

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