Blog Post

Waiting for the Four Presidents’ Report

The Four Presidents’ Report on the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) is expected to be released at the end of June, outlining how to strengthen economic governance in the euro area. Ahead of the report, this blog looks at the most recent Eurobarometer data to understand how attitudes towards Europe have been evolving in the euro area.

By: Date: June 10, 2015 Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance

The Four Presidents’ Report on the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) is expected to be released at the end of June, outlining how to strengthen economic governance in the euro area. Ahead of the report, this blog looks at the most recent Eurobarometer data to understand how attitudes towards Europe have been evolving in the euro area.

Trust in the EU has been declining in the euro area since the beginning of the crisis

Eurobarometer data show that trust in the European institutions is very low. This is not news, as trust in the EU has been declining everywhere in the euro area since the beginning of the crisis, although more markedly so in those countries that have undergone adjustment programmes. In 2008 – before the outbreak of the crisis – almost 75% of respondents in southern Europe said they trusted the European Parliament, the European Commission and the European Central Bank (ECB). By the end of 2013, the percentage had dropped to only 25%. Figure 1 shows that trust levels in EU institutions bounced back in 2014 in the south as well as in France and Italy (the centre), whereas it has remained flat in the north. A couple of weeks ago, the Pew Research Centre released the results of a poll conducted in early 2015 across the six most populous European countries – Germany, France, the UK, Italy, Spain and Poland. The results suggest that the improvement in sentiment towards the EU has continued during early 2015.

Figure 1 – % of respondents who declare to trust in EU institutions (average of trust in European Parliament, Commission and ECB)

Source: author’s calculations based on data from Eurobarometer.

Note: groups are constructed as averages weighted by population. North=AT; BE; DE; Fi; NL; Centre=FR; IT; South=ES; GR; IE; PT

Part of the reason why trust in the EU has decreased during the crisis is related to changes in what EU projects means for Europeans. The Eurobarometer survey includes a section asking participants what the EU means to them personally. Figure 2 reports the percentage of respondents who mentioned in their answers selected words such as “economic prosperity”, “democracy” and “unemployment”.

One very interesting fact stands out. From 2008 to 2014, the percentage of respondents for whom the EU is associated with the idea of “economic prosperity” and “democracy” has increased in the north, while it decreased (even significantly) in the centre and south. The percentage of respondents who associate the EU with the idea of “unemployment” has instead increased significantly across all the three groups during the crisis, although more in the centre and north than in the south (which is to some extent surprising). This ever closer association of the EU with unemployment also reflects the ineffectiveness of  the EU “social fund” initiatives launched as a response to the crisis (including the Youth Employment Initiative).

The % of respondents who associate the EU with the idea of “unemployment” has increased significantly during the crisis

Figure 2 – “What does the EU mean to you personally?” (% of respondents who mentioned each term vs. did not mention)

Source: author’s calculations based on data from Eurobarometer

Note: groups are constructed as averages weighted by population. North=AT; BE; DE; Fi; NL; Centre=FR; IT; South=ES; GR; IE; PT

Data in figure 3 are consistent also with a more generalized drop in people’s satisfaction with democracy, which is especially marked in southern euro area countries. The percentage of respondents in the south who declare themselves to be “very satisfied” or “fairly satisfied” with “democracy in the EU” has dropped from 60% to 30% during the crisis. Satisfaction with democracy in citizens’ home countries has been in freefall since 2007, dropping from 70% to slightly above 20%.

Figure 3 – Satisfaction with democracy in the EU / the own country (% of respondents)

Source: author’s calculations based on data from Eurobarometer

Note: groups are constructed as averages weighted by population. North=AT; BE; DE; Fi; NL; Centre=FR; IT; South=ES; GR; IE; PT

As already documented here some time ago, there is another important side of the story, which has to do with “relative” (rather than absolute) trust. Figure 2 compares, for each group of countries, the percentage of respondents who declare that they trust the EU, with the percentage of those who declare to trust national governments, for 2008 versus 2014. Despite the loss of trust and confidence, Europeans in southern countries (as well as in France and Italy) still trust the EU more than they trust their national governments. Before the crisis, this was true also for the northern countries, although the confidence gap in favour of the EU was narrower there, than it was in the centre and south.

Europeans in southern countries still trust the EU more than they trust their national governments

Seven years (and several troubles) later, trust in national institutions has literally collapsed in southern Europe, signalling a broader and more generalised crisis of leadership and confidence in domestic political institutions. In part this is probably linked to the perception that corruption is widespread at the national level, which is especially strong in Southern countries (see here for a discussion). Trust in the EU remains significantly higher, despite the fact that Southern countries have experimented with tough European policies over recent years. Conversely, in the northern countries trust in the EU has now dropped significantly below trust in national governments, which has instead increased during the crisis. I had discussed the early appearance of this phenomenon here, and this recent data confirms that essentially northern European citizens seem to feel vindicated by their economic and political models, which are gaining in terms of trust with respect to the European institutions.

Figure 4 – Trust in EU vs. trust in national government (% of respondents who expressed an opinion)

Source: author’s calculations based on data from Eurobarometer

Note: groups are constructed as averages weighted by population. North=AT; BE; DE; Fi; NL; Centre=FR; IT; South=ES; GR; IE; PT.

These are two separate questions in the Eurobarometer, and percentages here have been re-scaled back so as to exclude from the total those who did not express an opinion.

In conclusion, the data presented here suggest a number of interesting facts to consider, ahead of the release of the Four Presidents’ Report.

First, sentiment towards the EU has massively deteriorated during the crisis, especially in countries that have been subject to macroeconomic adjustment programmes. Recently it has been improving and this is certainly encouraging, but before drawing overly optimistic conclusions about the appetite for further integration we should keep in mind that the improvement is still starting from extremely low levels.

Fewer and fewer people associate the EU with the idea of economic prosperity and democracy

Second, the fact that trust in the EU has dropped so low, has partly to do with a significant change in what the EU means for people. Since the beginning of the crisis, fewer and fewer people have associated the EU with the idea of economic prosperity and democracy, while for more and more Europeans the EU has come to be a synonym for unemployment. Initiatives aimed at strengthening EMU and fostering further integration will have to deal with this, and securing support will go hand in hand with re-building a positive meaning for the EU in the eyes of Europeans.

Third, there is a generalised dissatisfaction with democracy that is deep and widespread in the south of Europe. It concerns democracy at a national level as well as democracy in the EU. This suggests that further steps to strengthen the monetary union cannot afford to disregard this perceived democratic gap and the issue of democratic accountability will need to feature high on the agenda. At the same time, rebuilding trust in national institutions and improving governance at the national level will be a vital starting point. National governments will have a significant role in any discussion on governance, integration and democratic accountability at the European level. If they are de-legitimized in the eyes of their people, any further integration could also appear as lacking the appropriate legitimacy.

Fourth and last, we have reached a point where trust in the EU relative to trust in national governments is varies widely across Europe. In the south people still trust the EU more than their national government, while this is no longer true in the north, where trust in national governments has increased during the crisis and it has now clearly surpassed trust in the EU. This confirms that the appetite for further integration now differs significantly across countries, and the momentum for further integration will most likely have to come from countries in the south or centre, as it is unlikely to come from northern Europe.


Republishing and referencing

Bruegel considers itself a public good and takes no institutional standpoint. Anyone is free to republish and/or quote this post without prior consent. Please provide a full reference, clearly stating Bruegel and the relevant author as the source, and include a prominent hyperlink to the original post.

Read article More on this topic More by this author
 

Opinion

Europe’s recovery gamble

Next Generation EU, was rightly hailed as a major breakthrough: never before had the EU borrowed to finance expenditures, let alone transfers to member states. But the programme and its Recovery and Resilience Facility amount to a high-risk gamble.

By: Jean Pisani-Ferry Topic: Finance & Financial Regulation Date: September 25, 2020
Read about event
 

Past Event

Past Event

The Sound of Economics Live: The State of the Union going forward

In the first Sound of Economics Live episode after summer we look at the State of the Union address delivered by Ursula von der Leyen.

Speakers: Giuseppe Porcaro, André Sapir, Guntram B. Wolff and Alicia García-Herrero Topic: Energy & Climate, European Macroeconomics & Governance, Innovation & Competition Policy Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels Date: September 16, 2020
Read article More on this topic More by this author
 

Opinion

Without good governance, the EU borrowing mechanism to boost the recovery could fail

The European Union recovery fund could greatly increase the stability of the bloc and its monetary union. But the fund needs clearer objectives, sustainable growth criteria and close monitoring so that spending achieves its goals and is free of corruption. In finalising the fund, the EU should take the time to design a strong governance mechanism.

By: Guntram B. Wolff Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: September 15, 2020
Read article Download PDF
 

Policy Brief

Rebooting Europe: a framework for a post COVID-19 economic recovery

COVID-19 has triggered a severe recession and policymakers in European Union countries are providing generous, largely indiscriminate, support to companies. As the recession gets deeper, a more comprehensive strategy is needed. This should be based on four principles: viability of supported entities, fairness, achieving societal goals, and giving society a share in future profits. The effort should be structured around equity and recovery funds with borrowing at EU level.

By: Julia Anderson, Simone Tagliapietra and Guntram B. Wolff Topic: Energy & Climate, European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: May 13, 2020
Read article More on this topic More by this author
 

Blog Post

The EU’s poverty reduction efforts should not aim at the wrong target

The EU cannot meet its ‘poverty’ targets, because the main indicator used to measure poverty actually measures income inequality. The use of the wrong indicator could lead to a failure to monitor those who are really poor in Europe, and a risk they could be forgotten.

By: Zsolt Darvas Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: February 18, 2020
Read article More on this topic
 

Blog Post

A European anti-money laundering supervisor: From vision to legislation

In fighting anti-money laundering, the European Commission should act fast toward creating a central supervisory authority.

By: Joshua Kirschenbaum and Nicolas Véron Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: January 24, 2020
Read article More on this topic More by this author
 

Opinion

European capital markets union, by rule and by choice

While the euro is now a leading global currency and the European Central Bank has become a comprehensive banking supervisor, Europe’s markets have been treading water.

By: Rebecca Christie Topic: Finance & Financial Regulation Date: January 23, 2020
Read about event More on this topic
 

Past Event

Past Event

Better governance, better economies

This event will feature the presentation of the 2019 EBRD Transition report, which focuses on governance in the EBRD regions.

Speakers: Daniel Daianu, Beata Javorcik, Zsuzsanna Lonti and Guntram B. Wolff Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Location: Press Club Brussels Europe, Rue Froissart 95, 1000 Brussels Date: November 20, 2019
Read article More by this author
 

Podcast

Podcast

How to Spend it

Can governments make their fiscal policy go further? And are they trusted enough to try? This week The Sound of Economics asks if the quality of public spending is as important as the quantity.

By: The Sound of Economics Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance, Global Economics & Governance Date: October 23, 2019
Read article More on this topic
 

Blog Post

Talking about Europe: La Stampa 1940s-2010s

An on-going research project at Bruegel seeks to quantify and analyse printed media discourses about Europe over the decades since the end of the Second World War. In this third blogpost, we carry out the exercise on 9.9 million articles from an Italian daily newspaper, La Stampa. The trend increase in the frequency of European related articles, previously found looking at the French and German press, is confirmed in the case of Italy.

By: Enrico Bergamini, Emmanuel Mourlon-Druol, Francesco Papadia and Giuseppe Porcaro Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: October 22, 2019
Read article More on this topic More by this author
 

Podcast

Podcast

Brexit: a European Odyssey

Nicholas Barrett and Guntram Wolff talk to Kalypso Nicolaïdis, author of Exodus, Reckoning, Sacrifice: Three Meanings of Brexit. Together they discuss the mythology that binds Britain to continental Europe

By: The Sound of Economics Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: October 11, 2019
Read article More on this topic More by this author
 

Opinion

Europe: en finir avec la politique en silos

Projetée dans un monde de rapport de force dont les principaux protagonistes ne séparent pas géopolitique et économie, l’UE va devoir conduire un changement de logiciel culturel, une mutation organisationnelle et un rééquipement opérationnel, explique l’économiste Jean Pisani-Ferry.

By: Jean Pisani-Ferry Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: October 8, 2019
Load more posts