On the eve of the European elections, it was important to measure Europeans' perceptions of the EU's actions in the face of the economic and financial crisis.
This survey, conducted via face to face interviews with 27,218 EU citizens (fieldwork mid-January/mid-February), shows a collective concern to the crisis, a demand for more coordinated actions at an EU level and also by strikingly different national interpretations of the role of the euro. It also shows very clear variations on a socio-demographic level: women are more worried and more critical of the euro, along with citizens who left school at 15 years of age or before. There are a number of significant points to note:
Europeans are very worried about the repercussions of the crisis. This anxiety, which is felt very strongly in all countries (between 80 and 90%) affects all levels of the economy: global, European and national. This relates as much to the present situation as to the future. This anxiety is not as predominant at the personal level (58% today, 56% tomorrow).
Europeans are in favour of coordinated action to fight the crisis. Their diagnosis is clear: 44% of them believe that Member States reacted in an individual manner, while 39% believe they acted in a coordinated manner. On the other hand, 61% believe that Europeans would be better protected if the Member States adopted a coordinated approach. This kind of approach is urgently called for by the EP who has taken a stand to this effect on numerous occasions.
What is the most effective level at which to fight the crisis ? This question stands out, even more than the others, due to the significant differences evident between Member States. This may be dependent on whether or not a country belongs to the G8 or on the extent of the seriousness of the economic crisis in their national territory. On average, 25% choose the G8 and 17% the EU, 15% say the USA and 14% cite the national government.
What actions should be taken at EU level ? The European Parliament has repeatedly declared itself in favour of different measures at Union level. These are largely supported by Europeans in the percentage points which vary from 66 to 71%: coordination of economic and financial politics; supervision by the EU in cases where public money is used to rescue financial institutions; surveillance of the activities of the most important international financial groups; the role of the EU at international level in regulating financial services.
The euro: a protector ? This question on the role of the euro in mitigating the negative effects of the crisis was posed in all of the member countries of the Union. Among the twenty-seven Member States, 44% of Europeans think that the euro has not mitigated the crisis as opposed to 39% who think that it has effectively mitigated this crisis, 17% did not know. Indeed, the results show that the perception of the euro varies considerably from one country to another. The detailed table (see p. 15 of the summary) shows that 17 countries responded positively to the question, among which 13 are countries in the euro zone, 3 are countries which are obliged to adopt it and 1 country which refused to adopt it.
The former national currency would have been as effective a protector as the euro ? 45% of citizens in the euro zone answered no, while another 45% of them answered yes. This average conceals significant disparities between Member States in the euro zone as in twelve of the sixteen countries, a majority does not agree with this statement.
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