Most Europeans are still unaware of plans for the intergovernmental conference in 1996, but a great majority among them would be prepared to accept that their country will share more of its sovereignty with the other Member States of the Union.
In the period from January to March 1995, the citizens of the fifteen Member States of the Union have shown that they mostly know about the information society. This awareness increased markedly after the G-7 Conference took place in Brussels, and the perception of the effect of these technologies on working life is much more positive.
These are some of the conclusions which can be drawn from the Commission's monthly surveys held among the citizens of the Fifteen between January and March 1995. Indeed, since January 1995, the Commission surveys the opinions of Austrians, Finns and Swedes as new citizens of the Union.
The debate on institutional reforms to be discussed at the IGC of 1996 has not yet reached the general public. Between March 1st and 6th 1995 only 17% of Europeans had heard about the calling of the IGC which will be held in 1996. 81% had never heard about it.
In March as in February, common knowledge of the IGC was considerable in Denmark; 42% of the Danish said that they have heard about it. The Germans and the Dutch had heard about it the least (14%).
Awareness of the IGC 1996 remained stable compared with the month of February, with a noticeable drop in Portugal where 20% of the Portuguese (-9) have heard about it in March.
After the G-7 Conference on the Information Society took place in Brussels on the 24th and 25th of February, common knowledge of the two terms %C3information highways%C3 and %C3information society%C3 increased considerably since the survey of the beginning of February.
Between the 1st and 6th of March, and after a short descriptive introduction of each term, 54% (+8) of the citizens of the Fifteen %C3have heard about the information highways%C3 and 38% (+5) %C3have heard about the information society%C3 . The term %C3information highway%C3 is still more popular and more easily retained by Europeans, but in both cases one can observe a notable increase in awareness.
The increase in common knowledge of the term %C3information highways%C3 is greatest in Belgium (63%;+18) the host country of the Conference, in Germany (55%;+15), in Luxembourg (53%;+14), in the Netherlands (74%;+11), in Ireland (41%;+9), in Italy and in France (56%;+7).
In the month of March, more people thought that the new information and communication technologies will have positive effects on working life than in the month before. There were 57% of Europeans who held this opinion in February, compared with 60% in March.
Positive assessments increased considerably in Eastern Germany (46%;+11), in Denmark (66%;+9) and in Spain (63%;+8).
The rates of those giving no answer to this question have generally fallen, however they remain quite high (15% on the European average).
No notable changes occurred in the level of the feeling of being informed about the European Union between January and March 1995. In March, an average of 39% of Europeans felt that they were %C3very well%C3 or %C3quite well%C3 informed about the EU, its policies and its institutions, and 59% felt %C3not very well%C3 or %C3not at all well%C3 informed.
Among those who answered, it is the Luxemburgers (58%), the Belgians and the French (50%), the eastern Germans (47%) and the Danish (46%) who feel most informed about the Union.
However, 71% of the Greeks, 70% of the Italians, 67% of the Dutch, 65% of the Irish, 62% of the Finns, 61% of the Spanish and the Swedes and 60% of the western Germans have the impression of being %C3not very well%C3 or %C3not at all well%C3 informed about the Union.
Between January and March, the support for the European Community by those who think that the membership of their country is a %C3good thing%C3 remained practically unchanged. The positive feeling about membership in March (57%; -1 compared to February) has remained stable.
Opinion about the benefits as a result of this membership is also stable: 51% (-1) think that their country has benefited from being a member of the European Union.
However, the recovery observed in Portugal in the month of February has been lost as 47% of the Portuguese (-6) have a positive perception of EU membership and 66% (-7) have a positive impression about the benefits of this membership. In the Netherlands the fall was -10 (71%).
The decline in the positive perception of the benefits gained from the EU can also be observed in Portugal (66%;-7), in Greece (69%;-8), in France (49%;-6) and in Spain (28%;-6), the same countries in which a considerable rise was measured in February 1995.
In Belgium, the two indicators show a net improvement and therefore recover from the falls observed in February.
In the three new Member States the two indicators show a slight fall. The Finns show a level of satisfaction with EU membership of 46% (-5), the Austrians 37% (-6) and the Swedes 33% (-4).
An average of 35% of Europeans think that %C3certainly%C3, in order to reach %C3a greater European integration from which each person could benefit more, their country should share more of its sovereignty with the other Member States of the European Union, that is, to take less decisions alone and more decisions together with the other Member countries.
Another 29% think that it is %C3probably%C3 necessary to increase the sharing of sovereignty. 14% think that more sharing of sovereignty is %C3probably not%C3 needed, while another 14% think that it is %C3certainly not%C3 needed.
The citizens most in favour of a greater sharing of sovereignty (higher than the average) are from, in decreasing order, Italy, Belgium, eastern Germany, Spain and France. Those least in favour of it (lower than the average) are from, in decreasing order, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Greece, the United Kingdom, Austria, Luxembourg and Portugal.
46% of Europeans (-1) feel %C3very satisfied%C3 or %C3fairly satisfied%C3 with the way democracy works in the European Union. 46% feel %C3not very satisfied%C3 or %C3not at all satisfied%C3.
In some countries, the level of satisfaction has increased; in eastern Germany (58%;+12), in Portugal (58%;+9), in Greece (52%;+9) and in the Netherlands (60%;+8).
In Spain (68%;+19) and in Italy (49%;+10) the number of people who are dissatisfied has increased considerably.
In the three new Member States, there still seems to be a certain hesitation to give an opinion on this question. 46% of the Finns , 37% of the Austrians and 32% of the Swedes are %C3very satisfied%C3 or %C3fairly satisfied%C3. However, the number of %C3Don't know%C3s among the citizens of these countries is very high: 19%, 19% and 17% respectively.
Between March 1st and 6th 1995, the percentage of Europeans who feel %C3very satisfied%C3 or %C3fairly satisfied%C3 with the way democracy works in their country has remained stable on the European level at 47%. 50% feel %C3not very satisfied%C3 or %C3not at all satisfied%C3.
Asked this question for the first time, 62% of the Swedes say that they are %C3very satisfied%C3 or %C3fairly satisfied%C3 with their democracy, while 59% of the Austrians and 58% of the Finns feel the same way about theirs.