More than half of Europeans believe the EU is likely to collapse within a generation, despite support for the bloc hitting heights not recorded in more than a quarter of a century.
In France, Germany, Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, Austria, Slovakia, Romania, Greece, the Czech Republic and Poland, a majority of people surveyed thought EU disintegration was a “realistic possibility” in the next 10 to 20 years.
The figures are particularly stark in France, where French President Emmanuel Macron’s La Republique En Marche party is trailing behind Marine Le Pen’s Brussels-bashing Rassemblement National (RN) in the polls for next week’s European elections.
According to the survey, commissioned by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) think tank, 58 percent of people in France believe the EU is very likely or fairly likely to fall apart within 20 years, second only to Slovakia (66 percent).
Of the 14 countries polled by YouGov — constituting 80 percent of the seats of the European parliament — it was only in Sweden (44 percent), Denmark (41 percent) and Spain (40 percent) that the proportion predicting implosion dipped below a majority.
Nearly seven decades after the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community, bringing together France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg in a pact designed to stave off further war, three in 10 people polled said conflict among countries within the EU was a realistic possibility.
As many as a third of voters in France and Poland said they believed a war could be possible.
That sentiment was notably strong among people planning to abstain or vote for extremists next week. Nearly half (46 percent) of supporters of RN and 41 percent of supporters of Alternative for Deutschland (AfD) in Germany held this view.
Europeans are also concerned about faltering prosperity. The survey found that just a third of Germans and a quarter of Italians and French typically had money left over at month’s end for discretionary spending.
The findings reflect widespread concerns over next week’s elections, in large part sparked by the warnings of European leaders and the emergence of populist governments in several member states.
Macron has pitted himself as the leader of anti-populist forces in opposition to the likes of Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini of the far right, while European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has warned voters against using the elections as a protest vote.
However, with the extremist parties such as RN and AfD expected to do well, the European Parliament that will sit in July is expected to be more divided, raising the risk of paralysis as the old pro-European parliamentary coalition falls away.
Despite the unifying impact of Brexit among the EU27, a divide has also emerged between east and west among the member states. Nationalist Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who has targeted immigrants in his speeches and has run an anti-Semitic campaign in which his former mentor, George Soros, has been depicted as a hate figure, is pushing his vision of illiberal democracy.
The governments of Romania, Poland and Hungary are in the sights of the European Commission for failure to respect the rule of law.
Across Europe, three-quarters of voters think politics is broken at either the national or EU level, or both. In France only 15 percent think the political system works well.
With the latest Eurobarometer statistics showing that two-thirds of Europeans have positive feelings toward the EU — the highest recorded since 1983 — ECFR director Mark Leonard said the onus was on pro-European parties to awaken the “silent majority.”
“There are seven days to resolve the paradox at the heart of the European project. Support for EU membership is at the highest level since 1983, and yet a majority of voters fear the EU might collapse. The challenge for pro-Europeans is to use this fear of loss to mobilize their silent majority and ensure that it is not just the anti-system parties who get their say on 26 May,” he said.
“Pro-Europeans need to offer voters bold ideas for change that emotionally resonate and make the silent majority feel it is worth turning out at the end of May. It is not yet too late. With a volatile European electorate, there are up to 97 million voters who could still be persuaded to vote for different parties,” he said.
The survey found that almost 92 percent of voters thought they would lose out if the EU collapsed. Fears about the ability to trade, travel and work in other EU countries topped the list of reasons.
Citizens feared losing unity on security and defense, and valued being part of a bloc that could counter the US and China, amid growing economic uncertainty and the parlous nature of the transatlantic relationship.
EVOLVING SITUATION: Of the latest cases, 23 percent were found to be asymptomatic, but the coronavirus strain in Da Nang is more contagious, authorities said A COVID-19 outbreak that began in the Vietnamese city of Da Nang more than a week ago has spread to at least four city factories with a combined workforce of about 3,700, state media reported yesterday. Four cases were found at the plants in different industrial parks in the central city that collectively employ 77,000 people, the Lao Dong newspaper said. Vietnam, praised widely for its decisive measures to combat the novel coronavirus since it first appeared in late January, is battling new clusters of infection having gone for more than three months without detecting any domestic transmissions. Authorities yesterday reported one new
‘COVIDIOTS’: Politicians condemned the protest that came amid surging infections in the country, while a marcher said government-induced fear weakened the body Loudly chanting their opposition to masks and vaccines, thousands of people on Saturday gathered in Berlin to protest against COVID-19 restrictions before being dispersed by police. Police put turnout at about 20,000 — well below the 500,000 organizers had announced as they urged a “day of freedom” from months of virus curbs. Despite Germany’s comparatively low toll, authorities are concerned at a rise in infections over the past few weeks and politicians took to social media to criticize the rally as irresponsible. “We are the second wave,” shouted the crowd, a mixture of hard left and right and conspiracy theorists, as they converged
A cat that went missing on a family holiday on the shores of Loch Lomond, Scotland, has been identified 12 years later. Tortoiseshell-and-white Georgie spent October half term in 2008 with her owners at the Rowardennan campsite, but vanished as they were due to return home to Greater Manchester, England. After a search of the site the Davies family departed without Georgie, hoping the three-year-old microchipped feline would be located by someone. Over the intervening 12 years, she remained close to the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park site, being fed and cared for by campsite staff and holidaymakers. After the COVID-19 pandemic hit and lockdown
Three Micronesian sailors stranded on a remote Pacific island have been found alive and well after a rescue team spotted their giant SOS message written into the sand on a beach. Australian and US military aircraft found the three men on tiny Pikelot island, nearly 200km west of where they had set off. Rescuers said that the men were “in good condition” with no significant injuries. The men had been missing for three days after their 7m skiff ran out of fuel and strayed off course. Authorities in the US territory of Guam raised the alarm on Saturday after the men failed to complete