Survey reveals widening EU north-south divide
By Benjamin Fox
A new survey has revealed large differences in economic confidence and perceptions about the EU between northern and southern member states.
While 80 percent of Swedes and 77 percent of Germans expressed confidence about the state of their country's economy, this contrasted with only 1 percent of Spaniards, and 2 percent of Cypriots and Greeks.
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Respondents from the crisis countries were also far more likely to feel disconnected from EU decision making, according to the eurobarometer survey released Tuesday (23 June).
Two thirds responded negatively to the question "my voice counts in the European Union", including 89 percent of Cypriots and Greeks.
Greece has been at the centre of the eurozone debt crisis since 2010 and is now in its six consecutive year of recession.
A controversial €17 billion bailout package was agreed for Cyprus in April, €7 billion of which is to be raised from a levy on bank deposits.
Meanwhile 69 percent of Greeks and Cypriots, and 67 percent in Portugal said that they were pessimistic about the future of the bloc.
But in fellow crisis country Ireland, which is due to soon exit its bailout programme, the outlook was perceived as brighter. Fifty-eight percent of respondents describing themselves as being optimistic about the EU's future.
Public trust in EU institutions is higher than in national governments according to the poll, by a margin of 6 percent. Meanwhile, Europeans viewed the EU positively by a narrow 30 percent to 29 percent majority.
In a press release accompanying the data, the commission said that it indicated "a greater dose of optimism" among Europeans. It added that six out of ten of those survey described themselves as 'European'.
“This latest survey exposes the extent of the breakdown in trust between citizens and the EU – particularly in crisis-hit southern eurozone countries, which seem to be losing faith in the EU as a positive counter-balance to unpredictable national politics," said Vincenzo Scarpetta, a political analyst at think-tank Open Europe.
"If this is not urgently addressed, the legitimacy of the EU may struggle to recover,” he added.
However, high levels of economic pessimism were not reserved exclusively for the bloc's bailout countries.
Only 6 percent of French people were content with the prospects of their economy with 92 percent responding negatively. France has come under pressure from Brussels to bring down its budget deficit more rapidly and to liberalise its labour market.
The survey also revealed that the eurozone economy remains the main EU policy concern of voters, although unemployment comes in a close second.
The Eurobarometer spring 2013 poll surveyed 32,694 citizens across 27 member states.