Europe's ongoing economic crisis and lasting currency woes are beginning to rapidly erode faith among Europeans in the EU project. That is the result of a new survey undertaken by the renowned Pew Research Center in Washington D.C. and released on Monday evening.
The institute polled 8,000 people in eight European Union member states in March and arrived at some disturbing results. In just one year, the share of Europeans who view the European Union project favorably plummeted from 60 percent in 2012 to just 45 percent this year. Furthermore, only in Germany does a majority continue to support granting more power to Brussels in an effort to combat the ongoing crisis.
"The European Union is the new sick man of Europe," read the survey's opening lines. "The effort over the past half century to create a more united Europe is now the principal casualty of the euro crisis. The European project now stands in disrepute across much of Europe."
Of particular concern is the situation in France, where fully 91 percent of those surveyed believes that the country's economy is in bad shape, 10 percent more than in 2012. Furthermore, 67 percent believe that President François Hollande is "doing a lousy job handling the challenges posed by the economic crisis" -- a rating that is 24 percentage points worse than received by his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy. Seventy-seven percent of French respondents believe that European integration has made the country's economic situation worse.
Dimmer View of Europe
Of the eight countries surveyed -- which include Germany, Britain, France, Italy, Spain, Greece, Poland and the Czech Republic -- only the Greeks and Italians hold a dimmer view of European economic integration than do the French. It is yet another burden for the Franco-German tandem that once provided the impetus for integration on the European continent.
Furthermore, people across the EU have nothing but bad things to say about their political leaders. In Italy, where Prime Minister Mario Monti was recently voted out off office, only 25 percent are satisfied with their government's management of the crisis, fully 23 percentage points lower than last year. Ninety-six percent are dissatisfied with the country's direction, comparable to the 97 percent and 94 percent measured in Greece and Spain respectively.
In addition, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, broadly respected across Europe last year for her handling of the euro crisis, is losing support. Even as majorities in five of the eight countries survey still believe she is doing a good job, support plunged by 24 points in Spain, 19 in Italy and six points at home in Germany over the last 12 months.
Deep Gap between Germany and the Rest
The deep gap between perceptions in Europe is also disturbing. Whereas a mere 1 percent of Greeks, 3 percent of Italians, 4 percent of Spanish and 9 percent of French view their economic situations as good, fully 74 percent of Germans are pleased with the economy.
"Overall, the 2013 survey highlights more starkly than ever the differences between the views of Germans and other Europeans on a range of issues," the report notes. "Germans feel better than others about the economy, about their personal finances, about the future, about the European Union, about European economic integration and about their own elected leadership."
Yet as sanguine as the Germans may be about their current situation, others in Europe are less impressed. When asked about other EU countries, respondents in six of the countries surveyed say they find Germans to be the least compassionate. Five countries see Germany as the most arrogant country. Germans themselves have a slightly different view. They view their own country as being the most trustworthy, least arrogant and most compassionate in Europe.