Europeans losing faith in Europe project
May 15th, 2013
12:01 PM ET

Europeans losing faith in Europe project

By Bruce Stokes, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Bruce Stokes is director of global economic attitudes at the Pew Research Center. The views expressed are his own.

The Great Recession and the ensuing euro crisis have wreaked havoc with the European economy and now threaten to undermine the European Union itself. As Washington prepares to begin negotiations with Brussels on a U.S.-EU free trade agreement, America’s European partner has never been weaker. Europeans’ lack of faith in the European Project and the fissures that have emerged in European public opinion between the French and the Germans bode ill both for efforts to revive the European economy and for effective transatlantic cooperation in the near future.

Support for European economic integration – the idea that if nations lower their trade and investment barriers they will all be better off – is down over the last year in five of the eight European Union countries surveyed by the Pew Research Center in March 2013.

Fewer than a third of Europeans surveyed now think European economic integration has strengthened their economy. This includes just 11 percent of Greeks and Italians and only 22 percent of the French, the latter two citizens of founding members of the European Community. Since the fall of 2009, meanwhile, support for a more integrated European economy has dropped sharply: by 21 points in France, 20 points in Italy, and 16 points in Spain.

Positive views of the European Union are also at or near their low point in most EU nations. The favorability of the institution is down 34 percentage points in Spain since 2007 and 21 points in France.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has talked repeatedly of a more political Europe. But only in Germany does at least half the public back handing over more responsibility to the European Union to deal with the current economic troubles. About seven-in-ten in Britain oppose such a move, as do roughly six-in-ten Greeks and more than half the French.

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Complicating matters for the future, young adults ages 18 to 29 have lost much of their faith in the European Project. In Spain, favorability of the EU is down 42 points since 2007 among the young, while support for economic integration is down a quarter since 2009, possibly reflecting the heavy toll unemployment has taken among Spain’s youth. In France, backing for the EU among the next generation of EU citizens is down 28 points and belief in the benefits of integration has fallen 22 points.

Nevertheless, the euro crisis has not yet morphed into a crisis for the euro. Solid majorities in Greece, Spain, Germany, Italy and France want to keep using the euro and not return to their previous national currency. However, it is notable that 41 percent of young Germans want to begin using the Deutsche Mark again, despite the fact that these young people have never had marks in their pockets in their adult lifetime.

Public opinion is certainly not destiny. But any institution, like the EU, or public project, such as European economic integration, that is experiencing a downward spiral in public support faces a serious challenge.

It has long been Europeans’ desire to create a united Europe that would give them a bigger role on the world stage. Certainly, Americans have long hoped for a strong European partner who could help shoulder some of the world’s burdens. In the wake of the euro crisis, Europeans’ disillusionment with the European project raises new doubts about those ambitions and expectations.

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Topics: Economy • Europe • Greece • Spain • United Kingdom

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soundoff (35 Responses)
  1. GEORGE ARGIRIOU

    There will be very few tourists in greece this year.Less than the previus.

    May 15, 2013 at 12:52 pm | Reply
    • R. Josifoski

      Yes, because you kicked out your neighbours, Macedonians and Turks. Only you accept the Bulgarian nation, but they are poor and cannot afford a holiday in Greece. You cannot own Macedonia and be part of Europe at the same time. Because Macedonia is a concept opposed to that of European concept. Alexander the Great wanted to free the people from slavery. That is a great difference, between Macedonia and Europe. You are slaves of money!

      May 16, 2013 at 7:38 am | Reply
      • SJ

        ??

        May 16, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
  2. Hans

    Europe is not weak. NATO is not weak. Europeans have more various corporations and industries than America. Europe also produces better quality products and have bigger EU market, ca. 900m population. Europe is heavier and USA is not strong, not politicaly and not economicaly.

    May 15, 2013 at 1:36 pm | Reply
    • Peshwar

      If Europe wants to be successful, you must not be Socialist. Remember, Margaret Thatcher said that Socialism is great until you run out of other people's money. You want success and a better quality of life? then you must work ffor it, give up your generous benefits no one can afford to pay, give up your expansive vacation time. Then after working hard, you will see!

      May 16, 2013 at 3:38 pm | Reply
      • Jon

        Typical behavior of tea-party members: When given facts, they respond with ideology.

        May 31, 2013 at 3:29 pm |
    • Andrey

      We've got a dreamer here people: not all is lost... Just kidding!

      May 16, 2013 at 7:43 pm | Reply
      • foxtrottcharly

        you are right. not even worth to answer.

        May 23, 2013 at 10:56 am |
  3. JAL

    I always hear the term "Big Government". I guess I thought I knew what it meant. But in recent days, with all of these federal investigations happening at once, combined with these heavily watched court cases, I have to ask: Is this Big Government and is it needed at this point?

    May 15, 2013 at 6:10 pm | Reply
  4. Joseph McCarthy

    Now the average European is finding out what Napoleon Bonaparte, Adolf Hitler and the Communists in Eastern Europe learned the hard way long ago, that uniting Europe is not nor ever has been a good idea. Has anyone here ever heard of the Belle Epoch(1880-1914) when almost every European economy was booming? Evidently not!

    May 15, 2013 at 7:30 pm | Reply
    • Tyler

      Those leaders wanted to unite Europe under one government and one leader, not a confederation as you are speaking. Clashing ideals and interest, in addition to beaurcratic government cannot work, tyraany under one leader can work...

      May 17, 2013 at 12:11 pm | Reply
      • foxtrottcharly

        we do have already tyranny. we never wanted this kind of union. and, yes, the responsible ones are heading toward a federal government. the so-called "united states of europe". WE JUST DO NOT WANT THIS!!WE WANT OUR INDEPENDENCE AND LIBERTY BACK!!

        May 23, 2013 at 11:00 am |
  5. Scott

    EU integration has some fundamental problems due to language and cultural differences. Europe does not assimilate people well.

    May 16, 2013 at 12:13 am | Reply
    • Globe trotter

      I wonder how India is doing in that front( different states have diff language, culture, food) yet the United India works there

      May 17, 2013 at 3:23 pm | Reply
  6. cossack

    Europeans have less rights than an average American, the recession was artificially created if you dont believe it you are ignorant. Why create a recession? to justify expansion of EU at expense of an average citizen for benefit of the corporations

    May 16, 2013 at 12:43 am | Reply
    • rightospeak

      Right on the money, Cossack. The Globalists created a depression to enslave people. The EU experiment of the Socialist States of Europe under Brussels' Globalist dictators is not working and only shifted most people in Europe towards the Right while creating misery. Soon Greece may just blow up with Civil War, unless it goes back to Drahma and develops local economy, jail the criminals responsible for the mess . Iceland should be the model for Greece , Portugal, Spain and Italy.

      May 16, 2013 at 10:21 am | Reply
      • wjmccartan

        Thank you, rightospeak. You and cossack both said it all.

        May 16, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
      • foxtrottcharly

        i couldn't agree more with you and cossack.thank you, guys. the eu is the new sovjet-union.

        May 23, 2013 at 11:04 am |
  7. Simonnetti

    But no one in America knows what means 'communists in Eastern Europe'. These were secret 'Koreans squads' that killed (that's why 'ki.ll.a.=kia) from Asia, especially South Korea. Communist ideology was not for the benefits in Eastern Europe, but was imported ideology from North and South Korea, for the Koreans benefits and for destruction in some Eastern European countries. The same is now true in America. Italy hears American voices that the US government is killing innocent Americans, but what US government officials do not know, is the fact that these are 'Korean military squads', that come with imports, and that deliberatelly kill Americans.

    May 16, 2013 at 5:26 am | Reply
  8. j. von hettlingen

    In fact Europe had always been facing crisis in various forms. The ongoing one isn't less serious than Europe emerging in the late 1940s.

    May 16, 2013 at 6:50 am | Reply
    • j. von hettlingen

      Yet there had been a couple of astute statesmen, who could pave Europe's way for stability and prosperity. They were the founding fathers of the "European Project", a dream of peace and freedom.

      May 16, 2013 at 6:51 am | Reply
      • j. von hettlingen

        Sadly, their successors in the last two decades didn't have the same sharp mind and are short-sighted.

        May 16, 2013 at 7:00 am |
  9. rightospeak

    The European Project was a good one trying to stop wars in Europe and to create one large economy, but unfortunately the Globalist oligarchs got the upper hand in Brussells and want to create the United Socialist States of Europe on the Communist model. Globalism is just a modern version of Communism-of plunder and enslavement. Communism destroyed non-Wall Street Capital and that is why it was supported by Wall Street from the beginning.
    The European countries still have a chance , but they need to shake off the Globalists, banksters like Iceland has done. The criminals responsible for the mess and toxic assets in their banks need to be made responsible and go to jail. A big restructuring of economies based on sound money , not printing presses, on local needs must be put in place to give people employment. Thilo Sarrazin's book " Europe does not need the euro" needs to be translated into many languages-I am still waiting for the English translation. A big political shake up is needed to change course in Europe so that things can improve. The European crisis is self inflicted by the wrong economics (debt creation ), globalism and the dictatorship of the oligarchs . It is up to Europeans to change course and I hope it is not going to be a bloody one.

    May 16, 2013 at 10:56 am | Reply
    • Andrey

      I think you are totally messed up: you are sort of against Communists but talk like one! Stop experimenting with LSD man, or whatever you hippies take!
      I wonder if you are a member of Euro-Parlament: it must be full of confused people like you!

      May 16, 2013 at 7:53 pm | Reply
      • SAWOLF

        Hey! Watson lightly dosed himself and figured out the helical structure of DNA.

        May 16, 2013 at 11:13 pm |
  10. Bryan

    Would still much rather stake my future on Europe than the US .... we are going downhill fast here.

    May 17, 2013 at 12:11 am | Reply
  11. salino333

    The only tie Europe had to offer for all the different folks was the economic one. The way one economic works shouldn't bother the other one and there shouldn't be a direct influence on parlament and voters. But some countries didn't have their fiscal house in order and so everything was too early and only with the power of the maket and banks united and somehow imposed.
    If prices go up rapidly and salary is kept low – no wonderif scepsis arrives! There seemed to be a direct impact between the cheap greece products in German supermarket chains and the talk about the bailout of Greece. It's so money-dominated – everything seemes to be on sale! People remember the D-Mark as something stable and somehow more fair in regard to health care products, costs for living and rents. Another effect of the whole euro-politics is the protestant greed and miserliness.There are no criteria for quality of labour and working conditions, there is only the demand of an never-filled up stomach of global players and their industries, wanting it cheap, young and without responsibility with a direct lobby to politicians! The fat cats always gets some more! You needn't read Thilo Sharazzin's book in english: he is a populist author. But of course it is never bad to be informed!

    May 17, 2013 at 6:12 am | Reply
  12. Tyler

    What Germany and France need to do is leave the Euro and form a currnency together. The weaker nations of the East are dragging teh European powers down, and the only way to solve the issue is to give them the boot. Having small countries on the map that most people cannot point out is useless, and undermines the strength of the Euro, additionally German money is going countries like Greece who are unappreciative and undeserving!

    May 17, 2013 at 12:08 pm | Reply
  13. Peter

    Let China resolve what the Europeans can't. It's a shame to taint the word 'integrate' with the EU mess. It has never been integration, more like establishing a market for the rich....

    May 17, 2013 at 11:29 pm | Reply
  14. Herne

    Why would Germany be supportive of the EU? They foot the bill time and time again. A nice experiment that has run its course. It doesn't mean European nations can't have trade agreements.

    May 18, 2013 at 5:57 am | Reply
    • KAG001

      My guess is that Germany's manufacturing and exports would take a huge hit if they lost the Euro and switched back to a national currency. To put it simply, their stuff would be expensive to buy in the rest of the world.

      May 21, 2013 at 10:22 am | Reply
  15. Derek

    Once again, socialism does not work.

    May 18, 2013 at 8:07 am | Reply
  16. oneworld2

    The Great Recession?

    Ha, this is nothing compared to the 30's.

    May 20, 2013 at 4:45 am | Reply
  17. Rick McDaniel

    The truth is.........the people of Europe cannot cope with cutting back to reduce the debt load of government. That is simply the socialistic problem, and nothing but.

    They too, must learn the basic principle of economics.......there are NO free rides.........whatever the individual doesn't pay for, the general population pays for, one way or another.

    Each able bodied person must not only earn their own way in this world, they must collectively pay to support those who are not able bodied enough to earn to their own way. Any able bodied person who fails to earn their own way, drags everyone else down.

    May 20, 2013 at 2:05 pm | Reply
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    August 1, 2013 at 6:59 am | Reply

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