The way EU money is spent and doubts about its recipients are more of a concern than the actual size of spending for the population of countries traditionally thought of as fiscally conservative, according to a poll conducted by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) think tank.
More than 75% of respondents in so-called frugal member states — Austria, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands and Sweden — rejected the idea that the “EU spends too much money.”
The share of those disagreeing with the notion that the size of the budget is too big is even larger in France (83%) and Poland, (90%) which were also surveyed alongside Germany.
The citizens of the Bundesrepublik are the most sceptical when it comes to the size of EU spending, with 26% of respondents agreeing that the bloc spends too much.
Waste and corruption, on the other hand, took centre stage amongst EU funding worries, with almost half of those surveyed flagging risk of graft as an issue in Austria (48%), Denmark (38%) and the Netherlands (38%).
The concern about risks of corruption and waste are shared by non-frugal EU citizens as well – 37% identified it as an issue in Germany, 33% in France, and 30% in Poland.
Citizens across the Frugal countries are also unenthusiastic about the €750 billion recovery package to be financed from the markets.
In Finland, half of the respondents express negative emotions like anger, frustration, and worry about it, followed by 43% in the Netherlands and Austria, based on the survey that polled about 1,000 in each country in the second half of October.
Nonetheless, around one-third of the population express positive feelings — optimism, relief, and enthusiasm — about the agreement in all frugal states except the Netherlands (29%).
Over a third of citizens in all polled countries believe their country’s influence within the bloc has declined in the past 2-3 years, with the exception of Germany, where 39% believe it increased, compared to the 35% of those who think the opposite.
In Finland, 45% think their country lost clout, followed by Sweden (48%) and Netherlands (43%).
“There is little doubt that voters in the frugal states regard the recovery package as far from ideal,” reads the report analysing the results, but finds that “they understand the need for compromise in an organisation of 27 states, and that the benefits of EU membership outweigh its costs.”
According to the analysis, the voters’ “appreciation of the EU’s contribution in some policy areas – from strengthening the single market and the rule of law to cooperating on security and terrorism or protecting their countries from war and conflict – suggests that they have an appetite for more Europe.”
“EU institutions would do well to include these areas on their policy agenda and in their communication in the coming years,” the study concludes.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]