Approval of EU leadership lowest in Greece
By Honor Mahony
Support for the EU was lowest in Greece in 2013 while Spain registered the sharpest drop in support between the beginning of the economic crisis in 2008 and last year.
A survey published Wednesday (8 January) by Gallup showed that just 19 percent of Greeks approved of the "job performance" of the EU's leadership in 2013. The same was true of 21 percent of Cypriots.
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Both countries received bailouts from the EU and the International Monetary Fund with the money accompanied by tough programmes that have slashed public spending. Unemployment has soared and growth slumped in the two member states.
The EU remained scarcely more appreciated in several other countries with less than a third approving of the EU's leadership in the United Kingdom, the Czech Republic, and Sweden.
Spain registered the largest decrease in support between 2008 and 2013, dropping from 59 percent to 27 percent last year.
Affection for the EU also slumped in Ireland, a country that has just exited its bailout following years of austerity. While 70 percent approved of the EU in 2008, 47 percent did so in 2013 - a drop of 23 percentage points.
But it was not only bailout countries or countries particularly affected by the economic crisis where affection for the EU waned strongly.
Sweden saw a 17 point drop over the six-year period; Finland a 14 point drop and Denmark a 10 point drop.
Meanwhile the Netherlands - which has increasing debated the merits of the EU amid rising euroscepticism - went from 59 percent support in 2008 to 48 percent last year.
EU leadership saw the highest approval in 2013 in Luxembourg (67%), Germany (59%) and Belgium (56%).
It also saw its support rise in some countries between 2008-2013 with Austria showing a 11-point rise to 47 percent and Italy a nine-point rise to 43 percent.
However of the 27 member states surveyed (Croatia was not included), the approval level in 2013 was higher than 50 percent in just four countries.
The Gallup survey also indicates that the record unemployment rates among young people in euro periphery countries is taking a toll on the EU's popularity among 15-30 year olds.
EU leadership approval among young Greeks dropped from 61 percent in 2009 to 19 percent in 2013, while young Italians registered went from 48 percent approval in 2008 to 34 percent last year. Spain showed a 34 point plummet over the same period, and Ireland an 18 point drop.
The poll comes just ahead of the EU elections in May, with European politicians already nervous that the ballot will lead to record gains for anti-EU parties.