A recent survey has found deep pessimism among European Commission staff on a wide range of issues, including the course of European integration over the past decade and the likelihood of success of the EU's strategy for economic growth. Some 63% partially or totally agreed that "the European model has entered into a lasting crisis".
The survey of 231 EU civil servants, commissioned by centre-left think tank the Foundation for European Progressive Studies (FEPS), recorded a lack of confidence in the state of the EU in other respects: only 22% said the European integration had "positively evolved" over the past 10 years (with 43% saying it had changed "negatively").
Similarly, only 24% believed the Lisbon Treaty, the EU's basic law which came into force in December 2009, has had a "significant and positive effect".
On the EU's so-called '2020 Strategy for Smart, Sustainable and Inclusive Growth', only 25% of those polled believed it "has more chance of succeeding than the Lisbon Treaty".
The survey comes in a difficult economic and political context for the European project, with significant pressure being put on key EU achievements such as the euro zone and freedom to travel within the Schengen Area.
To fight against anti-EU sentiment, Commission staff most often cited the need for national governments to "defend the European project".
Some 84% of those polled agreeing with this. Member states have been reluctant to promote European integration in recent years with the notable exception of Poland, which currently holds the EU's rotating presidency.
Massimo d'Alema, a former prime minister of Italy and president of FEPS, suggested this showed a general feeling of powerlessness among EU staff. He stated in a press release that "European civil servants seem to consider that European power is in the hands of the member states – this prevalence reveals an element of weakness of European institutions that are supposed to assume this role".69% also considered the need for the European Union to have more charismatic leaders. This was perhaps a reference to the little-known figures that were chosen to lead the EU following the passage of the Lisbon Treaty, notably European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and High Representative for External Affairs Catherine Ashton.
EU staff pointed to a number of factors to explain the rise of negative public sentiment towards the EU, with over 40% quoting nationalism, the enlargement of the EU, the economic recession, loss of trust in politicians, as well as the lack of readily understandable European projects. Only 27% of those surveyed blamed the media for anti-EU sentiment.
Perhaps surprisingly, only 26% of those polled considered the EU's austerity packages a significant cause of Eurosceptic sentiment, despite how controversial they have been in both donor and recipient countries.
Over the past year, governments who negotiated EU-IMF austerity packages were heavily defeated in elections in Ireland and Portugal. In Finland, the Eurosceptic 'True Finns' party made a major political breakthrough in national elections last April in which they had heavily campaigned against EU bailouts.
The most recent Eurobarometer poll conducted in November, a few months after Greece accepted its first EU bailout, found a sharp drop in Greeks' attitude towards the EU. Indeed, 64% of Greeks polled said they distrust the European Commission and 65% distrust the European Central Bank. 71% consider the EU to have "not effectively" handled the economic crisis. On each of these questions Greeks were the most likely of all EU citizens to hold a negative attitude towards the EU.
|Courtesy M. Rowson for the Guardian|
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