Survey: Irish citizens ‘positive’ about EU

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65% of the Irish believe the EU carries “a positive image”, according to a survey published on Tuesday (24 June), which contradicts suggestions that the rejection of the Lisbon Treaty in Ireland amounted to a widespread public defiance about the benefits of EU membership.

The most positive opinions about the EU were recorded in Romania (67%) and Ireland (65%). Next come Slovenian and Bulgaria (60%), Spain (59%), Belgium, Cyprus and Poland (58%).

The Eurobarometer public opinion poll was carried out via face-to-face interviews by TNS Opinion & Social between April and May 2008. The results were published on Tuesday (24 June), two weeks after the failed referendum on the Lisbon Treaty in Ireland.

In contrast, the most negative perceptions about the EU were recorded in Latvia (56% neutral), Finland (46% neutral), Hungary (42% neutral) as well as Austria (35% negative) and the United Kingdom (34% negative).

In the UK, Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s fears that holding a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty would have spelled disaster for his political credentials were probably confirmed. Indeed, the survey revealed that “the majority view in the UK has turned negative, with 32% of respondents saying that their country’s membership is a bad thing”. This compares with 30% who say EU membership is a good thing or who are without an opinion.

“Unlike for the broader concept of the EU’s image, positive views on membership of the EU are on decline,” the European Commission further noted in a summary of the survey results. There are now only 52% of EU citizens saying their country’s membership of the EU is “a good thing” compared with 58% in autumn 2007, the EU executive observed.

However, the Irish once more appear at the top of the ranking when it comes to rating the benefits of EU membership. In the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Ireland, 73% of respondents said they see their country’s EU membership as “a good thing”. Belgium, Denmark, Spain and Poland come next with 65% each.

Margot Wallström, the EU commissioner in charge of communications policy, said she was “reassured that the level of trust in the EU remains high”. “These results reflect the current economic difficulties and show the need for the EU to continue with its policy agenda aimed at improving the quality of people’s daily lives.”

Other survey results showed EU citizens now consider inflation as the most important issue in their country at the moment (37%, up 11 points compared with autumn 2007). “Unemployment, with 24% (-3), is becoming the second most important issue,” the Commission observed.

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