This 52nd Eurobarometer report sheds light on the state of public opinion towards the European Union in the autumn of 1999. The results are more positive than those from the spring 1999 survey, which was fielded shortly after the Santer Commission resigned.
People were more likely to trust the institutions and bodies of the European Union than they were in the spring of 1999. Trust in the European Commission increased by 5 percentage points to 45%. In Ireland, Denmark (both +16), Sweden (+15), Portugal and Austria (both +11), trust levels increased by more than 10 percentage points. The public continued to be most likely to trust the European Parliament (53%, +3)..
Following the drop recorded in Spring 1999 (49%), support for the European Union was apparent among more than half of the EU population (51%). Forty-six percent of EU citizens were of the view that their country had benefited from membership (+2).
More than 7 in 10 EU citizens were of the opinion that the European Union should have a common defence and security policy and more than 6 in 10 felt it should have a common foreign policy.
Six in ten EU citizens supported the single currency, while 32% were against it. Support tended to be significantly higher in the "EURO 11" countries (68%) than it was in the 4 "pre-in" countries (34%).
Five in ten EU citizens were of the view that reforming the EU institutions and bodies and the way they work is a priority for the European Union.
Less than 3 in 10 Europeans believed welcoming new member states should be a priority for the European Union. EU citizens were most likely to support the membership of Malta (49%) and Hungary (47%). However, support for the membership of European countries like Norway (71%) and Switzerland (70%) was significantly higher.
On average, 53% of people supported joint EU decision-making in 25 areas where the Union has, to varying degrees, decision-making competency. EU decision-making was favoured over national decision-making in 17 of the 25 areas.
The rate at which people would like Europe to be built went up slightly since autumn 1998 which indicated that the institutional crisis has not made people more hesitant about the on-going process of European integration.
In five years' time, 45% of Europeans would like the European Union to play a more important role than it currently does; 27% desired the same role and only 14% desired a less important role.
Two in three EU citizens paid attention to news about the European Union. The public was most likely to obtain information about the EU through the news media, with television being the preferred source of information. Nonetheless, not many EU citizens (6%) felt they knew a lot about the European Union.
More than 9 in 10 EU citizens had heard about the European Parliament. Awareness of the European Commission (78%) and the European Central Bank (69%) was also widespread.
Civic duty was by far the most frequently quoted reason why people voted in the 1999 elections (64%).
Quite a few people who did not vote said that they stayed away from the election both because they did not trust politicians, because they were not interested in (European) politics or because they never voted.
Eight in ten Europeans were satisfied with the life they led and their expectations for the year 2000 were very optimistic. 33% believed their life in general would improve in the year 2000 and only 7% believed it would become worse. 27% believed their household financial situation would improve; 26% thought that their country's employment situation would improve and 24% expected their country's economic situation and their own job situation to get better in the year 2000. Less than 10% of Europeans expected any of these facets to get worse.Although around 7 in 10 respondents said they intended to vote in the June 1999 elections, actual turnout rates were far lower, ranging from 24% in the UK to 90% in Belgium where voting is compulsory.