3rd Dec 2020

Popular opinion backs EU foreign minister post

A majority of EU citizens are in favour of having a single EU foreign minister for the bloc, the results of a new survey have shown.

Conducted by the German Marshall Fund in June across several member states including France, Germany, the UK and Italy, the survey showed that 65 percent of respondents would like to see the post created.

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  • Further EU enlargement will promote peace on the EU's borders and strengthen the bloc's role in the world, believes a majority of EU citizens (Photo: Wikipedia)

The greatest support for the idea was found among the Spanish (74%), the Italians (71%) and the French (69%) while British and Slovak respondents proved among the least keen on the idea, clocking in 52 and 48 percent respectively.

The EU foreign minister position is one of the key innovations of the European constitution which was shelved last year after French and Dutch voters rejected it in referendums.

And so long as the constitution remains moribund, the post is unlikely to see the light of day.

But while there was some strong support for a foreign minister, the idea of the bloc strengthening its military power to play a larger role in the world proved more controversial.

On average, 51 percent were against the idea but there were big differences between countries with the Portuguese (68%) and the French (56%) more in favour of the bloc assuming military responsibilities but the Germans (64%) and the Italians (56%) more against.

A majority of those surveyed believed further enlargement of the EU would bring peace and democracy to the EU bloc's borders (62%) and would strengthen the EU's role in the world (63%).

EU-US trends

The same survey shows that European support for US leadership in world affairs has dropped significantly (from 64% to 37%) since the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington five years ago.

On a similar note, European disapproval of US president George W. Bush's handling of international affairs has risen strongly from 56 percent to 77 percent - with the French, Germans and Spanish proving to be the most critical with an 85 percent disapproval rate.

European disapproval is mirrored across the Atlantic as Americans for the first time since 2001 are more disapproving (58%) than approving (40%) of president Bush's handling of foreign affairs.

Between the 2001 attacks and now the US led an international coalition to invade Afghanistan – in October 2001 – and invaded Iraq in 2003 as part of its war on terror.

But the Iraq invasion, which bitterly split European countries, has come to haunt the Bush administration as the death toll rises for both Iraqi civilians and US soldiers and with the country beset by sectarian violence.

With the international community's efforts to get Iran to stop its uranium enrichment programme almost constantly in the news the last few months, both Europeans and Americans view its nuclear threat as greater than the continued violence in Iraq.

This report uses results from citizens from the nine EU member states surveyed - Germany, France, the UK, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal and Slovakia. In each country, around 1,000 people were interviewed.

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