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30th Jan 2023

Consumer bills and creeping war top EU citizens' fears, finds survey

  • 56 percent of EU citizens are 'not satisfied' with measures taken so far to tackle the rising cost of living (Photo: European Commission)
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When you look at the results of the new EU citizens' survey, it is not surprising that the word "polycrisis" has been chosen by the Financial Times as the expression that best describes 2022.

An overwhelming majority of Europeans' main concern is the rising cost of living, the most recent Eurobarometer, published on Thursday (12 January) shows.

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  • Eurobarometer results for cost of living worries (Photo: Eurobarometer)

Rising costs are the most pressing issue for 93 percent of Europeans, while 82 percent of Europeans are worried about poverty and social exclusion. The potential spread of the war in Ukraine to other counties and climate change concerns 81 percent of Europeans.

Rising inflation, an energy shock caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the increasingly tangible effects of climate change, and shifting geopolitical balances are only the latest series of crises hitting EU after Covid-19 and its health and economic consequences, a rise in populism, Brexit and increasing (and incited) fears around migration and identity.

Almost half of EU citizens said that their personal living standards have already been negatively impacted as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine and cost-of-living crisis.

Some 39 percent of respondents, among the more than 26,000 asked last October and November, expect to be affected over the next year, while 45 percent of European households said they are already encountering difficulties living on their present income.

Around one-in-ten Europeans (nine percent) say that they have had difficulties paying their bills most of the time during the last twelve months.

Some 30 percent say they have difficulties from time-to-time, while six-in-ten say they never or almost never have these difficulties.

Respondents in Greece (35 percent) are the most likely to say that they have difficulties paying bills most of the time, followed by Bulgaria, Cyprus (both 18 percent) and Portugal (17 percent).

On the other end of the spectrum, at least eight-in-ten respondents say they never or almost never have difficulties in Denmark, Sweden (both 91 percent), the Netherlands (83 percent), Luxembourg (82 percent) and Finland (80 percent).

At an EU-level, 56 percent of citizens are "not satisfied" with the measures taken so far to tackle the rising cost of living, while 64 percent feel the same about the actions of their national governments.

Gloomy future

Even those Europeans who have not encountered major difficulties are worried about the cost of living (91 percent), with 96 percent of those who deal with difficulties most of the time worried too.

Citizens in Greece, Cyprus, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Poland and Hungary are the most worried about rising cost of living.

Respondents in Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, Romania and Slovenia are less worried, but still with more than 74 percent of citizens are concerned.

Four-in-ten Europeans (40 percent) expect their living conditions to be worse in a year's time, an 18-percentage point increase from a year before.

Three-quarters back Ukraine

Despite the negative consequences of the war on the cost of living, European citizens continue to support Ukraine.

Some 74 percent approve EU support following Russia's invasion, in general, and 73 percent are in favour of action, including sanctions against the Russian government, and financial, military and humanitarian support to Ukraine.

The highest level of support was recorded in Sweden (97 percent), Finland (95 percent), two countries which hope to join Nato as a result of the war, and in the Netherlands (93 percent), Portugal (92 percent), and Denmark (92 percent).

Citizens in countries with higher GDPs per capita are more likely to approve of EU support to Ukraine.

However, approval of the EU's support for Kyiv remains high irrespective of national inflation rates and unemployment levels, the Eurobarometer said.

Even a majority of EU citizens encountering financial difficulties support the EU standing with Ukraine: 70 percent of those whose standard of living has declined approve.

Most Europeans (65 percent), however, do not feel confident that their lives will continue as they are because of the consequences of the war.

And "the spread of the war in Ukraine to other countries" is the third-most frequently expressed concern by 81 percent of Europeans.

This fear is particularly prevalent among women and older generations, the survey found.

EU remains popular

Despite the polycrisis, 62 percent of respondents see EU membership as a "good thing". The perception of the EU is positive among 47 percent of Europeans, neutral for 38 percent and negative for 14 percent.

Two-thirds (66 percent) consider their country's EU membership important, and 72 percent believe that their country has benefitted from it.

A slim majority (54 percent) also express interest in the 2024 European elections — while 45 percent say they do not.

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