High-level policy roundtable designs Europe that matters

Poll: 60% of Europeans aren't sure they would miss the EU if it were gone

Photo: Maria Koleva State of Europe discussions were held at the Palais d’Egmont in Brussels.

At a time when Europe is embarking on a new ambition to tackle a myriad of challenges it is facing at home and abroad, the citizens said that their enthusiasm for the EU is not flourishing, but on the contrary - it is withering. The latest poll of EU citizens, commissioned by the Brussels-based think tank Friends of Europe, throws light on what Europeans want from the EU, with regard to the priorities, tackling inequalities and having a bigger say. 

Its outcome exposes that notwithstanding the largest number of voter turnout in the recent European elections, 60% of Europeans aren’t sure they would miss the EU if it were gone.

In France, despite having a pro-EU president, 72% of citizens aren’t convinced their lives would be worse without the EU. In Italy the share of people that would not miss the EU is 67%, in the UK - 63%, in Germany - 60%. In Denmark the number of the unconvinced they would miss the EU if it were gone was 59%. Surprisingly, it came out that Poland is the only country where a majority of the population was certain they would miss the EU.

The results of the poll were released at the opening of State of Europe, 'Vision Innovation for Europe', a yearly high-level EU policy round-table organised at the Palais d’Egmont in Brussels by Friends of Europe.

“As it is, the EU isn’t working for citizens. They want a better EU,” stated Dharmendra Kanani, Director of Insights at Friends of Europe. “The first 100 days of the new EU mandate should demonstrate to citizens that reimagining and resetting the EU is the bold ambition and trust matters.”

The poll is sending a clear message to Ursula von der Leyen that reads: “Strengthening European identity” is not among the top ten priorities for citizens, only 18% selected it as a priority for the EU.

There is no surprise that the environment and tackling climate change is the number one priority citizens want the EU to focus on.

According to the analysis, the most divisive issue is that younger and older generations disagree about the importance of securing Europe’s borders, as 22% of young people see this as a top priority, compared to 33% of the older generation.

As regards inequalities - safety, healthcare and income were the top three inequalities citizens want the EU to focus on.

Concerning the Power to the citizens category, nearly half (45%) of all citizens want a more direct say in the EU’s decisions - and they want an online voting and debating platform on EU-wide policies.

The big State of Europe debate this year was inspired by the 'Vision for Europe' report part of the Friends of Europe #EuropeMatters flagship initiative. The event got together business leaders, policymakers, among them several EU Commissioners, people from the civil society, to co-design a Europe that still matters in 2030.

If our priority No. 1 is not just growth but clean growth, we have to direct our minds to how we can address this decarbonisation challenge through innovation, said at the opening session Pascal Lamy, President Emeritus of the Notre Europe Jacques Delors Institute and former European commissioner for trade and WTO director-general.

During the panel 'Old and young - bridging differences and divides?' Etienne Davignon, President of Friends of Europe, pointed out that the divide is between those that want to do something and those that want to complain about the situation, and the majority is in the second group. “Once you are on the positive side you have a lot of support from the younger generation,” he said in a discussion with Magid Magid, MEP, former Lord Mayor of Sheffield City Council and European Young Leader.

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