Merkel and Barroso best to lead EU – poll

EU citizens recognise the need for more political leadership in the Union and think Angela Merkel, José Manuel Barroso or the Euro Group are most likely to provide it, according to a TNS poll published ahead of the June European Summit in Brussels.

The study reveals that 47% of EU citizens see the need for more political leadership in the Union through a certain personality, whereas 32% think that this is not the case. The poll was conducted by TNS opinion  on behalf of the German Bertelsmann Foundation in 14 member states.

Of those asked, 28% would like to see German Chancellor Angela Merkel taking on such political leadership. Commission President José Manuel Barroso gets the support of 20% of interviewees. French President Nicolas Sarkozy and UK Prime Minister-designate Gordon Brown follow with 15% and 14% respectively. However, the survey did not ask about current PM Tony Blair, who is currently touted as a hot candidate for the position of permanent Council president if the Summit manages to push through institutional reforms.

“The good approval ratings for Barroso indicate that not only national politicians ought to consider assuming a leadership role in Europe. Outstanding personalities who have the will to get things done are needed in Brussels, though of course they will have to be given the necessary institutional power,” said Armando Garcia of the Bertelsmann Foundation.

A good third of respondents (33%) opted for the Euro Group as a cluster of countries that is most likely to give leadership impetus for European integration, while the ‘Franco-German motor’ seems to have run out of steam – only 11% of citizens expect France and Germany to jointly guide the EU, while 10% of those asked think that no group of countries should take the lead. This could indicate that citizens are generally not opposed to the idea of a “multi-speed Europe”, which is currently under discussion as member states remain divergent on institutional reform. 

“EU citizens know that the EU needs more politicians with leadership qualities, and they also see the need for smaller groups of countries capable of providing leadership. But the data also demonstrate that Poland and Great Britain will insist on being part of a leadership group,” explains Dominik Hierlemann, European affairs expert at Bertelsmann.

EU citizens think that the so-called Weimar triangle, including France, Germany and Poland, is the least likely to lead European integration, with only 5%. However, 23% of Poles think that the Weimar triangle could actually have an important EU impetus. Meanwhile, the current Polish power-play does not seem to reflect this opinion, with the leading Kaczynski twins threatening to veto institutional reforms pushed by Germany and France.

A Eurobarometer to be published on 20 June 2007 shows that seven out of ten Europeans are optimistic about the future of the EU. According to the preliminary results, citizens expect more action from the EU in the areas of environmental protection, energy, defence and the fight against terrorism.

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