French people have subtler view of EU than their politicians

Far from the clichés, French people seem to have quite a considered view of the EU. [Shutterstock]

A new survey has shown that the French have a nuanced view of the EU, being neither totally for nor against it, often disappointed and carrying many hopes. 59% of French people said they were “attached” to the EU. EURACTIV France reports.

French people are thought to be disillusioned and uninterested by the EU, whereas, in fact, they are well-informed and critical of it. “French people show a certain maturity in how they view the EU,” believed Isabelle Jégouzo, head of representation of the European Commission in France.

While politicians tend to put forward binary positions on Europe, French people instead had a more nuanced view. At least, this was the analysis of Kantar Europe, which surveyed French people on their relationship with the European Union.

“Being for or against Europe is a theoretical position conveyed by political debate. French people are less clear-cut, with a third of the population adopting an ambivalent position,” emphasised Emmanuel Rivière, who was in charge of the study by Kantar.

While a quarter of the French population readily said they were against Europe and a third stated they supported Europe, others’ minds were not fixed.

This ultimately indicates that French people have quite a positive view of Europe. “On the key question of whether they belong to Europe, the uncertain group joined pro-Europeans,” underlined Rivière. As a result, 62% of French people said they were citizens of the European Union. But only 59% stated that they were “attached” to the EU.

This level is lower than the European average (65%) but higher than that in Italy, Greece and Croatia. Moreover, the level drops and falls over time. For instance, attachment to the EU tends to rise during every French presidential election. It particularly shot up during the most recent election when Emmanuel Macron campaigned in support of the EU.

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Increased expectations

French people’s doubts may be explained by their disappointment over the EU’s failures. This is the case particularly on immigration, which 33% of the French believed was one of the EU’s main issues.

The insistent communication by European Councils, which did produce results, is probably the reason for this situation. Immigration is one of the issues on which Europeans hope for common border management.

French people believed the climate and environment were the other key issues. This shows that issues have changed considerably since the 2014 European elections, when the debate primarily revolved around unemployment and state debt.

EU’s advantages clearly identified

When it came to Europe’s benefits, French people primarily praised certain achievements, such as freedom of travel, the euro, peace and cultural diversity.

Furthermore, French people overall were more optimistic about the future of Europe (51%) than the future of France. 70% of its population believed that “things are not going in the right direction.” The only countries with a worse view of their national situation are Croatia and Greece.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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