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Eurobarometer 44 - Chapter 7

The standard Eurobarometer was established in 1973. Each survey consists of approximately 1000 face-to-face interviews per country. Reports are published twice yearly. Reproduction is authorized, except for commercial purposes, provided the source is acknowledged.

7. The Regions and a Federal Structure for Europe

Interest has always been high concerning perceived national differences between member states and indeed much of the preliminary analysis of the Eurobarometers is based on cross-country comparisons. However, in the Eurobarometer conducted in the Spring of 1995 we also examined people's feelings of attachment to the various geographical spaces found in Europe; the town/village, region, country, the Union and Europe as a whole and we examined some attitudes toward regional policy.

In a second analysis we examined peoples' feeling concerning the idea of a federal Europe. This was constituted in two parts; acceptance of the idea of a federal structure and the possible speed of integration. In Chapter 6 on the European Parliament we also discussed attitudes towards the forming of a European Government responsible to the European Parliament/Council of Ministers.

7.1 Level of attachment to different regional entities

The level of attachment to town, village, region, country, European Union or to Europe as a whole was the object of a question asked to respondents as part of this opinion poll and was last asked in 1991 (Standard Eurobarometer no. 36).

In all countries it can be seen that the level of attachment to countries, regions and towns is significantly higher than to the European Union and Europe. On the one hand, one can observe a strong feeling of attachment ("very" and "fairly" attached) among citizens surveyed to their town/village (87%), to their region (90%) and to their country (89%); these figures also reflect a modest increase since 1991 in each case. On the other hand, a comparable level of attachment to the European Union and to Europe as a whole stands at 43% and 41% respectively. These differences should not, however, be taken to mean a rejection of larger structures but rather as showing people as identifying more with smaller groups. (Tables 7.1 to 7.5)

The accession of the three new member states has had practically no influence on the overall results as those for EU15 are identical or very close to those for EU12. However, as one might expect in view of their recent accession, it is in these three countries that one finds least support for the feeling of belonging to the European Union with only 36% in Austria, 23% in Finland and 21% in Sweden.

More than half of those interviewed, feel "very" attached to their town/village, to their region and to their country (54%, 56% and 53% respectively), whilst only just under a tenth of this same sample feel a strong attachment to the European Union or to Europe as a whole (both at 9%).

In Greece (97%), Portugal (94%), Spain (93%) and Ireland (92%) one finds the most people feeling attached to their town or village. Attachment to a region is widespread amongst the Greeks (98%), the Irish (95%) and the Austrians (96%) and it is once more in Greece and in Ireland, but also in Portugal (97% each) that one can see the strongest feeling of belonging to a country. It is interesting to note that it is Luxembourgers and Italians who show the most attachment to the European Union (64% and 58% respectively) and to Europe as a whole (61% and 51% respectively).

One can also note that the Netherlands has the highest number of citizens with the lowest feelings of attachment to any of the five entities: 63% for the town/village, 74% for the region, 79% for the country and 27% for the European Union and for Europe as a whole.

A study of the analysis by socio-demographic variables shows us that older people are much more likely to develop a feeling of attachment than younger people. For example, an attachment to town or village is found amongst 62% of those aged 55 or over whilst this is true for just 48% of "15 to 24 year olds". This trend exists at every level of geographical grouping. As for women, they seem to be slightly more attached than men (a 2% to 3% difference) to smaller geographical entities, with men opting more often for a feeling of attachment to the European Union or to Europe. There also seems to be a correlation between the age of leaving education and feelings of attachment to Europe with those finishing later feeling closer to the European Union and to Europe, whilst those who left earlier formed a stronger bond with village or region.

7.2 Relative importance of the different objectives of regional policy

Forty-four percent of the population polled at the level of the European Union think that the highest priority should be to create jobs. Next, at 29%, comes "reducing regional disparities", then 18% for "raising their standard of living", 6% for "increasing their competitiveness" and 4% "don't know".

In 12 out of the 15 countries, it is fighting against unemployment by creating jobs that is most frequently cited as being of number one priority in the development of less favoured regions. Sweden and Portugal (53% each), Spain (52%) and France (50%) have the highest number of people opting for this solution. This choice of priorities is undeniably influenced by the huge problem of unemployment that is now facing society throughout Europe and which we have commented upon in preceding chapters.

The three countries where people did not opt for this solution to such a great extent are Austria (33%), Denmark (29%) and the Netherlands (23%). Their citizens gave more importance to "reducing regional disparities" with 36%, 34% and 41% respectively.

After these first two "items", the Greeks (35%), the British (27%) and the Danes (26%) are the most likely to think that the development of less favoured regions depends on raising their standard of living.

If one was asked what was the European Union citizen's second highest priority, the answer would have to be that the split was much the same as for first place but slightly more even. In other words, second time around, "raising their standard of living" gains several points at the expense of job creation. Nevertheless, job creation is still highest priority in 9 out of 15 countries. More people opt for "raising their standard of living" in Portugal (35%) and in the UK (34%), and in Spain and France more people chose "reducing regional disparities" (32% and 31% respectively).

As far as the analysis by population sub-group is concerned, one observes some differences. Women (45%) seem to attach a slightly higher priority to job creation than men (42%); while more men (20%) give higher priority to "raising their standard of living" than women (16%). Job creation is more important for those staying at home (48%) and manual workers (45%) compared to the self-employed (38%), managers (36%) and other white collar workers (42%). Opinion leaders are more likely to give higher priority to reducing regional disparities than to job creation (33% and 37%). (Tables 7.6 to 7.9)

7.3 Sources of information on the activities of the European Regional Development Fund

Those respondents in the 15 member states who were aware of the existence of the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and its activities were also questioned as to how they found out about it.

At EU15 level, 67% of the sample say that they heard about it on television or on the radio against 28% who had not, with corresponding figures of 61% to 34% for the press. Fifteen percent heard about it via advertising hoardings but 77% had not; 12% knew someone who had received help, a job or advice from ERDF against 81% who had not and finally, 5% had personally obtained help, a job or advice against 88% who had not. One cannot directly compare these results with those of 1991 because, as for the last question, the wording has been altered. Nevertheless, one can clearly see the great importance of both audio-visual and print media.

Countries where the audio-visual media seem to have the most influence on public awareness of ERDF's activities are Portugal (84%), the Netherlands (83%), Germany (82%), Sweden (81%) and Denmark (80%). Belgium (51%), the United Kingdom (52%) and Luxembourg (59%) are influenced least by this source of information. Information concerning the ERDF in the press is most frequently cited by the Dutch (84%) and the Danes (80%), followed by the Finnish (70%).

Even if the relative success of advertising hoardings is only 15% at EU15 level, they achieve much more success in individual member states: 37% in Portugal, 32% in Ireland, 23% in the UK and 22% in the Netherlands, but less in places like Sweden (3%). Personal experience of the ERDF is still relatively low, with only 8% having received help or advice while 14% claim to have known someone who had help or advice.

A study of the socio-demographic variables shows us that men are more in touch with the different sources of information, whatever they are, than women: for example print media (67% of men compared to 53% of women), audio-visual media (70% to 64%) and advertising hoardings (17% to 13%). The age variable makes almost no difference as to how people come to know of ERDF's activities, except that advertising hoardings seem to reach more younger people: 17% for 15-39 year olds but only 14% of the over-forties. Furthermore, these younger people are less receptive to the print media. Finally, one can also see that the pro-Europeans and opinion leaders receive more information via the print media than others. (Tables 7.10 to 7.12)

7.4 A Federal Structure for the European Union

In this chapter on attitudes to regions of the European Union we have also gone on to examine peoples' reactions to the idea of a federal Europe; were people in favour of a federal Europe, if so who were they and finally if reforms towards federalism were to be introduced how should it be done?

The first question put to interviewees was:

"A number of countries are organised in a "federal" manner. In these countries, for example Austria, Belgium and Germany, the national government and parliament are responsible amongst other things for foreign affairs, defence and monetary policy while regional governments and parliaments are responsible for certain other policy domains especially education and cultural affairs. Do you think that, on the occasion of the reform of its institutions in 1996, the European Union should be organised in a similar manner or not?"

At the level of EU15, a majority of respondents declared themselves in favour of such a federal structure for the Union. Forty-five percent said "Yes" to the proposition, 15% chose "No" and 40% did not know.

The Netherlands (56%), Belgium (53%), Germany (49%) and Italy (48%) are countries where the largest number of people want this evolution towards federalism. One can see that two of these countries already have experience of this system of government. On the other hand this is not the case in Austria (35%) which, along with Denmark (26%), Sweden (30%), Ireland (32%) and Spain (34%) is in the group of countries where people show the most reluctance for such development.

The Danes are by far the most likely (54% negative answers to this question) to be opposed to this type of structure for the Union. The Finns and the Swedes are next with 26% saying "No" in each country. Moreover, one notes that the three new member states are clearly less in favour of a federal structure than the others. In these three countries the average of those opposed is 24% whereas it is only 14% for the Twelve. The number of "don't knows" reaches 40% on the level of EU15 and is much higher in Spain (57%), Ireland (57%), Greece (45%) and Austria (45%). (Tables 7.13 and 7.14)

It is clear from the analysis of the socio-demographic variables that men are much more likely to support the idea of a federal future for the Union than women. In fact, 51% are in favour compared with only 39% of women. Forty-eight percent of women, however, "don't know". It seems that age does not influence the result. The 40-54 age group shows up as having the largest number of people interviewed (50%) in favour of federalism. On the other hand, it is hardly surprising that only 39% of those aged 70 and over agree. The age of finishing education shows that those finishing later are more likely (54%) to see federalism in a positive light than those who finished at the age of 15 (39%) and are also more likely to be opposed (19% as compared with 11%). In fact, they express an opinion more often and the category of "don't knows" is more likely to be comprised of the less educated (51%) than of others (27%). The same tendencies can be seen when one examines the respondent's occupation (58% of managers say "Yes" to federalism but only 35% of those staying at home), socio-economic classification (ESOMAR) (1) (57% group A in favour at the highest level against 30% E3), opinion leadership and pro-european sentiment.

7.5 Two speeds for the establishment of federalism in Europe?

Forty-one percent of people interviewed in the European Union think that "those countries in the Union who support this reform (federalism) should go on and achieve it amongst themselves". Twenty-two percent of them, however, thought that if all countries did not agree, it would be better to "give up the idea". The remaining 37% did not know.

The countries where support is most widespread for the first solution (that is, federalism without unanimous participation), are much the same as for the last question. These are the Netherlands (51%), Belgium (50%), Germany (46%) and Luxembourg (45%). People who disagree with the proposition are, as previously, more likely to come from Ireland (28%), Denmark (29%) and from Sweden (29%). Moreover, the Swedes and the Danes are the most in favour of abandoning this idea (33% and 57% respectively). They are joined by the Finns with 34%.

One can also observe that a comparative analysis of the results for EU15 and for EU12 shows once again that the citizens of the three new member states are less taken with the idea of federalism (33% in favour of the proposition) than those of the old Union of Twelve (42%).

The analysis of the socio-demographic variables shows up exactly the same patterns of variation as for the previous question, to be precise, a higher percentage of those who consider that the Union should be organised federally are men (47% against 36% of women), the '40-54 year olds" (46% against 33% of those "aged 70 plus), the better educated and the executives. (Tables 7.15 and 7.16)

(1)See Annex C.5 for detailed description. [Back to text]

Last update: 01/02/2012 | Top