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22nd Feb 2020

Public support for EU social policy in 'dramatic' nose-dive

  • Occupy London. The drop-off has been sharpest of all in eurozone peripheral countries, now subject to harsh austerity measures (Photo: Haydn)

A regular European Commission social issues survey out on Tuesday (29 November) has shown that the public’s belief that the EU is having a positive impact on employment and social policy - policies with the biggest impact on ordinary peoples' lives - has sharply declined in almost all countries.

“Compared with 2009, there has been a substantial fall in the number of people who think that the EU has a positive impact,” the survey says.

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Across a series of eight questions dealing with such issues as boosting employment, fighting poverty and protecting social services, between 48 and 67 percent of respondents thought that the EU was having a positive impact.

This is down from between 62 and 78 percent for the same questions in the last such survey in 2009.

The downturn in support is a marked shift from backing for EU social policy efforts prior to the crisis. Such backing had generally remained stable for years, as the surveys note.

The 2006 survey showed an almost identical level of support for what the EU was trying to do in these areas as the survey three years later would do: between 64 and 79 percent of respondents viewed the bloc as having a positive impact.

In the latest poll, the drop-off has been sharpest of all in eurozone peripheral countries.

“In Spain, Greece, Portugal and Cyprus especially, public perceptions of the EU’s ability to make a positive impact have deteriorated dramatically,” the survey reports.

Only in four countries has the EU’s ability to make a positive impact held up or climbed in the last few years: Slovenia, Slovakia, Latvia and Hungary.

“The evolution [in levels of support] are particularly striking regarding creating new job opportunities and fighting unemployment,” the paper notes.

In previous editions of the survey, a map of Europe colour-coded to represent the levels of support for what the EU was doing to battle unemployment - one of the main tasks of the EU, required by its own treaty - showed a patchwork of hues across the bloc.

In the latest edition, every single country on the map is painted an angry red for ‘negative’, or a decline in support.

Overall, belief that the EU is working well to reduce unemployment has slumped 17 percentage points in two years.

The largest falls were in Italy, a drop of 19 points; France, a drop of 20; Portugal 25; Greece 29; Cyprus 31; and in Spain, where youth unemployment is at a staggering 46 percent, belief that the EU is working hard to tackle the problem has plunged from 84 percent two years ago to just 44 percent today.

Separate from the eight detailed policy questions, the survey for the first time asked citizens what impact the EU was having overall on social policy and employment policy.

The survey found in response to the two questions that a slim majority of Europeans overall still consider the EU to be having a beneficial impact on social policy - 51 percent - and employment policy - 52 percent.

The poll, which interviewed 1000 individuals, took place between between 24 September and 9 October 2011.

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