Europeans, traumatised by the pandemic, harden views towards EU, US, China

But that did not mean there is an increased desire to see the European project fail

The coronavirus crisis has caused a dramatic deterioration in the European public perception of the US and left many believing the EU had become "irrelevant", the new survey by the European Council for Foreign Relations (ECFR) shows. It says the pandemic has traumatised Europeans and left them "feeling alone and vulnerable". The survey studied the views of Europeans towards the EU and notably its response to the coronavirus crisis and the results did not make for positive reading, AFP reported.

"There is a powerful sense among citizens of almost all surveyed member states that their country was largely left to fend for itself in dealing with the pandemic," read the study. "Few respondents to the survey had a positive view of the EU's coronavirus response. In no surveyed country do a majority of them see a positive change in the performance of EU institutions during the crisis," the survey found.

Some 63% of Italians,61 % of French people, and 52% of Spaniards said that the EU has not lived up to its responsibilities. "Finally, and perhaps most damningly of all, a large plurality (and, in some cases, a majority) in every surveyed member state described the EU as having slipped into irrelevance in the coronavirus crisis," it said.

But that did not mean there is an increased desire to see the European project fail. In fact a majority in all countries surveyed believed there was a need for greater European cooperation after the pandemic. "The share of respondents who held this belief was as high as 91% in Portugal and 80% in Spain. But perhaps even more noteworthy was the response in less Europhile member states. In France, Sweden, and Denmark, more than half of respondents approved of greater cooperation at the European level. In Italy, 77% did," read the survey.

The survey revealed that one of the impacts of the crisis was the desire by many Europeans to see greater border controls. "A substantial share of the population in surveyed countries – ranging from 48% in Denmark to 73% in Portugal – supports stricter border controls. This is a powerful signal of Europeans' current sense of vulnerability," it read.

Strikingly the survey also revealed a steep deterioration in the European perception of Donald Trump's America. More than 60% of respondents in Germany, France, Spain, Denmark and Portugal said they had lost trust in the US as a global leader. Forty-six percent of French respondents, and 42% of Germans, said their view of the US had worsened "a lot" as a result of the coronavirus crisis (the highest results among all surveyed countries). "Now, Europeans' trust in Trump's America is gone. Many of them have been appalled by the country's chaotic response to Covid-19; the lack of solidarity it showed with Europeans in the March 12th closure of its border to members of the Schengen area; and its lack of leadership in tackling the coronavirus crisis at the global level – or even engagement with the issue (beyond a war of words with the World Health Organisation)," the study wrote.

Europeans' view of China has also worsened since the pandemic. "More than 60% of respondents in France and Denmark reported that their view of China had worsened. In eight of nine surveyed countries, the share of respondents who have adopted a more negative view of China in the past year has increased by between a factor of two and a factor of ten," the study read.

More on this subject: Coronavirus

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