Europeans want stronger EU role on world stage

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A recent poll shows that Europeans are in favour of stronger engagement in foreign policy by the EU and share concerns with US citizens on climate change, energy dependence and international terrorism.

An overwhelming majority of Europeans (88%) think that the EU should take greater responsibility for global threats, finds a study published by the German Marshall Fund on 6 September.

Despite pledges by new heads of government in the UK, France and Germany to improve transatlantic relations, 46% of Europeans said that they thought relations would remain the same following the 2008 US presidential elections, compared to 35% who felt that relations would improve. Meanwhile, a survey on European elites reveals a gap between the European public and top EU officials, who largely think that the elections will change EU-US relations.

The GMF survey also shows that Europeans and Americans share similar concerns. EU citizens are mostly concerned by climate change (85%), energy dependence (78%) and threats posed by international terrorism (66%). US citizens felt most likely to be personally affected by energy dependence (88%), an economic downturn (80%) and international terrorism (74%).

A related elite survey confirms a gap in perceptions between EU lawmakers and the general public when it comes to relations with third countries. While a majority of EU citizens (65%) consider China as an economic and military threat, 84% of Commission and Council officials believe it to be was neither. On the other hand, an overwhelming majority of top EU officials (90%) are seriously concerned about Russia’s role as an energy provider, while the general public (70%) is rather worried about its role in providing weapons to Middle East countries.

“The persistent gap between the European elite and the general public is potentially troublesome,” said Pierangelo Isernia, director of the Elite Survey Project at Siena University.

Both the German Marshall Fund and the Elite surveys were conducted in June 2007 by TNS Opinion, collecting data from the US and twelve European countries including Turkey.

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