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Europinion n° 6 - October 1995

Results of %C3Continuous Tracking%C3 surveys of the European Union  (July to October 1995)

Although European citizens are only partly aware of the Intergovernmental Conference of 1996 (20% in October), they still take the future reforms of the institutions very seriously and follow attentively the repercussions of these reforms in their day to day life. 

Seven Europeans in ten think that a national referendum should be held, if the Intergovernmental Conference of 1996 results in a new Treaty of the Union.

In France and Belgium, there has been a drop in the acceptance of the Schengen Agreement, following the series of bombs and the recent trial of terrorists thought to be members of the GIA.

I. Institutional Reform [1] - IGC 1996 

1. Awareness of the Intergovernmental Conference of 1996 (IGC)

In October, 20% of Europeans had already heard about the IGC. However, it should be added that the proportion of respondents who claimed to be informed has changed very little during the past three months (18% in February). A peak of awareness was reached in July (22%) due to the wide press coverage marking the beginning of the work of the Reflexion Group which has not been rivalled over the summer period.

The Danes remain the most informed concerning the development of the IGC (35%). The British are the least informed (16%). In Germany, awareness of the IGC has more than doubled between September and October, though, it remains at a low level (17%, +9). 

2. Future reforms of the institutions and its effects on citizens

Despite the low level of awareness concerning the IGC, European public opinion takes the decisions to be made regarding the reforms of the Unions's institutions seriously. According to 27% these decisions are %C3very important%C3, and to 44% they are %C3fairly important%C3. Only 16% of the respondents claimed that these decisions would %C3not be very important%C3, or %C3not at all important%C3 in the lives of Union citizens.

The respondents in Britain, Ireland and in Luxemburg remain sensitive about the question of potential reforms of the Union's institutions (41%, 34% or 34% respectively).

In Finland and Spain, opinion remains less sensitive (only 12 and 16%, respectively, claim that these decisions will be %C3very important%C3). 

3. Implementation of the Treaty of the Union: A Europe %C3%A0 la carte%C3

According to 39% of respondents, all the provisions of the Treaty must apply to all the Member States. In contrast, a majority of Europeans favour a Europe %C3%A0 la carte%C3, 52% of respondents believe that each Member State must be allowed to opt out of certain provisions of the Treaty.

The opinions held in Belgium and in France (52%) are the most favourable regarding a uniform implementation of the provisions of the Treaty.

This is not the case in Austria (where 77% hold the view of a partial implementation; Denmark (73%), Sweden (74%), or Great Britain (72%).

In Spain and Portugal we find the highest proportion (21% and 20%) of people not expressing any opinion on this question. 

4. Sharing of sovereignty

In order to reach a greater European integration, 66% of Europeans think that their country should %C3certainly%C3 or %C3probably%C3 share more of its sovereignty with the other Member States.

In twelve Member States, a majority favours more sharing of sovereignty. The most positive are the Italians (79%), the French (75%), the Dutch (74%) and the Belgians (72%). A majority is opposed to more sharing sovereignty in only three countries: in Finland (57% opposed to more sharing), in Sweden (53%) and in Danemark.

5. Council Majorities

The absolute majority of Europeans (53%) believe that the weighting of votes of each Member State should not only depend on the size of the population. Only 23% of respondents wish that the number of votes should be strictly proportional to the population of each Member State. There are 13% of respondents who spontaneously declare that they wish to give equal weight to all the Member States of the Union in the Council.

In each Member State, a relative majority wishes a calculation of votes that takes other factors besides population into account.

In countries most %C3important%C3 in terms of their population, one inhabitant in four wishes to see a weighting of votes proportional to its population: in Germany and in France (26%), in Spain and in Italy (25%) - it is 20% only in Great Britain.

The respondents in the %C3smaller%C3 countries are more willing to give an equal weighting to each country: 38% in Luxemburg, 36% in Austria, 23% in Portugal and in Ireland. 

6. European Citizenship

a. European Charter of rights and Duties of Citizens

A European Charter of rights and Duties of the Citizen is considered to be a %C3good thing%C3 by 77% of European opinion. Only 9% of Europeans think that it is a %C3bad thing%C3, and 5% of the population thinks it %C3neither a good nor bad thing%C3.

An absolute majority in favour of the Charter was achieved across the EU, the only exception being Denmark (48%) and Austria (45%). The strongest opposition manifests itself in Sweden (24% believe it is %C3a bad thing%C3) and in Denmark (33%). 

b. European Ombudsman

The idea of a European ombudsman as foreseen in the Treaty of the European Union is seen as a %C3good idea%C3 by 81% of Europeans, a %C3bad idea%C3 by only 9%, and %C3neither good or bad%C3 by 4% of the population (spontaneous responses).

In addition, 69% of EU citizens believe that the ombudsman could %C3improve things%C3. Only 12% state the contrary. In all countries, the idea receives a positive reception by at least 70% of the population. In all the Member States, a majority (absolute or relative) thinks that the ombudsman could improve things.

More than six Europeans in ten (62%) are willing to make a complaint to the ombudsman, if need be.

A majority (absolute or relative) in all Member States are prepared to turn to him, should the need arise. The countries where the idea meets the least success are Austria (45%), Germany (48%), and Sweden (49%). In Sweden, the origin of the institution of an ombudsman, the idea of an ombudsman is not accepted unanimously. 

c. Vote at Local Elections

About six Europeans in ten (56%) are prepared to give the vote at local elections in their country to other citizens of the EU.

Most favourable to this measure are the Spanish (70%), the Greeks (68%), the Irish (64%) and the Belgians (60%).

The Finns (37%), the Danes (38%) and the Austrians (41%) are the least favourable. 

d. Schengen Agreement

In October 1995, European public opinion remained split over the implementation of the Schengen Agreement. 41% of European citizens believe that the removal of border controls between the signatory States is a %C3good thing%C3 (-2 points since May 95), and 46% (+4%) consider it to be a %C3bad thing%C3.

In six Member States, public opinion is in favour rather than opposed to this Agreement (Spain 68%, Ireland 53%, Germany 50%, Austria 42%, Greece 40%, Portugal 39%). In October, public opinion in Belgium and Italy was less favourable as compared with May just after the signing of the Agreement. likewise, in nine Member States, opinion is opposed to abolishing internal borders (Sweden 71%, France 69%, Great Britain 64%, Denmark 59%, Finland 54%, the Netherlands 51%, Belgium 42%, Italy 44% and Luxemburg 40%).

The drop of 14 percentage points in France and Belgium this October is probably a consequence of the series of terrorist attacks in France and the disagreement concerning the implementation of the Agreement between these two Member States. The recent debate over the trial of the thought to be Members of the GIA may equally have played a role. 

7. Common Foreign Policy, Common Defence Policy

A high proportion of the European population believes that the EU States should have a common foreign policy (68%).

The absolute majority in favour of such a political policy is found throughout the whole of the EU, with the exception of the following three States: Finland (47%), Denmark (47%), and Sweden (41%).

The consensus among Europeans is most marked in the field of defence policy: 82% of Europeans think there ought to be a common defence policy. Only 13% disagree.

There is no majority in Finland (45%), nor in Sweden (40%); these two States have always held a particular view in the international community regarding this question, particularly during the period of the Cold War when they occupied a position between non-alignment and neutrality.

The figures concerning these two policy fields have not changed substantially since December 1994. The recent intervention of NATO in Bosnia does not seem to have had a major effect on this assessment. In contrast, we note an increase of nine percentage points for a common defence policy since 1992 (before the beginning of the Yougoslavian conflict). This suggests that the conflict itself has had more of an effect on European opinon than the recent intervention of NATO. 

8. Post- CIG Referendum

Seven Europeans in ten think that a national referendum should be organised if the CIG results in a new treaty on the EU. Only 22% of the European citizens are opposed to such a referendum. This suggests that Europeans want to be part of the decision-making process of the Community as directly as possible.

An absolute majority is for a referendum in each Member State. In France, Germany, Great Britain, and in Denmark more than 75% wish to have a referendum. The countries least in favour of a post-IGC referendum are Italy (53%), Ireland and Austria (54%). 

II. Enlargement

In the context of new Members, the States most welcomed according to public opinion are Switzerland (82%), Norway (81%), Hungary (65%), Malta (63%), and Poland (62%). This applies to almost all the Member States in the Union.

Membership of Cyprus and Malta remains well acceptable by a majority (55% and 63%). The Membership of Turkey is the least welcomed by the population of the fifteen (43%), especially by the Greeks (16%).

The Germans remain the most positive about the membership of Hungary (75% in the West and 85% in the East). The Greeks particularly welcome the membership of Cyprus (86%). The Finns are very keen on Estonia (69%), Latvia (64%) and lithuania (62%) becoming part of the Union.

The Austrians are particularly against Rumania (56%), Bulgaria (54%) and Poland (45%) becoming members of the Union.

On average, the Dutch and the East Germans are the most positive about membership of the proposed States. In contrast, the Austrians and the Danes are the most reluctant in this question. Most uncertainty in public opinion regarding this question is found primarily in four Member States: in Spain, in Portugal, in Austria and in Sweden, where many people did not respond to this question. 

III. Actions in former Yugoslavia

According to 83% of Europeans, the EU, the UN and NATO should continue pursuing its diplomatic negotiations in the former Yugoslavia. There are only 36% who wish to see the parties at war to settle the conflict by themselves. In Greece it is 58% and in the United Kingdom and in Portugal it is 43%.

When asked about the suitabilitiy of %C3air strikes %C3 in June 94, only 37% claimed to be in favour. In September 95, a majority (53%) was in favour of military intervention with additional capacity. The exception here being the Greeks (84%) and the Danes (53%) who are substantially opposed.

An even stronger majority (70%) - this figure corresponds to all States - wishes to see the maintenance of the UN troops for humanitarian purposes only.

European opinion is more split over the question on whether to lift the embargo against Serbia (33% for lifting;58% in Greece) and in Bosnia (46%, +9 since June 94). 

IV. Support for the Union

On average, the support of Europeans to the Union remains stable. In October, 59% of the respondents claimed belonging to the Union to be %C3a good thing%C3. Half of the European citizens (50%) think that their country has benefited from EU membership.

In Austria, Finland and Sweden the support for the Union has remained stable. At the moment of joining strong expectations were reflected in public opinion amounting to a lower level of support in these three Member States compared with the EU average. 

V. Satisfaction with the way democracy in the Member States works

In October, less than one European citizen in two is satisfied with the way democracy works in his country (48%, -4 points since July 1995).

The Danes feel the most satisfied (81%, + 7). The Italians feel the least satisfied (13%,-2). In France and in Belgium, the recent elections probably provoked the increase in satisfaction for July. In October, the arrival of newly elected politicians has had the opposite effect. In Spain, the series of scandals has conseseqently resulted in a drop of confidence amongst Spaniards in their democracy (31%). 

VI. Democracy in the Union

In June and in September, 48% of Europeans feel satisfied with the way democracy works in the Union.

The Swedish figure has improved since June (27%, +6), although the figure remains the weakest in the whole Union. The respondents asked between the 1st and 7th of September, in the middle of the campaign for the European elections, displayed a certain degree of disappointment about the EU.

Luxemburg remains the most satisfied with the way democracy works in the EU (65%).

[1] For further information: European public opinion on the reform of the Union's institutions, EUROPINION SPECIAL,November 1995

Last update: 01/02/2012 | Top