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9th Dec 2019

Just 5% of Europeans trust Trump

  • Europeans tend to trust more the EU than their national governments to protect their interests against other global powers. (Photo: 7th Army Training Command)

The majority of Europeans no longer rely on the US providing security in Europe and in turn, they want the EU to develop stronger defence mechanisms to remain neutral in international conflicts, according to a new report by the pan-European think-tank European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR). 

"Europeans want the EU to become a strong independent actor that is powerful enough to avoid taking sides or being at the mercy of outside powers," states the report published on Tuesday (10 September).

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The research also calls on the new commission to "use the mandate voters have offered them for empowering the EU as a cohesive geopolitical actor".

Overall, Europeans tend to trust more the EU than their national governments to protect their interests against other global powers, but they are sceptical regarding trade wars - fewer than 20 percent in each member feels that their country's interests are protected from, for example, Chinese competitive practices.

Additionally, Europeans are divided about the role of Nato in the EU's defence.

For example, supporters of La République En Marche in France have the strongest preference for defence investment in the EU (78 percent) rather than Nato (8 percent) while voters of Law and Justice Party voters in Poland have the strongest preference for Nato (56 percent) compared to EU defence capacities (17percent).

Senior policy fellow at ECFR Susi Dennison said that "the fact that Europeans are split on whether defence resources should go to the EU or Nato suggests that they no longer have the confidence in the alliance they once had".

"Europeans are ahead of their politicians in understanding the need for a stronger Europe in a world where it could be pushed around by ever more aggressive and nationalistic superpowers," she added.

However, the EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini said earlier this year that "strengthening the EU defence goes together with strengthening the EU-Nato partnership and cooperation".

No trust on Trump

Only five percent of Europeans trust US president Donald Trump, who is seen "toxic" in Europe, according to the ECFR report, released two weeks after the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, visited Brussels to "reset" the relations between the US and the EU.

Consequently, in potential conflicts between the US and Russia, the majority of the participants of the study would prefer for the EU to remain neutral, while only eight percent think that the EU should side with Beijing in the event of an US-China conflict.

The large majority of European believe that Russia is attempting to destabilise political structures in Europe, and that national governments are not responding adequately to this foreign interference. 

According to ECFR report, voters poll by the research from Romania (56 percent), Sweden (50 percent), Poland (48 percent) and Slovakia (46 percent) are convinced about Russia's interface in European politics.

This feeling is also shared by Denmark, (44 percent), Spain (44 percent) France (40 percent), Italy (42 percent) and Germany (38 percent).

Hostile to Balkans?

According to ECFR's report, "EU policymakers portrayed enlargement as a vital tool for stabilising the EU's eastern neighbourhood," since the newest member of the EU Croatia only joining in 2013.

Europeans are generally positive about the idea of EU enlargement but only in Romania, Poland and Spain there is more than 30 percent of the public support about more countries in the Western Balkans joining the EU in the next 10-20 years.

However, the report indicates that voters in Germany (46 percent), Austria (44 percent), France (42 percent), the Netherlands (40 percent), and Denmark (37 percent) were "hostile" to Western Balkan countries joining the EU.

"Voters' attitudes towards EU enlargement also reflect their limited tolerance of major foreign policy initiatives that are only likely to pay dividends in the distant future," reported the ECFR's study.

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