26 April 2013

Europeans are losing their enthusiasm for the European Union according to the findings of the lastest Eurobarometer. This indicates a substantial loss of public trust in countries like Spain, Germany and Italy where large parts of the population have always been strongly pro European.

The survey responses from the six biggest EU members – comprising nearly 70% of the EU population – is reported to “represent a nightmare” for European leaders.. The results suggest that there is a crisis of political and democratic legitimacy in both the wealthy north and the financially troubled south.

The European Commission president commented that the European dream may well be threatened by a resurgence of populism – which of course created the repeated conflicts of the 20th century.  It is not surprising that of the surveyed countries,- Germany, Poland, France, Britain, Italy and Spain -the greatest loss of public trust is in Spain. The collapse there of banks, the housing market and of employment opportunities is reflected in only 20% indicating that they tend to trust the European Union. The figure was 65% five years ago

The Eurosceptics in Britain have been reinforced.  Mistrust throughout the United Kingdom grew from 49% to 69%. Usually showing the least confidence in the EU,  the British have been overtaken by the Spanish with their dramatic new levels of mistrust.

The Guardian has reported that a more detailed study published this week on the impact of the global financial crisis found equally steep falls in faith in democracy and political elites across the EU.

“Overall levels of political trust and satisfaction with democracy [declined] across much of Europe, but this varied markedly between countries.”

It was “significant” in Britain, Belgium, Denmark and Finland;

“particularly notable” in France, Ireland, Slovenia and Spain;

and reached “truly alarming proportions” in the case of Greece.”

Some see federalism as the only answer. Others warn that surrendering national powers to Brussels would backfire. “Public support for the EU has been falling since 2007. So it is risky to go for federalism as it can cause a backlash and unleash greater populism.”