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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Trust in the EU at an all time low

Plenty for Barroso to contemplate
The European Commission has published the results of its latest Eurobarometer survey. Here are some interesting findings:
  • Trust in the EU has, on average, reached an all-time low, now standing at 31% - a 3% decrease since autumn 2011. At the same time, the average level of trust in national governments and parliaments has increased, reaching 28% for both;
  • Country-by-country results are equally worrying. Both in Greece and Spain, for instance, the level of trust in the respective governments has decreased since last autumn, and now stands at only 6% (down 2%) in Greece and 13% (down 3%) in Spain. Reflecting that these two countries still associate the EU with positives such as democracy - marking a break from recent authoritarian pasts - people still tend to trust the EU more than their national governments (hardly an achievement given the low levels). However, here's the worrying part if you sit in Brussels. In both countries, trust in the EU has dropped like a stone - and fallen to a much greater extent than trust in national governments. Only 19% of Greeks now trust the EU - down a full 10% in less than a year, while 21% of Spaniards, down 9%, say they "tend to trust" the EU; 
  • This suggests that trust in the EU as a counter-balance to unpredictable national politics is starting to diminish. As we've argued repeatedly, a key deciding factor for the future of the euro will be if and when the tipping point occurs: when the Mediterranean countries start to associate the EU and/or the euro with outright pain and erosion of national self-determination.
  • The traditional Eurobarometer question about whether a country has benefited or not from EU membership seems to be missing in the latest survey. It's only asked once a year (presumably to avoid too many bruised egos in Brussels) and so we hope that it will re-appear in the autumn 2012 edition.   
  • Also interestingly, trust in the German government received a boost, increasing by 7% from the previous Eurobarometer. In the meantime, the number of Germans who "tend to trust" the EU remained unchanged at 30%, while the number of those who "tend not to trust" the EU rose to 61% - 4% higher than in autumn 2011;
  • The average share of Europeans who think that the EU is "best able" to tackle the current economic crisis has decreased to 21%, down 23%, as big a share that think national governments are better placed. This question is pretty pointless though as it leaves what "taking effective action" (which is the exact formulation) completely open to interpretation. For example, if eurobonds are implied then you lose the Germans, while if EU-imposed austerity is implied you lose the Greeks.
Eurobarometer polls are always a mixed bag and are clearly, in large parts, driven by the Commission's political and ideological bias. But in so far as the questions are comparable over time, they can show some interesting, albeit worrying, trends.


Rik said...

1. If you have a credibility problem you basically need a 'face' that can convince you of the opposite. A guy like Obama before his election might have done the job for the EU. However the EU has flagposts Rompuy who doesnot appeal to anybody and the guy in the picture, who would be great as a posterboy for dodgy Southern undemocratic politics. But certainly not for the opposite, while the opposite is what the EU needs at the moment.

2. Imho the point for an exit of a Southern country in general will be a combination of extra cuts and austerity fatigue. History shows the latter will hit in after a year or 2. Extra cuts you simply donot get a sustainable system with the cuts we have seen so far. You need a lot more. So might be different from country to country. While countries are in a primary deficit furthermore governments will do all to avoid a split. Anyway a Pexit (PIIGS country) is less likely to split the whole thing up than a Nexit (Northern country).

3. In the North it is imho the combination of a further extension of the rescue package and direct influence on budgets combined with the 'normal' cuts hitting in. Voters see real cuts (likely hitting them personally with a direct cause in the EZ rescue). If Germany goes it is 100% sure end of EZ. France probably close to that. Holland also very likely big enough to kill the EZ. Finland might require something with it, but if they leave others might follow and the total might do the job. See furtehr under 4.

We will see what comes first a 2 or a 3.

4. Greece or Germany is no choice of course. The core should remain intact in order not to jeopardize the whole thing (likely a political goal). In this respect as said earlier Holland for instance could be at the end more important than say Spain. A core/founder and a payer. The chance that the EZ falls apart with a Dexit (Dutch) is imho considerably larger than when we would see a Sexit. Simply as it is in real terms probably the second , causing likely a Fiexit (Finland) and leaving Germany so on its own. It could even be that if France falls of the cliff (not unlikely) the Dutch become the second in rank. Power is simply quickly moving up North.

Jesper said...

Credibility can be had if words and actions match. The subsidiarity principle is a string of words and the actions taken by EU institutions do not appear to match those words.

The EU institutions are supranational institutions supposedly dealing with supranational issues. The issues that EU institutions are seen to be dealing with are rarely supranational issues.

Low confidence in institutions which do not do what they are supposed to isn't a big surprise.