Jobs trump environment in first EU-wide regional opinion poll
Unemployment and the economic situation are the main concerns among Europeans at the regional level, relegating environmental concerns to second-tier priority, results of the first regional-level Eurobarometer opinion poll show.
The Public Opinion in the EU Regions survey shows the priority and chief concern of Europeans across all EU regions is unemployment. The only exception deviation is found in parts of Germany.
On average, 61% said unemployment is the most important issue for them in their region at the moment. In eight regions in Spain, Italy and Poland, the figure was as high as 91%.
Unemployment is followed by the economic situation (32%) and health care (20%) as the leading concerns. Europeans who were the most concerned about the economic situation in their region lived in Slovenia and Cyprus. Healthcare was on the other hand high on the agenda in regions in Sweden, Poland, Ireland, Finland, Italy and Romania.
Environment is the least important issue for people in most EU regions, with only 6% stating it is important.
The special Eurobarometer survey was conducted between 20 August and 15 September. More than 50,000 EU citizens from 170 regions in the 27 member states were interviewed.
EU communication at the regional level
The survey also showed that representatives from all levels of government play a crucial role in ensuring that European debates are placed in a local context.
"It is important to make the effort to not always reflect from a national perspective," Mercedes Bresso, first vice president of the Committee of the Regions (CoR), said at the opening session of the European Conference on Public Communication (EuroPCom) in Brussels.
"That is why I am very glad that for the first time this Eurobarometer takes a regional point of view enabling us to better understand public perception from Europe's regions," Bresso added.
In Southern countries where the economic situation is challenging, such as in Greece, Spain, and Italy, the results show a general distrust in the political elite. In large countries like France, Poland, southern Germany and the United Kingdom, people tend to rely on their local and regional representatives to communicate about Europe.
In Scandinavian countries and western Germany, respondents referred to their national representatives.
In Portugal, the citizens referred to the members of the European Parliament, and in Czech Republic, they referred to the members of the European Commission.
The Committee of the regions is the EU's assembly of regional and local representatives. The mission of its 344 members from the 27 member states is to involve regional and local authorities and the communities they represent in the EU's decision-making process and to inform them about EU policies.
The European Commission, Parliament and Council are obliged to consult the Committee in policy areas affecting regions and cities. It can appeal to the EU Court of Justice if its rights are infringed or it believes that an EU law infringes the subsidiarity principle or fails to respect regional or local powers.