Survey: Citizens lose trust in EU institutions, support membership

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European institutions suffered a big loss of trust among EU citizens in the last six months, despite citizens’ support for EU membership reaching the highest in over a decade, according to a Eurobarometer poll published on Tuesday.  

EU citizens’ trust of the European institutions dropped by 9% in comparison to the last survey conducted this spring, with Germany recording the biggest reduction (-17%). 

Sebastian Kurpas from the Centre for European Policy Studies labelled the results “remarkable”, but had no explanation for this outcome, in particular when bearing in mind that the German EU Presidency, which ended in June 2007, was widely seen as a success. 

The new member states Bulgaria and Romania plus Greece and Ireland were the only countries in which the survey identified more trust towards the EU institutions. In France, figures remained stable whereas Germany and most other countries such as Italy (-15%), the UK (-11%), the Netherlands (-16%) or Spain (-7%) revealed severe drops in trust. 

Despite this recent negative development, the percentage of Europeans trusting the European institutions still outweighs by far the numbers of those who mistrust the EU (48 to 36%) and seen over a year, the figures still show a positive tendency, the survey revealed. 

In comparison to their European counterparts, national political institutions scored much lower, with a clear majority of Europeans showing mistrust of their governments (only 34% trust their government whereas almost 60% mistrust them), according to Eurobarometer. 

Although the survey revealed lower confidence in the European institutions, support for EU membership however, has reached its peak for the last ten years (58%, an increase of 1% in comparison with the spring Eurobarometer), with the Benelux countries being the most supportive (about 78%). 

Communciation Commisissioner Margöt Wallström commented on the survey’s results by saying “it is very encouraging to see that […] twice as many EU citizens think that their country benefits from EU membership as think their country does not”. 

Whereas EU membership gained support in most countries, with France (+8%) and Greece (+7%) being the most supportive, Spain and the UK now value membership lower (-5%). 

Asked to name what they currently consider to be the most important issues facing their country, European citizens ranked unemployment first (27%, -7%), closely followed by inflation (26%, +8%) and crime (24%). 

For this survey, TNS Opinion & Social interviewed about 30,000 Europeans between September and November. 

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